Friday, May 6, 2016

ReVoLt at The Dance Centre

Belgian choreographer Thierry Smits, of Compagnie Thor, brought the solo ReVoLt to The Dance Centre last night as the closing performance of this year's Global Dance Connections series. A solo created for the Australian dancer Nicola Leahey, the piece deals--somewhat didactically--with the continued bodily oppression of women. As the lights come up, we see Leahey in a self-imposed choke-hold, her long blond hair covering her face, her body twitching in resistance to what we are to imagine is some external constraint (whether it be the arms of an abusive male lover or the expectations of society). A quick blackout and then we see Leahey centre stage, her arms pinned behind her back, the rest of her body again convulsing against the would-be disciplining of her physicality. And so the beginning of the piece continues, with two more such poses added to the repertoire of controlling movements, one in which Leahey's arms are wrapped around her waist, and one in which they get locked, like a chastity belt, underneath her pubis.

The rest of the piece is essentially built upon the repetition of these four poses, with Leahey every now and then breaking free to move into a tentative forward lunge, or to arch into a gorgeous back bend, as if to show us just what her body can do when unharnessed. In this respect, Leahey's long, loose hair plays an important role in the piece. Unbound and flowing freely, it will not be tamed like the rest of her body. As it flies and whips through the air during Leahey's convulsions, or spills dramatically about her head when she descends to the floor, its indiscreet and thoroughly wanton movement becomes a metaphor for female resistance against imposed expectations (including, presumably, in dance).

I just wish this wasn't delivered so literally. And also that the piece built to a point where Leahey really showed us what she could do when fully untethered. As it is, the score, as it progresses, has Leahey increasingly throw off the shackled arm holds of the four core poses; but there is no real indication of where she might go from there. Her arms ascend by her sides in that tentative forward lunge, hinting that she might take flight. But for now she remains at the threshold.


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