New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click
here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always performance
at its best.
back to Flash Reviews
Flash Review 1, 12-7: Alpha Female
Vandekeybus and the Squirm Factor
By Rosa Mei
Copyright 2001 Rosa Mei
ANTWERP, Belgium -- There aren't
many shiny, happy people in Wim Vandekeybus's world. The characters in his new
evening-length work "Scratching the Inner Fields" (seen Monday at De Singel) --
all gaunt, tormented souls -- scour for sustenance, writhing and scratching themselves
senseless without a moment's respite from pain. It's a dog eat dog world, a Darwinian
study in survival of the fittest. No alpha males here though. Only alpha females,
seven she-wolves trapped in a primeval forest. Or are they inmates in a Marquis
de Sade asylum? This is dance theater not intended for the meek or tender-hearted.
Vandekeybus jolts us and makes us squirm in our seats by delivering full throttle
physicality and raw, uncensored emotions and desire to the point of exhaustion.
Whoever said theater was safe?
"Scratching the Inner Fields" could
be seen as the female counterpart to "In Spite of Wishing and Wanting," Vandekeybus's
1999 all-male piece which deals with similar subject matter -- dreams, desire,
pain, pleasure and spiritual transcendence. In comparison, "Scratching" is a much
more mature work, the collaging more refined, the segues between sections more
clearly delineated. As well, we see a much tighter integration of sound, lighting
and action, immersing the audience in storms and stampedes, making us squint to
see shadows or limit the floodlights blinding our vision. And while the men in
"In Spite of" danced mostly like, well, men, the women in "Scratching" adopt the
forms of both humans and beasts.
Inspired by and set to "Zwellend
Fruit," a fairy novel by Peter Verhelst, "Scratching the Inner Fields" probes
the psyche and acts out primal urges. Discovery Channel special: The Human Animal:
"Some are born with wings under the skin of their shoulders. They keep scratching
at their shoulder blades to get rid of the strange itching.... Whoever was born
with wings under the skin of his shoulders can scratch until he bleeds, but the
itching is always worse than the pain." As wads of wet, porous membranes fall
from the sky and splat on the floor, the dancers, some scampering on all fours,
scurry to collect and horde the goods. They are territorial creatures who scavenge
and disperse upon sensing danger. Baboons fighting over fruit.
The oddest creature of this forest/asylum
is Iona Kewney, a double-jointed contortionist, equal parts wild boar and rhythmic
gymnast (no joke), who practically steals the show. This is a woman held together
by cartilage, not bone. She moves like a 'toon and splats her limbs on the floor
as if her arms were wet towels. If you ran over her with a car, she'd probably
shape shift herself back whole. Kewney wiggles and writhes with stunning elan
and has a voice big enough to fill an opera house. All in a small, compact package.
When she's on stage, it's hard to watch anyone else. She's that odd and that good.
Not to say that all the dancers in
"Scratching the Inner Fields," aren't fine. On the contrary, the cast is stunningly
agile and passionate. They form a tight-knit community of beasts and beauties.
They are temptresses and seducers. One purrs, "Would you like to play with me
as if I was....", smacks her lips and runs away. Another whispers, "It's in your
ears, in your nose." These are the real Vagina Monologues. The raw, uncensored
Vandekeybus brilliantly plays the
role of both choreographer and director. He uses sound effects to amplify the
intent of his movement, not merely to create mood. A dancer hurls herself on the
ground to the sound of screeching distortion. This is dance as a cinematic experience.
In one scene, dancers dump sacks of manure on other dancers' heads as they lie
prone on the floor. In another scene, amorphous writhing gives way to intricate
partnering work, loose-limbed, tangled pretzel arms that weave seamlessly from
one position to another. The images are breathtakingly pure and symbolic. It's
the kind of dance Stanley Kubrick would have created had he been a choreographer.
Vandekeybus wants to get under our
skin, make us squirm and wonder. His primal/primate creatures strive for some
type of instant gratification, scouring the woods in search of an analgesic for
the soul. "No more worries. No more loneliness. No more longings. Everything is
just as promised."
back to Flash Reviews