BBeals - Footnote & danses en l'R
14 March 2015, Regent Theatre - Dunedin
Reviewed by Hahna Briggs
BBeals is Footnote New Zealand Dance’s first national tour in their 30th year anniversary year. Choreographed by Éric Languet, and performed by dancers from Footnote and Languet’s own company danses en l’R. The performance was based around Languet’s ongoing reflection of the ‘individual confronted with the group’. The group in this case was the fan club of actress Jennifer Beals, who proclaimed themselves as ‘Manics’.
I have two distinct memories of Beals. Firstly, as a young girl watching her play Alex in the 1983 film, Flashdance and later as a closeted queer woman, watching Beals play Bette Porter in The L Word (2004 – 2009). Flashdance was constantly referenced throughout the work in a satirical way, as the ‘Manics’ fight for the spotlight to reveal themselves as the number one fan.
BBeals, a dance theatre event constantly attempted to dismantle the fourth wall. It was a visceral show that took me to extremes, from full on belly laughing, to feeling my heart racing in my chest and in my ears. Some of the themes stick clearly in my mind and took some processing post show.
The stereotype of the dancing body in mainstream dance cinema was a strong yet fleeting theme, in particular, the hyperbolic gendering of characters; hyper masculinity of the male dancing body and the sexual objectification of the female dancing body. This gender binary is nothing new but the choreography went further, suggesting a connection of stereotyping with ‘slut’ shaming, violence, power, and control over the female body.
Paranoia and anxiety was evoked by the way the space was utilised on and off stage, coupled with an assault on the senses. I have never in the past felt any fear of the dark in a theatre. However, at one stage, I felt very alone. Even though I was surrounded by other people, my fear of the dark started to creep up on me. It was as if there was someone hiding in the back seat of the car waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
I was delighted by the live Flashdance remixes and guitar solos offered by Yann Costa (also a cast member), as this added further intertextuality to the work. Scaffolding was used by the performers to create a tower throughout the show, a physical metaphor which the group collectively built, ironically for the one and only fan. This also strongly referenced the religion of celebrity, and the manic idolisation of personality.
BBeals was the type of show that went beyond observing some well-crafted choreography, as the audience reactions formed an integral part of the work. I left feeling overwhelmed but with a bigger crush on Jennifer Beals. Perhaps I’m the number one fan?