So this is my first go at writing anything resembling a review. I was asked by G to write about ‘my experience’ of watching Roberta Jean’s Road Postures and The BELLYFLOP Cabaret.
The evening starts very typically…I’m fucking late and I don’t know where I’m going. I find my way to some sparkly fountains and feel I must be close, though I cannot work out how to get inside. I wander around becoming slightly panicky as it ticks closer to 7. I follow some people who look like they are going to see contemporary dance up the side of the huge building. I have that paranoid feeling that I am somehow being watched as the only idiot who doesn’t know how to get in.
I have a very lovely feeling of excessive relief when I find the door and the show hasn’t even started. I’m a bit damp…sweaty damp. I scan the room: is there anyone I know? Or worse: is there anyone I kinda know? I have become very lazy at small talk.
I spot G. It’s lovely to see her; she’s all lovely and bright and busy. She introduces me to a handful of names I immediately forget and busies off into the crowd. They call us over to the theatre where we mill. I people-watch. I wonder what people do; sometimes at contemporary dance there is a tendency to feel a bit on the outside, on the fringe, but most of the time I doubt there is an inside or maybe I’m just not very bothered anymore.
We are herded in and I take a seat. The dancers are already on stage waiting for us.
I look at the dancers. Roberta is standing in the corner, she looks a little concerned. I wonder what she is thinking – she must be nervous. This makes me nervous. Stephanie sits on the floor in a green boiler suit, huge staring eyes, arms outstretched, swaying and fluttering. It makes me think of a nice little alien – I think it’s the green. She must be getting tired; I wish everyone would hurry up and sit down.
Then as the places around me start to fill up I have a rising sense of panic. What the hell am I going to write? I should have probably prepared for this, at least read some of the blurb. Should I be writing some kind of notes? Quick: pay attention, what do you think that movement means? I look at the faces watching, what are they thinking about this? I really love watching people’s faces watching stuff, peering into them. A little voyeur. Are we sharing the same experience? Am I getting it? I think of the process of reviewing, how much it is changing my experience now I’m not watching this just for me. I try to stop thinking and watch.
It is all very quiet. The dancers move without music and Roberta remains peripheral, watching on. I imagine them creating the piece and her as the choreographer watching on, commenting, directing. She is wearing a funny boxy jacket which I like; it matches the tumbled strip of fabric on the floor. I wonder if this is a comment on how ourselves and our surroundings imprint and impress upon each other. Later the dancers pick it up, wrap it up and fold it away.
It is awkwardly quiet; I love hearing breath sounds when dancers move, it’s like the grunting at the tennis. They like to let us know how hard they are working. However, I hate the enforced awkwardness. I think that’s the point: it’s tense and I feel like my tummy is being loud. It always makes me a bit annoyed. I feel relieved when the music starts.
Stephanie makes lots of undulating movements, lovely and uuunduuuuulating. They look like really nice movements to make. That’s how I like to watch dance – imagining how it feels to make that movement. I imagine it feels good. It’s all a bit ‘visceral’. She makes a movement a bit like being sick.
As the piece goes on Roberta becomes more drawn into the movement and there are some bits danced together which seem wonderfully frantic. I find it a little otherworldly, with corporeal actions and gestures performed as if a little drunk, out of it. I like the fast forward. stop. rewind quality, shuddering, jerking, echoing. Roberta does a little spin like a flapping baby bird. It makes me want to do a dance.
It’s seems ages since I watched a dance and as it ends I feel all happy to be here with a big fat urge to go undulating into the night.
For the second piece, the cabaret, I return with a friend…which is nice. My tummy is full of noodles and so less rumbly. I’m not sure what to say…the cabaret is one big in joke told in funny accents. But it’s very funny all the same. I laugh lots. It’s mega.
Leah Owen is a doctor from Newcastle upon Tyne, living and working in London
Choreographed and directed by Roberta Jean
Made in collaboration with Stephanie McMann
Performed by Stephanie McMann and Roberta Jean
Music by Stern & Guerra and Ghédalia Tazartès
Made with support from Dance4, Chisenhale Dance Space, Dartington and Arts Council England
Host: Matthias Sperling
Performers: Kenneth Tharp, Elsa Petit and Holly France, Marquez&Zangs, Fernanda Muñoz Newsome and Nena Zinovieff, Jacob Hobbs, Moreno Solinas and Igor Urzelai, William Collins, Saoirse Ní Bháin