Northern School of Dance wows audience with dark exploration of identity and #MeToo

by James Fountain

The audience at Northern School of Dance were last night treated to three live performances exploring the politics of ownership, originality, and freedom.

These original works were created by international choreographers in collaboration with degree students of the renowned Northern School of Contemporary Dance, in the third year of their studies.

The event took place at the Riley Theatre in Chapeltown, Leeds.

The first of these works, Fernanda Pratas’ Re:Rosas, opened with a single seated female dancer in the midst of 39 other unoccupied chairs.

As pounding African tribal beats began she stood, revealing one naked shoulder, gazed provocatively into the audience, covered it up and repeated this with the other shoulder in time to African tribal music, whipping her hair forward and back.

She was then joined by 10 other male and female dancers, all seated and gyrating provocatively in tandem at a distance from one another, gazing longingly into the audience.

There was the sense of a challenge, a gauntlet being laid down – a challenge to examine one’s own self and attitudes to identity and sexuality.

As the rocking, rhythmic drum tempo increased, the dancers began to gaze at each other, then gradually began chasing each other, increasingly frantic, with now-tousled hair and obvious bestial, back-to-nature undertones – this adult version of musical chairs producing a powerful representation of courtship rituals.

Molly Sutcliffe, a performer on this piece, spoke exclusively to Yorkshire Voice about what it was like to be involved in such a challenging production.

Choreographer Fernanda Pratas also spoke of the challenges and joys of working on the production with Northern School of Dance’s students.

“It’s been a crazy journey… It’s a very mathematical piece, very challenging for the performers, and it’s been a joy to do that project with them,” she told Yorkshire Voice.

After the interval, Jane McKernan used physical theatre to consider the highly topical subject of consent in light of the #MeToo campaign, using the concepts of group psychology and herd mentality to show how damaging social media can be.

The core theme connecting the three shows came to its conclusion with Joseph Mercier’s latest work, Orgasta – a piece which responded to the idea that worlds can be made through social dance practices including vogue and dubstep.

The piece focused on the social practice of clubbing, as its starting point for choreography.

Use of contemporary grime music combined with the concept of the current generation straining under peer pressure to be accepted in society, as the participants finally end their journey lying in their own vomit on the floor, cigarette butts all around them, Work B**ch screeching in the background.

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