domenica 17 maggio 2009

are you 'fit' for this?

While on Italian television, ballet master Luigi Martelletta (in the talent show Italian Academy 2, based on the Swedish Floor Filler) attacks one of the dancers taking part to the competition for her lack of commitment in losing weight (what does he know about her weight? what is the right weight for a dancer?), the contemporary dance world is breaking the weight taboo with various performances. Here I copy a review I wrote on Dixie Fun Dance Theatre's performance (it is taken from the criticaldance forum) just to give an example:

Are you 'fit' for this?

Dixie Fun Dance Theatre's The Thinnest Woman Wins
Teatro Annibal Caro, Civitanova Alta, 22nd October, 2004

Shaving as slavery, the slavery of shaving: legs, armpit, pubic area, face!!!! A recurring ritual most women undergo to 'appear' beautiful. This statement is among the many Dixie Fun Lee Shulman offers the audience in her subversive, almost disturbing one woman show The Thinnest Woman Wins which startled and discomposed the audinece in the cosy Annibal Caro Theatre in Civitanova Alta.

At the press conference she specified that it all started during her University years when she was a successful majorette. She had managed to enter this revered world and was happy to be among the lucky chosen ones. Things started to go wrong (well this depends on the points of view!) when she put on weight and was expelled by the majorette group. She realised it was most of all about looking good and soon decided to turn her experience into a dance piece (she had gained a major in dance). In particular The Thinnest Woman Wins represents the extension of the solo that was the outcome of her adolescent trauma.

In the version she danced in Civitanova she is on her own. She alternates her dance sequences with images projected on a screen. Images portraying supermodels as well as common women. In one instance images are counterbalanced by witten extracts from a book called The Body Project where different girls from different time spans (1890s, 1920s, 1950s) talk about their relationship with their body. In a section Shulman performs very skilled exercises as a majorette untill that perfection is interrupted and her movement relationship with her baton changes. It is all pervaded by an ironic tone.

In a quite tense part Shulman speaks words in darkness, words that seem to have no connection with each other: seven, breast, weight, swimming pool… she keeps on repeating them as she moves on in the front part of the stage wearing a black dress. Light gradually replaces darkness and those words begin to be spoken together with other words so that the hidden meaning soon emerges. 'Seven kilos overweight', 'swimming pool in the shape of a breast' are just two of the sentences coming out of this crescendo. Shulman's dance theatre is controversial and political. As she herself highlighted, she wants to create an impact on the audience and intends to pursue different kinds of beauty without aligning with the homogenising and politically correct standards imposed by the system, be it fashion or the media.

The closing part of this performance reaches the climax of her poetics. She dances completely naked showing her round curves and her six months pregnant belly. The initial shock is softened as she begins to talk about her nakedness. Soon the audience tunes to her discourse and laughs burst open in the air when she points out her cellulitic tighs. The Thinnest Woman Wins is a work that makes you think and see yourself differently. In this respect before her naked solo, Shulman cleverly presents a parody of a beauty competition to elect Miss America. The candidates have names such as Miss Bulimia, Miss Low Self-Esteem, Miss Breast Implants, thus further denouncing the side-effects surrounding the fashion as well as the beauty market!

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