Liz Aggiss, Slap and Tickle

Posted: May 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Liz Aggiss, Slap and Tickle

Liz Aggiss, Slap and Tickle, Universal Hall, Findhorn, May 7

Liz Aggiss in Slap and Tickle (photo: Joe Murray)

Liz Aggiss in Slap and Tickle (photo: Joe Murray)

Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible but don’t let them take you ALIVE.” – Sid Vicious

Liz Aggiss was forged in the cauldron of punk and her new feminist soup, Slap and Tickle, riffs on pishy old women, yummy mummies and flagrantly tosses collapsed floors and sexual taboos out the window. ‘Tis one of the finest crafted and hilarious hours I’ve spent in a theatre.

To witness lizaggiss (the performance persona and brand) in motion is to behold an artist in complete command of her visual world. She nudges the fourth wall, gives it the glad eye, but there’s always the hint that she could demolish it if she wanted. However, it’s also a space where I feel safe as she demonstrates consideration by building the audience’s hardiness to material that some might consider a little saucy. Mining childhood songs, witty word play and music hall standards, there are enough recognisable tropes to keep us comfortable. Through the presentation of her body and what it can do, has done and might do with us watching, it enabled me to consider my own body, the stories it holds and how we look at others. Are you sitting comfortably? You shouldn’t be.

Make them laugh, make them cry, and back to laughter. What do people go to the theatre for? An emotional exercise. I am a servant of the people. I have never forgotten that.” – Mary Pickford

Slap and Tickle is a machine gun of visual joy; no sketch, sequence or quip outstays its welcome, and mixed in with the frippery and froth are some puncturing sentences which aren’t just close to the knuckle; they’re brushing your elbow with a cheese grater. “Are there any wet women in the house tonight?” she asks with her comedic timing and technique honed during her early 80s stints in cabaret and working men’s clubs; it’s a lean, slick and impressive performance (on only its second public outing) that doesn’t let go of your eyeballs or earballs throughout.

I recognised compositional echoes from her previous stage work, The English Channel: a single microphone, a box of props, and the use of multiple costumes and her body to conceal a wunderkammer of curiosities that are revealed as the performance progresses. There’s oodles of jerky early-modernist hand gestures (in reference to a series of pioneering female inter-war choreographers) mixed with rhythmic beat-filled speech; it’s a little bit rude, a little bit anarchic and actively resists neat definition but the narrative is universal and should be celebrated: Women and their Bodies.

If I want to define myself, I first have to say, ‘I am a woman’; all other assertions will arise from this basic truth. A man never begins by positing himself as an individual of a certain sex: that he is a man is obvious.” – Simone de Beauvoir

Slap and Tickle is presented in Findhorn as part of Rise 2016, a three-day festival of contemporary dance and performance sensitively programmed by Karl Jay-Lewin. First on the same evening’s bill are Eleanor Sikorski and Flora Wellesley Wesley, aka Nora, who present a double bill of duets by Jonathan Burrows/Matteo Fargion and Liz Aggiss. It is the first time that Bloody Nora is programmed on the same night as Slap and Tickle and it is fascinating to see the tone, scenography, language and ribaldry of Aggiss channelled through two younger female bodies. It looks like an Aggiss, spits expletives like an Aggiss and smells like an Aggiss — yet the solo body has been split and removed from the mother ship. Now we have two distilled red Aggi imps morphing their bodies, accentuating our gaze and letting us linger in the land of the uncomfortable before they “fuck you’ed” into the distance.

There are tens of millions of female bodies and minds in the world that are aged 62 and over yet in our culture they’re almost invisible. Liz Aggiss resists that invisibility and in doing so has created over the past decade a body of live, film and other work that would benefit from the focus of a festival, symposium or conference to see how the works sit alongside the wider UK ecology.

Slap and Tickle is dance/comedy/art (delete as appropriate) that makes the audience snort, howl and cackle with laughter. It’s a rich and visual collage of womanhood and even though Aggiss actively embraces the maverick tag, she’s exploring and presenting a world that every woman can relate to. Let’s have a party.

