Yorkshire Dance presents the third edition of Bend It. Curated by Amy Bell we have four entirely different acts addressing the diverse and multifaceted questions of sexuality, identity and gender. It promises to be an evening of skewed ideals and twisted dreams and wow does it deliver! Amanda Wignall reviews.
Beginning with Mathias Sperling and his developmental piece Now That We Know, Mathias takes to the floor looking not unlike the love child of Jesus and Russell Brand. With his hands over a mini keyboard he starts to elicit sounds from his hands that hum and wail. This piece explores the concept of the relationship between mind and body and how in the distant future this will impact how choreography will be undertaken. Although visually impressive and in some sense rather hypnotic it fails to grab the audience in its clutches but could certainly make an interesting piece given development. .
Next up we see Connor Schumacher in his heart-wrenching self-choreographed set Boy Oh Boy. Its both incredibly moving and boldly erotic. Telling his autobiographical story of how his sexuality was at odds with his staunch upbringing, Schumacher makes fantastical creative use of props and objects and compels the audience to really feel. Using a microphone stand strategically placed down the back of his tight black shorts, bare-chested and collared he rouses provocative images of religious deities while in contrast suffering the utter confusion of his own sexual awakening.
This guy is not afraid to lay himself bare and as well as sharing an extremely personal medical trauma (brought about by watching porn) he gives us a scene where he indulges in oral copulation with the microphone while one of the legs of the stand is seemingly elsewhere. It is effective and wildly titillating while being totally true to the narrative. Schumacher is captivating in every way.
The third act comprises of Eve Stainton and Michael Kitchin in their offering En Beige which lifts the lid on unfulfilled dreams, fighting the norm and frustration. It is a very personal set by these two talented individuals and tells the tale of the relationship between a gay man and a queer woman as they attempt to co-habit in one room. Unsurprisingly tensions arise and lines get blurred as they both figure out not only themselves but their dependency on each other. Giving us definite moments of both tenderness and anger towards each other.
Both of them are solid in this performance with Stainton owning her androgyny to full effect while displaying tough masculine elements but also soft feminine touches she is indeed a pure joy to watch. Kitchin provides some genuinely funny comic moments. But it is when these two are together at the end laying on the floor awkwardly trying to hold each other that you really see how sad this whole sorry saga is for both parties who are basically just two lost souls trying to find their way. En Beige grapples with your emotions and wins the battle with flying colours!
Which brings us to the final installment of this dazzling quartet: Slap And Tickle by the delectable performance art goddess that is Liz Aggiss and oh what a pleasure she is! Delving deep into the myriad of labels and restrictions that are thrust upon women of all ages she tackles subjects such as pubic hair, pregnancy, breasts et al. It is a multi-layered tapestry that Aggiss weaves in this unapologetic feminist stance. From the moment she first steps out she is splendidly captivating as she removes reels of tissue padding from her bra before a never ending stream of pennies appear to flow out of her vagina. Aggiss is tawdry but never crude and packs a sarcastic blinding punch throughout.
Pulling out a doll that is attached to a crude umbilical cord she challenges motherhood in its entirety including the emotional complexity of abortion and miscarriage Dont worry youll get over it… you can get another one… She voices in her chirpy bright cockney accent. Addressing the audience she goes on to ask: Are there any…(Bitches, yummy mummys, sluts,hens,chicks, pissy ladies ) and it is terribly thought provoking and achingly funny. Aggiss gives us a veritable feast of Slap And Tickle and she never lets up.
Bend It works extremely well and it plays out as a gorgeous colourful masterpiece that pushes boundaries which leaves you with a wonderful fruity glow.
Reviewed at Yorkshire Dance, 15 July 2016.