Friday, April 4, 2014

Catherine Young Dance, 'Woman Stood Regardless': Welcome To the Bell Jar

Women's bodies are beaten down in Catherine Young's visceral dance. How will they be able to stand back up?

Project Arts Centre
Apr 4-5

My review of Woman Stood Regardless by Catherine Young coming up after the jump ...

As Dancer in Residence at Siamsa Tíre, the National Folk Theatre in Kerry, Catherine Young spent time working with women support groups in the locality. Their stories of how they dealt with their afflictions inspired Woman Stood Regardless, a visceral dance in which the female body tries to withstand being bent and warped into defeat.

Take Lucia Kickham's opening movement: a turn that tremors, misaligning her leg to the degree that you'd picture it dislocating. She rests on a foot that bends towards a frightening thought; you can't help but imagine an ankle shattering into pieces.

The tall and slender Mariam Ribon doesn't tremble in the same manner. Her flow retains an elegance. As her hands wave from her bowing head, they weave a descent, a distress that's more mental than physical. Young's production begins to lose its nerve.

It's only in the glide of Ivonne Kalter that we see a gesture, a feeling out of the female body, that can be construed as a sexualised image. If this were amplified, it would restrain the performance's scope to that of a specific abuse. Instead, Young's choreography critiques a much wider gender reality, illustrating a societal purview where women get beaten down, in any walk of life.

If you were under the impression that the continued campaign for gender equality is an exaggeration, this production will smack you back to reality. The women depicted onstage are pulverised, dropping to the strains of Michael Fleming's music, which pounds as opposed to builds, until what's only left is hissing static.

After Deirdre Griffin is barraged across the stage, she appears to us as a victim. She evades another dancer who tries to connect with her, connoting a trauma that doesn't clear as easily as a bruise. From this despair you'd wonder where else Woman Stood Regardless can go. But with the hopeful strokes of a violin, and in Stephen Dodd's golden lighting, Young shoulders her struck down dancers on, healing them with her gentle choreography.

It's been a week of discussions as the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Cumann na Mban provoked debate about the status of women in Irish society. What's prevalent in Young's production is its violence more that its rehabilitation. If ever there was a reminder that the fight needs to continue, it's here.

What did everybody else think?

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