 

For a darker view of Slap and Tickle, see a review from the Brighton Festival by Nicholas Minns


Dan Watson’s Jacket Dance

Posted: October 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dan Watson’s Jacket Dance

Dan Watson’s Jacket Dance, Founders’ Studio, The Place, October 12

Dan Watson in a jacket (photo: Brian Archer)

Dan Watson in a jacket (photo: Brian Archer)

 

This year there was a big heart beating at Dance Umbrella, epitomized not only in such works at Gunilla Heilborn’s This Is Not A Love Story and Robyn Orlin’s Beauty Remained For Just A Moment Then Returned Gently To Her Starting Position, but in a rather special Fringe element curated by Bellyflop Magazine. This is Heart with a capital H, accompanied by a printed program (only £5) in which the collaborative artist-led team produced a delightfully informative and refreshing approach to dance. What caught my attention was Flora Wellesley-Wesley’s article on Ridiculous Dancing, a name that summoned up a David and Goliath challenge to the neuroscientific-banks-of-research approach to choreography prevalent in some of our more serious (and well-funded) dance establishments; Ridiculous Dancing, it seems to promise, takes the ‘&’ out of R&D.

As an advocate of Ridiculous Dancing and the choreographer of Jacket Dance, Dan Watson explains to Wellesley-Wesley, ‘I genuinely enjoy watching people who feel compelled to express themselves in the moment: these spontaneous little personal dances that have nothing to do with rightness or composition and everything to do with humanity and physicalising internal states, whether that be a reaction to music or the moment itself….You can see the person more than the movement. The movement is a vehicle to see the humanity.’

There is an intimate scale in Watson’s approach, so it is appropriate that Jacket Dance is performed in the Founders’ Studio, a large living room with the audience packed in at one end and a floor-to-ceiling muslin backdrop at the other — what traveling players might once have set up in the village square. Watson and fellow dancer Matthew Winston are warming up as we enter. The signal to start is the donning of their jackets that hang on either side of the room.

Jacket Dance comprises a handful of scenes in a single fifteen-minute act, a ludic exploration of impulsive dance that favours exultation over technique. As Watson further explains: ‘Jacket Dance is a lot to do with joy: kids dancing to their favourite music, drunk old men dancing for each others’ enjoyment, comedians — both alternative and more traditional — provoking laughter in their audiences.’

Watson starts to riff on a shuffle and Winston picks it up and adds to it. They alternate, playing off each other like a Vaudeville team before establishing a single rhythm that one of them then muddles up. Part two develops individual sequences quite independently of each other, short dance phrases with interlinking shuffles and silly walks until Watson limps away with the choreographic equivalent of a throwaway line. Watson and Winston each wear their character like a mask: Winston’s is over-concentrated effort, while Watson’s is more abandoned though there is an underlying sense of fun in both. They watch each other and surreptitiously copy each other but for the most part they sense the space between them with the eyes of the body.

The next section explores contact in the context of Ridiculous Dancing: Winston and Watson fall against each other, embrace, and shake down. Watson picks Winston up, loses interest and drops him. The dropping and the getting up are treated as movement not story, so there are no recriminations. They judder together, jump like beans, and riff on silly walks until Watson knocks Winston down. Punch and Judy? No matter, they are up and shaking again until they both fall as flailing angels in the snow. A brief musical interlude follows, in which the two men alternate, one playing itsy-bitsy spider on his fingers while the other sings. The songs have an unselfconscious rawness — not to mention breathlessness — about them that goes hand in hand with the movement. In the coda the gloves come off in a dance of one-upmanship that adds the element of extreme to Ridiculous Dancing in some knee-crashing landings until both men are ready to drop, which they do, tracing angels in the snow again. Winding down further, they walk round the room to face each other as at the beginning. The only way to stop is to take off their jackets. Naturally.