Interact

Akiko Dance Project Okuni

Moxie Brawl It Started With Jason Donovan

Just Us Dance Theatre I know I’m a woman, a woman with Inner Strength

 

Entering the theatre to a pumping Jason Donovan soundtrack was one way of getting us “Kylie’s” (girls) or “Jason’s” (guys) attention. Our host was a scrunchie wearing, hip thrusting love scorned “lecturer” Sarah Blanc, who, in stand up comedy style, delivered some of life’s most crucial love lessons. Using cringingly honest anecdotes, audience participation and an appropriately 80’s Power Point presentation, Blanc drew us into her world, her endearingly witty approach hard to resist. Top marks for the hilarious reconstruction of her Year 9 dance designed for her school crush. Oh and karaoke to Especially For You?  Yes please. Banter dance at it’s finest.

Akiko Dance Project was similarly theatrical in their piece about a Japanese woman Okuni, inspiring the spirit of Kabuki – traditional Japanese theatre. Heavily stylized choreography paid homage to traditional Japanese performance but the overall affect was a little incoherent. The best part of the performance had to be the video interlude, mocumenting a crew of kimono clad ladies dancing on the streets. A case of lost in translation perhaps, for all involved.

Just Us Dance bought a timely diminuendo in tone, aiming to capture “a woman’s subtlety and purity whilst retaining strength”. They executed their purpose with sensitive sophistication, employing three female dancers to stamp, battle and shout through waves of emotions. At once the dancers would be in flowing synchronicity only to break off into solos that would emphasise the conflict between self-knowledge and external expectation. All three performers executed this piece authentically, channeling their fierce energy into nuanced expression. Relaxed, understated fabrics for the costumes and subtle blue lighting softened the aggressiveness of the movement, as did the original piano based score by SoulHop. It’s refreshing to see a subject so often misunderstood be given such a considered viewpoint. A calming finale, to a rousing night and Resolution! Festival.

Alice Robotham

Questioning, “What God does she dance to?” Akiko Dance Project answers “Jesus, Buddha, Shiva,” gesturing the Sign of the Cross, Om mudra, and Namaskar prayer respectively. The spirit of Okuni is wholly/holy performative (in the linguistic sense that utterance effects action). Yet Okuni is altogether wanting in effective action. Akiko’s stage spotlights- one in which the “King has been attacked”, the other “A woman has founded new art”- rather leave us wondering When? How? What? In the spirit of Mayuko Katagiri’s accompanying video, our mantra is here “Never Mind”.

Moxie Brawl’s It Started With Jason Donovan  is a teenage Shakespearian tragedy set in the 80’s. Sarah Blanc’s lecture on love is a five-part structure: lesson 1 (exposition) ‘Don’t be too keen’; lesson 2 (development) ‘Know your worth’; lesson 3 (climax) ‘First love is JUST your first’; lesson 4 (further development) ‘Internet dating is OK’; lesson 5 (revelation) ‘You will love again’. Blanc’s stand-up finds us, unintentionally, in standing ovation of Lycra split leaps and step-ball- changes. Blanc does not come to take her second bow however; the fatal flaw is ours as “tonight is the night” we are left wanting. Wanting yet more cathartic hits from clever Blanc.

Breathing is at once reined in and involuntary in I know I’m a woman, a woman with Inner Strength.  Where hair is partially pulled taut in French plaits and partially let loose, Just Us Dance Theatre conceives of female inner strength as a fine- tuning of that Ying/Yang binary. Knotted limbs soon untie as the women’s resistance melts under SoulHop’s score L’essence de son to release.  Ultimately their suffocation is shaken off with a smile. Although, somewhat of a tentative smile. For the beauty of her exit finds us holding our breath in the balance. This is a strong note, if not a manifesto for dance, with which to close Resolution! 2014.

Liza Weber

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