Justapose at Lofft's Tanztauch

The linguistics of gender through dance


I have a long-standing relationship with dance. In first grade, I took tap and ballet. I was always the one they put in the front.

I don’t remember why I stopped, but it seems to have coincided with a move. Did we live too far away or was rent higher or were my parents not bothered? Who knows?

It wasn’t me who wanted it to end. It was in my 30s that I took it up again. My dance teacher told me I had perfect feet.

"Dancing is a spiritual exercise in a physical form." Merce Cunningham
“Dancing is a spiritual exercise in a physical form.” Merce Cunningham

It was at this time that I dove into the deep end, learning anything and everything I could about the evolution of dance. Partly based on my physical exploration and my mental one, it was then that it changed from entertainment to something of incredible depth for me.

My relationship continues to grow and develop. I use movement in my own art and I attend as many performances as I can. I am very happy that I can share those I feel have merit with you.

Movement is a valuable tool that can reach people across the board. Granted, some only want to be entertained (even me on the rare occasion); but I hope that through my writing about performances over the past 5+ years, I have and will continue to help the medium have a deeper meaning to a broader audience.

"Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion." Martha Graham
“Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” Martha Graham

Recently I had the privilege of seeing some such performances at the Tanztauch Festival at the Lofft. I’ll admit I go to as many performances there as I can.

During my 13 years in Leipzig, I’ve learned they’re dedicated to promoting the cutting edge of contemporary performance, and therefore have the most experimental and interesting program in town.

The festival lasted 4 days, but I only had time for two. I chose wisely.

Saturday night it was all about the ladies. And I do say ladies because that is what we all should be, right?

Juxtapose by Cecilia Moisio captivates from the first note from the mouths of Cecilia and her co-performer, Katarzyna Sitarz, as they sing the title song from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

This time we were transported to the present through a series of clicks and glitches. From there we were instructed on the etiquette of staying in our place. Through a series of interactions from cheesecake to the present, we travel in and out of air heads and modern thinkers.

What does a feminist look like?

Juxtapose, women have souls too. Cecilia Mosio photo: Sigel Eschkol
Juxtapose, women have souls too. Cecilia Mosio photo: Sigel Eschkol

Extremely well thought out and expertly performed, they literally had me in tears of laughter. If they are anywhere near you, you have to see this.

I know even I sometimes think I just can’t watch another piece about the role of women right now, but this one is brilliant!

Sunday it was all about the boys. Boys will be boys, right? But you’d be surprised.

Portraits and short stories from Pia Meuthen and Panama Pictures was a series of vignettes that looked at relationships between men at various stages of life. The dancers were cherry picked by Pia and took part in the development process based on their own experiences and observations.

The stage included a trampoline, a pole and a rope. I was struck by the first scene when the oldest man stood at the pole and the others pierced the space between him and the pole in a seemingly never-ending variety of ways, revealing the infinite possibilities each path can take. They just kept coming for what was surely 5 minutes and yet, I never tired of it.

This is part of a trend in the evolution of circus and its marriage with dance.

Performers seek not only to entertain, but to give meaning. I talked to Fynn Neb, who told me when Pia asked him if he wanted to participate, he didn’t need the two weeks she gave him to think about it. He was in immediately. He knew her work and her reputation.

I must admit this was not my first time seeing the combination of circus and dance. I did remember feeling that the other was a bit gratuitous. This time I could feel it was much more successful.

Another performer who didn’t have to think twice was Eddy Becquart, who teaches at NL Dansacademie. He was the most mature dancer on the stage.

I asked him about that process. He said the hardest part was accepting his body and its limitations.

One thing this piece gave him was a new way of moving. Fynn taught him the ropes (pun intended). What usually goes first for a dancer are the hips, knees and ankles. What goes for a rope performer are the shoulders.

Eddy loved the feeling this new experience gave him. It was freeing.

You can feel the tension and power of it. When he hit the rope, the guy next to me almost came out of his chair. I could feel his excitement as he watched Eddy perform.

It was definitely empowering. This was another unexpected benefit of the piece.

To be honest, usually dance doesn’t really elevate the testosterone level in a room. I’m not saying guys don’t appreciate it, but this was different. The moment it was over, another man shot up from his seat and joyously clapped.

Men responded. Men saw themselves.

I don’t know if they responded to the physicality or to the music that was specifically made for the performance. It was a bit too guitar heavy for me at points, but I was not the subject matter.

Portraits and short stories from Pia Meuthen and Panama Pictures
Portraits and short stories from Pia Meuthen and Panama Pictures

Incidentally, my favourite part was when they turned to minimal classical and a pas de deux of sorts. It was very different from the standard partner work you see. I felt that the person on the bottom was more of a mount, like a pole or a rope.

The slow, steady movements showed strength while being sensitive and delicate. It was truly beautiful and individual.

Thank you’, Lofft. This is why I write about dance.

Artist, curator and writer: maeshelle west-davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums.

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