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Sarah LisneyLost in the words

Chewed Pink I Can’t Take My Body Off

Oluwaseun OlayiwolaHolehead

As Lisney stepped onto the stage for her solo work, she commanded our attention with her powerful krumping and spoken words. Destined To Stem invited us to see Lisney's process of growth as she fought to undo the bounds of an oppressive society and redefine her identity. Using a recurring motif of the alphabet, the piece snares us into her Kafkaesque struggle. Though short, the solo did not feel unfinished. All that was needed was some extra stitching to fasten back the vines on her costume.

Twisting, biting, stretching, pulling, wringing, clawing; I Can’t Take My Body Off is a mischievous highly tactile quartet. Like puppies play-fighting, the dancers intertwined themselves in an exploration of their femininity. Chewed Pink’s commitment to the quirky choreography and snapshots of cartoonish brawling, garnered well-deserved laughs from the audience. The puffy white costumes and ‘dress up’ scene reinforced the playfulness of the individual characters created by the performers. I was especially impressed with the balance of the piece’s musical score and silence which allowed the subtle percussion of contact, breathing and giggles to add yet another layer of texture.

Re-entering the theatre for the final time, we were greeted by four men in scarlet red unitards and shades who took turns staring into the audience and performing solos upstage. Though a stretch, the snazzy outfits reminded me of the German electronic band Kraftwerk, which gave me a chuckle. Holehead morphed between angular unified movement and fluid solo and partnerwork. This combination supported the dancers' connection with each other's masculinity, intimacy and the morphing of the two. Despite appreciating the ambience of the piece, I felt a desire for a variation in tempo or mood. Even a brief change in music would have satisfied that craving and cast the work under an additional light.

Liam Woodvine

Sarah Lisney demonstrated the rare gift of brevity in her highly personal solo describing the challenging life of a black woman, negotiating issues of self-doubt and racism. Her stage journey began by dragging this burden behind her, represented by a long floral garland. After a silent start Lisney’s injection of spoken poetry was confidently delivered, giving way to a film of herself immersed in nature. The final third of Destined to Stem was dominated by her versatile hip hop dance peppered with explosive krumping. Lisney is a charismatic performer who left her audience wanting more.

The other two works had the peculiar quality of mirroring one another’s queer thematic relevance. Chewed Pink explored ‘femininity through a queer lens’ while in Holehead,Oluwaseun Olayiwola placed a similar focus on masculine relationships. In the former, four women, dressed in different white outfits, explored each other’s physicality in aggressive and tender ways while in Holehead, four uncredited male dancers (the programme said three) dressed in tight crimson onesies with black stockinged feet, like renegade crewman from a starship, negotiated a similar journey of queer intimacy.

The women created extreme shapes through twisted bodies and exaggerated facial expressions, punctuating this seriousness with welcome bursts of humour. The men started by turning tables on their audience, sharing three pairs of sunglasses between them, while arrogantly staring from close quarters at the front rows. The movement quality of both groups was sometimes fascinating from the women’s extreme distortion of twisted bodies and broken lines to the jellied limbs and fluid turns of the men. Where Chewed Pink started with a full-on wresting match between two protagonists, so Holehead ended with a similar struggle between two of the starship troopers. This final work was longer than it needed to be, petering out with a whimper and not a bang.

Graham Watts