DANCE: Not the body beautiful

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Dance audiences are accustomed to being seduced by beautiful bodies doing beautiful things. Although dance may prompt questions about how movement is technically achieved, what it means or how it is choreographed or fitted to the music, it rarely makes us ask questions about why we never see older, fatter or disabled dancers. Dance is much too preoccupied with pleasing its audience and conforming to an aesthetic norm, at least as far as Lloyd Newson, choreographer and founder of DV8 Physical Theatre is concerned. Newson's new work, Bound to Please, partly inspired by Elizabeth Wurtzel's book, Prozac Nation, is a subtle send-up of the dance establishment and its less endearing trappings of narcissism, self-centredness and exclusiveness.

Unlike Newson's previous work, Bound to Please is full of dancing. Four finely tuned dancers take us through their day from class, rehearsal and capers in the changing room, to expressing themselves at the party or club in their leisure time. Their dancing is an endless flow of self- conscious posturings, smiles for the audience, a display of self-indulgence - all in all a love-affair with the body beautiful. But there are four misfits in this dance dream-world - the older woman (the 70-year-old dancer Diana Payne-Myers), the anorak-wearing nerd, the shadowy voyeur who disrupts and molests the dancers and the young female dancer who cannot conform either mentally or physically. These pariahs do not conform to dance's narrow preoccupations of outward perfection and beauty and through these characters we are reminded of our flawed society.

Diana Payne-Myers, still physically formidable, acts out the rejections suffered by the older woman both by the dance world and our western society. The most powerful moment of the whole show is a naked love scene with Payne-Myers and a younger man, as it highlights how unused we are to seeing ageing, female sagging bodies portrayed positively in the acts of dancing and lovemaking. Parodies of beautiful dance images are constantly juxtaposed with seamier events, like the menacing presence of the man lurking like a rapist in the bushes, the violent rejection of the naked old woman by the younger man, or the display of rage by the dancer who is insecure about her body and jealous of another female dancer's perfections.

Bound to Please is a piece of seamlessly crafted theatre. Each little scene flows into the next, aided by the revolving set, while a split-level stage adds a filmic dimension. Newson has expressed a disillusionment with dance, with the limitations of the body as an expressive medium, and seems to be heading towards a career in film or theatre. Trained as a psychologist, he has always been interested in human behaviour and interaction, developing work that was based on issues which uncovered such social taboos as homophobia or sex discrimination. During his 12 years as a choreographer he has been searching for ways of "reinvesting meaning in dance and breaking down the barriers between dance and personal politics". While most of his work has been emotionally stinging, and shocking to some, he has also incorporated humour, never obscuring artistic vision with political message. Bound to Please, although not as guttingly impressive as his previous work, nevertheless sets us thinking. While poking fun at dance, Newson comments on how hard we try to be accepted and how, like the insecure dancer, we are all yearn for approval from the audience.

QEH, SE1 (0171 960 4242), tonight, Wed, Thurs & Sun 3 Aug. Jenny Gilbert is away.