Review:ReDoing GENDER 1.5 and The WOMANHouse

Trinity Laban 25/02/16
By Andreas Constantinou
One of the thoughts I came away from this evening of dance with is that if we are re-doing gender then it was ‘done’ or constructed in the first place. We all have constructs of the ideal male or female which have been long developed over the years. What these pieces did was to place the ideal as a fallacy and then work it back to a truth which in turn must be a falsehood. If in our contemporary society we are reconstructing gender then it must be true that it was constructed in the first place.

Both these pieces bring such powerful images and juxtapositions that we are made to think of all those early and renaissance artists constructing the ideal male and female forms.

ReDoing GENDER 1.5 is performed by Constantinou himself and begins with an ape-like being in a lab situation. There are objects in the space and depending on how they are used there is either a red light accompanied by a harsh noise or a green light with a reassuring noise. This jarring of the idea of a scientific environment with the fact that the ape is choosing identity based on positive or negative reinforcement is a complex and anarchic metaphor. As the piece progresses the ape goes from playing in a box like an animal to emerging as a giant baby complete with tears like a newborn. If there was any proof needed of the virtuosity of Constantinou it could be seen here in his arrestingly realistic movement as a baby. The detail of movement quality only lead to renewed hilarity and absurdity when the baby character donned a suit and set about becoming a grown up, all whilst wearing the baby mask.

The WOMANHouse begins with an explosion of lad-ism as four performers burst onto stage posturing and grunting and egging each other on. It opens up another form of reinforcement, this mutual agreement that they’re all ‘lads’. Their willingness to cheer on every act or sound of masculinity is as absurd as the culture that takes it seriously. As the piece progresses the singular personalities of each performer begin to come forward and with this is a stripping away of clothing, facial hair and gestures which have become unnecessary. What was initially funny and charming as a group of ‘lads’ postured and backslapped becomes a  much more complex and difficult bunch of identities to deal with.

I think one of the beautiful experiences of seeing movement based performance is that we’re not asked to make sense of it but rather to have feelings, thoughts and images. I remember when I was growing up people spoke about having babies and not christening them with any religion but rather letting them choose their own when they were old enough to decide. At the time this was seen as progressive. Watching these performances made me think we could probably afford the same progressive thinking nowadays when it comes to our children’s identity.

© J Fitzpatrick 2016

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