Saturday, 27 April 2013

'The Experiment'

'The Experiment', Female Choreographers' Collective, Laban Theatre - reviewed on 23rd April

Jane Coulston
Photo: Eric Richmond, courtesy of Beyond Repair Dance
Why are there more male choreographers than female (if indeed there are and I don't necessarily believe that to be the case)? Are men simply better at choreography? Or are they more pushy or committed when it comes to getting their work performed?

The Female Choreographers' Collective's experimental performance on Tuesday, put together by Jane Coulston (pictured) and Holly Noble, answered none of these questions. But it has certainly begun an important discussion.

The Experiment featured six works by six choreographers - three male and three female. With the audience left in the dark as to the choreographers involved, they were asked to make judgements about each piece, filling in a questionnaire with questions such as: do you think the work was by a male or female choreographer? Did you like the work? And would you pay to see similar choreography?

My two favourite pieces of the evening were Behind the Smoke and Even the Devil has Demons. The former felt like an extended (and never satisfied) foreplay, with a couple in underwear embracing and exploring each other's bodies with increasing tension. The latter was a hip hop and martial arts-inspired group routine with dancers in black tracksuits and hoodies, swerving and rolling around like James Bond spies. The other works, though convincingly performed, lacked (in my eyes) choreographic clarity and  ingenuity.
By the end of the six, not only was I unable to guess the gender of the choreographer, but I didn't care. Does it matter whether the artist is male or female? I think not - choreography is about quality and innovation, not gender. Though we do need to consider whether female choreographers have equal opportunities to create works.
I also want to highlight that gender isn't as black and white as it might seem. I know many people who are transgender and/or consider themselves neither male nor female. Perhaps this should be addressed as the Female Choreographers' Collective move forward; there are even fewer 'genderqueer' choreographers than female ones.
It will be interesting to see the results of 'The Experiment' when they are presented later in the year. In the meantime, I'm glad to be part of what is an interesting and much-needed debate about gender in choreography.

Edited to add choreographer names:
Behind The Smoke - Travis Knight
Even the Devil has Demons - Caitlin Barnett
Other choreographers - Cindy Claes, Alfie Smith, John Ross, Yuyu Rau and Elena Zaino

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