27th August – 6th October 2018
Dance Nation @ The Almeida Theatre
Written by Clare Barron
Directed by Bijan Sheibani
Oh. My. God.
How AMAZING is it to see a female-dominated stage?
(Precursor: This will not be a rant review about this subject)
But genuinely, how unbelievably amazing, and surprising at this present time in the world, is it, to see a show on a main London theatre stage with the seesaw of gender balance teetering towards women? It’s shocking, really.
It is a more common thread now that I research as little as possible about shows before I see them.
Upon arriving at the Almeida, I picked up my ticket and programme and read through. An amazing forward written by Lyn Gardner (bless her reviewing socks) talking about women ‘taking up space’. I want to quote directly from this to set up what I witnessed on the Almeida stage.
‘In the very act of being performed, Dance Nation makes a stand by occupying space on stages which have historically been given over for the most part to male playwrights and male experience…… The young women in Dance Nation cannot be silenced. They fill up space and demand to be seen. You can shut your eyes, but they will still be there. They are not going away.’
Bloody hell, eh?
The story of Dance Nation is reminiscent of any time you may have accidentally or not so accidentally watched ‘Dance Moms’. That trashy and brilliant tv show about preteens and their pushy mums in dance competitions.
Except this is told differently.
The story of pre-adolescence and growing up under the pressure of a dance world.
These young women’s stories are told in adult bodies. Which was an utterly brilliant choice as it made the story translatable, understandable and easier to connect to.
We have all been young children, confused and unsure and because these young girls were played by adult women, we could connect so much more deeply with the story.
The youth was genuine and not overemphasised. It was entirely believable.
All dance and movement was very basic but done exquisitely. We were not watching a West End musical. It wasn’t necessary. The expression and clarity in the movement and dance was all that was needed.
This is the beauty of simplicity in storytelling. You don’t need lots of costume changes and backdrops.
You don’t need bells and whistles when the human condition is performed and written so exquisitely.
The individual monologues (that were transitioned into so easily) were breathtaking. The one that stood out for me was Ashlee’s (performed by Kayla Meikle). A young girl afraid of her power. Afraid of her beauty. Afraid of her intelligence. Heartfelt and full of passion and fire. This performance was a punch to the gut and a slap across the face. How often as young girls were we made to feel like we had to make ourselves small or silence our fire under the male gaze?
I would be interested to have seen this show with a man, as I felt such a deep connection to this show having had the experience of being a young girl.
I loved this show on the whole. Simple, beautiful and completely challenging conceptions of being a young woman and facing life, sexuality and growing up.