In 1982, Luc Léger devised a system to measure fitness. This multi-stage examination, known as the beep test, pushed athletes to their physical extremes using a series of increasingly frequent alarms. The closer the beeps, the faster the necessary response; the more dominant the sound, the higher the expectation.
Led by Brian Gillespie, B-Hybrid Dance picks up this challenge to kick off Masc 4 Marginalisation, a richly symbolic take on contemporary LGBTQ+ identity and the culmination of a R&D process driven by queer performers. Riffing on the idea of gendered labels within the male-identifying gay community, the three dancers compete with the high-pressured, clinical soundtrack, fighting to establish their identities and to put forward a physical best. It’s a collage of preening and caressing, and there’s the playful ‘V’ of a peace sign – or is that tongue-in-cheek Girl Power?
At first, the lightly-clothed dancers scramble to pull on various pairs of socks – squealing ecstatically at a fresh print, or basking in smug satisfaction of a tight fit. The mood is urgent, competitive, insular – and identity, here, is something to be constructed privately, before being flung out to the world. And, in response, our characters look restless and agitated, looking around as if fearful of being pursued. But what begins as selfish expression – all pouts and coquettishly covered mouths – matures into the optimism of group interaction. Masc 4 Marginalisation thrives on the fluidity of supported movement and, through contemporary choreography spiked with the punch of breakdance, the performers pull together. The three dancers form tight, symmetrical Celtic knots of sensually grasped thighs, and switch between gracefully aggressive pas de deux, swimming free in each others arms. Here, when our performers fall into defeated piles, they do so together. “Forget the pigeon-holes,” Masc 4 Marginalisation seems to scream – “it’s better to fail together than to strive alone.”
In tonight’s triple bill, I’m not the only one swept up by the group choreography. “Is it actually two people?” whispers the man behind me, as Yu-Hsien Wu takes to the stage. “Really?”, the man gasps, in excited disbelief, as his companion informs him that this is a solo show. Wu begins her own piece, Dirty Paw, in such a state of sculptural contortion, such unexpected poise, balance and strength, it’s easy to see the source of my fellow viewer’s confusion, but the surprise doesn’t stop there. For a solo show, Dirty Paw is alarmingly well-populated. Weaving her body through this empty space, Wu perfumes her bare surroundings with the congestion of a city through choreography and soundscape alone. As the blare of urban traffic gives way to the gaseous hoots of Trump and the all-too familiar Apple-brand clicks of digital motion, Wu is flung by the sounds of an invisibly textured world. Like B-Hybrid Dance before her, Wu locates herself as yet another character trying to find its way.
While in the night’s first two performances it is the characters who seek direction, the third piece seems to have lost its way altogether. But what Gibbon’s self-titled offering lacks in apparent narrative, it makes up for in absurd silliness. Unlike in Masc 4 Marginalisation, the characters at the heart of this co-dependency don’t seek to change the world. But, as these two likeable duelling jugglers prompt and tease each other in equal measure, Gibbon is packed with spirit, tenderness and a joyous persistence – even when directly confronting the inevitable futility of keeping gravity-bound objects in the air.
Resolution 2018 was performed at The Place. Click here for more details.