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Review of Men and Girls Dance at The Place

Men and Girls Dance photo by Mattew Andrews
Men and Girls Dance photo by Mattew Andrews

It is astonishing, how radical it feels to watch five professional male dancers of varying ages interacting with nine little girls, who barely reach their armpits. All are casually dressed, as if in clothes they have chosen, the children in dungarees, leggings & trainers, hair neat, tied back for action, if long, in childish plaits or ponytails. One man is wearing a vest which exposes his shoulders and arms.

The charm of the dancing girls cannot be overstated, with the spontaneity of their joy, their fleet-footedness and small shrieks of delight, their enjoyment in one another and their adult companions. The grown-ups even being agile, being dancers, appear weary and worn by what it has taken to reach maturity in comparison.

What the show sets out to do is to make its audience look behind the cultural stereotypes that have grown up around children mixing with adult men in the recent decades. To the extent that unless men are fathers or grandfathers any contact between them must cause concern, all men being viewed with suspicion, as potential predators. It is a difficult topic without room for complacency. As life-enhancing as this particular evening is, there inevitably remains a dark undertow of questions to which there are no easy answers beneath.

A crackling recording of psychologist Carl Rogers is played, in which he defines empathy. About being a confident companion in another’s world. Sensitive from moment to moment to the changing felt meanings which flow in this other person, that he/she is experiencing. Looking with unafraid eyes, no judgement.

This statement describes the desired guiding principal for this show. The audience is asked to slip the limitations of preconceptions and to observe what is happening in life between these two groups of human beings, usually kept apart.

The question that is being asked is are we more than our sexual maturity? Is there more to men that that? Is there anything left of the boy inside from before? To share with a little girl.

The differences and similarities in their physicality is identified and described by the children and the men in affecting detail. The tiny hairs on a girl’s arms, the colour of veins changing as blood pumps through them, the sweat, the movement of a breathing back. And what is described, in the end, by this means, is its life they’re sharing.

And we are shown what they can enjoy together through the magnifying lens of movement to music? They dance. The physical differences between them offering advantages and opportunity, the girls using the men as climbing frames, male lifting strength offering the children a different experience of physicality, of their place in their world. They engage in pas de deux, these strong males and weaker females, as fun, as play, as connections other than the classical romantic connotations of such interaction in dance.

At the end of the performance we are invited to look again at the dancers, we have got to know as individuals during the hour or so of the performance. Looking with our eyes, a silent question is being asked, what do we see now? There was a lovely moment where one of the girls gave one of the men a fast, instinctive hug from behind of trust and affection. Then all the girl’s parents come onto the stage. From different cultures and backgrounds, how impressive an enterprise of belief in what is good in human nature is this is on the part of all concerned, risking this. To open themselves to the usual suspicions and to overcome them.

4 stars

Review by Marian Kennedy

The production uses newspaper as a key design element. “The design is a direct response to the role of the print media in creating a negative perception of relationships between men and girls,” continues David Harradine. “We’ve all been aware of tabloid sensationalism…so we take newspaper and we literally rip it up, and repurpose it, and reuse it; we turn it into a thing of beauty…we approach those negative headlines head on, and we dance all over them, until they’re no longer visible, until positive stories take their place.”

Fevered Sleep are producing a free newspaper – available in print and digitally – which will be freely available around London featuring creative writing about the themes of the piece, submitted by locals and others connected with the project.

Kip Johnson (Protein Dance, Vincent Dance)
Luke Crook (Shobana Jeyasingh)
Matthew Morris (DV8, Clod Ensemble)
Nick Lawson (Aletta Collins, Marc Brew)
Robert Clark (choreographer and dancer)

Amber Worboys Sayers, Hammersmith & Fulham
Belesther Huberson-Abie, Camden, Carlton Primary School
Chadni Miah, Camden, Netley Primary School
Maya Demetriou, Barnet, Martin Primary School
Molly Beasley-Martin, Haringey, Chestnuts Primary School
Momoka Taniguchi-Warren, Ealing, Horsenden School
Neve Seekings, Camden, Christchurch Primary School
Pebbles Doughty-White, Lambeth, Clapham Manor Primary School
Rania Yarde, Lambeth, Sudbourne Primary School

April 13th-15th & 18th-21st at 7.30pm
April 22nd 2.30pm and 7.30pm
The Place, 17 Duke’s Rd, London WC1H 9PY
Running time: approx 60 minutes, no interval


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