It seems very appropriate, in writing this review, to quote directly from Bodies In Flight current Flesh and Text exhibition at Lakeside Arts through which they celebrate thirty years of inter-disciplinary Live Art. It is through this partial extract that their carefully chosen words explain and exemplify precisely what they are about.
‘Bodies In Flight co-directed by Sara Giddens and Simon Jones make performance where flesh utters and words move, that challenges and re-energizes the conventional relationship between audiences and performers, and audiences and place. Based in Bristol and Nottingham our work comes from the careful and rigorous development of inter-disciplinary and collaborative methods, often with new technologies in cutting edge venues. We insist on the buzz of ideas, on philosophy and poetry, using words and images, movement and stillness, voices and bodies, with which we aim to move audiences both emotionally and spiritually… it includes working with different communities… mixing different kinds of expertise with different kinds of personal investment. In these ways we have increasingly opened out our practice to different understandings of everydayness; how commonplace experience might help us fashion a new idea of community, however realized in the performance event itself.’
In this Lakeside Arts based Live Art premiere of Life Class, choreographer and co-director Sara Giddens and writer/ co-director Simon Jones use performers Morven Macbeth and Graeme Rose as the central poetic focus of the work. Slowly dance-shifting around the open space they express a captivating variety of emotional, physical and vocalised temperatures in collusion with an audio track of life opinions of older generation tea dance enthusiasts from an assortment of locations. The audience face each other as in a tea dance event and the experience is as much an acute listening exercise as it is of observation. Intricacy is at the heart of this Live Art piece and throughout the work Macbeth and Rose are joined on stage by twelve collaborating tea dancers from Nottingham Elders Forum whose activities and presence give Life Class drama, love and poignancy. Additionally a thirteen strong choir contribute to the work with a verbatim stylised song that reflects back the text and poetic phrasing that has been expressed by both the physical performers, the audio voices and the variable moods conveyed throughout. The sound and music for Life Class are by Neil Johnson.
Life Class is totally fascinating and begins with accusatory and somewhat embittered opinions expressed by the male protagonist that are countered with strength and quietude by the female. Over time their volatility becomes more loving and supportive. An avalanche of shiny party hats and glittery scarves are scattered around the floor and donned by the performers giving a triple sense of celebration, of parting and of the ghosts of shared memories. The periodic presence of the tea dancers both singular and together balances the work with their stillness, their gently expressive existence and their humour. Some of the writing is very witty and other sentiments consider the loss of a loved one that has affected the widow or widower in the choice of continuing or beginning the hobby/habit of the tea dance for renewed companionship. To quote the programme notes, the piece asks us to ‘wonder – who’s this dancing opposite? How do the people we share our lives with determine who we are, make us us? How did we end up playing this part, in this scene with these lines?’ Life Class is a celebration of ourselves and the beauty, love, laughter, reflection and poetry that we can bring into the world through sharing this often, all too brief, dance of life.
At the end of the evening the audience are invited to enjoy a simple dance around the space with the performers and the moment is joyous even for a dance shy two left footed reviewer like this one.
The Flesh and Text exhibition at Lakeside Arts runs until Sunday 30th June.
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