The BELLY of the Beast – Flora Wellesley Wesley: Sorbet du Soir

Image credit: Camilla GreenwellImage credit: Camilla Greenwell


A figure in a black strapless playsuit runs, leaps, spins across the stage.

And off again.

And on again to spin, leap, skip, run, turn to a stop facing us, looking out, aware.

She knows we are here.

We know she is here, with us.

We know she knows we are here.

That most courageous of enterprises, an improvised solo. Moments of virtuosic invention, moments of not knowing, the habitual and the surprising. Moments of rest, of renewal. And always, that awareness of us, out here, watching. Looking out, meeting the question, the expectation.

Movement scutters across the stage, shapes the air, escapes into more of the same. Falling fast and righting herself. Mercurial, evanescent, yet always in control.

She lies on her back, waiting. The movement that will be never was. Stasis vibrates into a new spiral, a new whirl of movement, a new disappearance. And she too, she disappears, she returns, she disappears again. And returns. She is never not there.

Words come out of her mouth: ‘Alfa Romeo’ – a surreal ode to an ideal lover. A pitch for the perfect gadget. A hesitation.

Jewel-like moments of intensity – curled on her shoulders, knees towards forehead as she reaches for her feet. Or standing downstage left, arms reaching, fingertips undulating a delicate touch into the air. Or that moment when speech shifts into movement, becomes back and arms exploring themselves.

Just sometimes, I want her to forget we are here. The tiny glimpses when I feel she has lost sight of us, in the pure essence of her own exploration, are tantalising. I relish her downtime, unguarded, momentarily letting us into the always-newness of not-knowing. Here, in this openness, this vulnerability, this willingness to teeter on the cliff-edge of failure – evinced in the breathless, relieved ‘Thank you’ that ends the performance – is its most generous gift.

Rachel Gomme makes performance and installation, focusing on the experience of time, memory and shared embodiment, and ranging from durational performance and sound/video installation to delicate one-to-one interactions. Rachel also wrote about For example, much of the human body.


Twice during Sorbet du Soir I think Wellesley Wesley is going to say something and she doesn’t. It is almost as if she thought the better of it and carried on following the thread of movement she was exploring. Finally though she does, sitting quietly at the front of the stage she gently begins what forever-shall-be in my head called the Alpha Romeo Song. “Alpha Romeo… Milky Bar…Capital letters…” a song seemingly built from words tumbling out of Wellesley Wesley’s mouth as fast as they tumble into her head. The song builds and eventually grows to an Evita-like crescendo complete with heartfelt swaying as she rises from the floor: “CAPITAL LETTERS!”. We laugh whilst being buoyed along by Wellesley Wesley’s clear, strong voice… and then the episode is over. She leaves us, and begins again, new sorbet, new thread, into squeaking splits and gymnastic backbends later muttering that it’s “Romeo residue”.

Sorbet du Soir seems to be a taster menu, but strangely it’s not annoying that Wellesley Wesley keeps leaving the stage to go and retrieve another flavour. Episodes are punctuated by this disappearance and re-appearance whilst the sensation of searching and exploring runs as a continuing thread.

At one moment Wellesley Wesley is upside-down with her legs outstretched like shoots of a plant. This image only lasts for a moment, long enough for us to wonder what she has become but not so long as to decide. So the piece explores and presents us with images that we are allowed to register, but not so long that neither we, the viewers, nor perhaps Wellesley Wesley herself, know the conclusion. It’s an engaging challenge, and at one time this is shown at speed as Wellesley Wesley reaches only to shuffle only to twist only to squeeze. All the while I wonder whether she means to tease us with our assumed knowledge of her plans, as she smiles charmingly in our direction.

Helena Webb is a freelance dancer and choreographer based in London. Her interests lie in the space between doer and watcher. She is currently working on Dad Dancing and is researching aspirations of flight with Emelie Wangstedt. Helena also wrote about KITTY 2012.