NEW DANCE SHOW SHEDS ‘BEAUTiFUL’ LIGHT ON SEX, LOVE AND DESIRE
Written By Donald Hutera
What is BEAUTiFUL all about?
For the past year and half or so Sally Marie has had sex on the brain – artistically speaking, that is. The reason is ‘BEAUTiFUL,’ the name of the fourth full-length show that the acclaimed British performer turned choreographer and director has made for her company, Sweetshop Revolution.
Featuring five gifted young female dancers, Marie’s savvy, alluring and provocative new production comes to The Courtyard for one night only and just days after its world premiere in Lincoln (and before continuing on an eleven-venue UK tour).
Urgent, bold and yet playful, ‘BEAUTiFUL’ casts a penetrating spotlight on sex, love and desire in the 21st century, with a strong focus on how these themes and states of being are experienced by women. 2018 is the centenary of the female vote, but – as Weinstein, the #MeToo campaign, the BBC’s recent pay-gap scandal and many other circumstances have readily demonstrated – inequality and the glass-ceiling still persist. It is this fractious and imbalanced social climate that ‘BEAUTiFUL’ will help to illuminate.
Once described as ‘a national treasure,’ Marie is one of the brightest and most passionate sparks on Britain’s independent dance-theatre scene. But that doesn’t automatically mean that her pathway to get ‘BEAUTiFUL’ up its feet has always been smooth. As she revealed during a break from rehearsals in Ipswich earlier this month, ‘Some people didn’t want me to make this show, but my determination won through. To me it seems so right that “BEAUTiFUL” exists, especially now when there’s a growing interest in what the piece has to say. But because it’s a dance-based performance, we’ll be saying it more with the body than words.’
Although ‘BEAUTiFUL’ may not deal directly with the topical, hot-button issues mentioned above, they are a significant part of the show’s human and social undercurrent. ‘At a time when the male gaze is still so dominant,’ Marie says, ‘I believe it’s more vital than ever for women to communicate “the female gaze” creatively. The five extraordinary performers in this show plunge us into their private worlds, slicing through layers of elusive truths and false assumptions by which many of us live. Together we’ll be looking seriously and humorously – but always closely – at how women are objectified on stage and in the wider world.’
The Light Bulb Moment:
‘BEAUTiFUL’ arose from what Marie calls ‘a kind of light bulb moment’ when she was searching for fresh talent by conducting an audition. ‘I’d asked ten women who were there to each come up with a quick solo about someone they loved,’ she explains. The result was ‘so multi-layered, and so moving. As they were dancing I begin to imagine a big wall of porn behind them – the endless, plastic depictions of women and the inherent lack of truth in all of that. It got me thinking, too, about how women in dance are portrayed, or portray themselves. And this, in turn, led me to think about how women inhabit their sexualities, not just on a stage but in life – from one generation to another, and one culture to another.’
After that watershed moment Marie started talking to women whenever and wherever she could. ‘I heard extraordinary and yet perhaps unsurprising stories,’ she says. ‘One was about somebody’s grandmother, born in 1888, who when pregnant didn’t know just where the baby was going to come out. Or, more recently, there was an older woman who joined us in the studio for a day who said she remembers meeting women who’d been incarcerated all their lives due to becoming pregnant. I suppose, really, it was this kind of control that society can exert over women that I wanted to challenge through my art.’
Ideally ‘BEAUTiFUL’ will expose and embrace the many contradictions and complexities of female sexuality by shifting back and forth between sophisticated and sensitive sensuality, and sometimes awkward or even raw raunchiness. For this reason the show is recommended for audience members age 16 and above. However the finished performance turn outs, Marie’s firm intention is to harness the full range of fascinating and – to her mind – natural sexual energy that has driven her and her diverse and talented cast to make the work in the first place. Asked to define their ultimate shared goal, Marie’s response is immediate and enthusiastic:
‘To generate outrageous pleasure, inspire insight and provoke debate!’
BEAUTiFUL takes place at The Courtyard on Wednesday 21 February. For prices look online at www.courtyard.org.uk or contact the Box Office on 01432 340555.