24/10/2023 - 25/10/2023
Choreographer: Sarah Foster-Sproull
Collaborators/Performers: Tamsyn Russell & Rose Philpott
Music: Andrew Foster
Foster Group Dance
Joy. Power. Sensuality. Rage. The Aotearoa premiere of legendary choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull‘s new dance work – fresh from its world premiere at Edinburgh Fringe.
Double Goer (English for Doppelgänger) is a surreal and physically gruelling new dance work by award-winning choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull, that chronicles the meeting, battle, and potential demise of two strikingly similar women dance heart-throbs Tamsyn Russell and Rose Philpott.
Throughout this 50-minute dance show, the women battle for supremacy through acts of competition, wit, physical agility, and stamina in a terrain of intricately hand painted and oftentimes haphazardly constructed artefacts. Watch as two powerhouse dancers exert their physical labour, tricks, hustle, and feminine wile in an effort to decimate each other for your entertainment.
Technician/Operator: Bekky Boyce
Producer: Madison Cronin
Dance , Dance-theatre , Contemporary dance ,
Magnetic balancing act between two charismatic opposing forces
Review by Leslie Azziz 25th Oct 2023
Double Goer is a magnetic balancing act between two charismatic opposing forces choreographed by Sarah Foster-Sproull. The performance nimbly maintains a precarious equilibrium that never tips either of the protagonists (Tamsyn Russell and Rose Philpott) over the edge. Two uncanny hand-made voodoo dolls sit on either side of a circle of straight neon lights that taint the atmosphere of what could be either a womb, a strip club, the basement of an old psych ward or an MMA boxing ring. Inside it, two dancing bodies emerge out of the dark almost naked, entangled in a mitochondrial shape. First moving with incredible precision and force as one wild organism bound to a single cell, the audience slowly witnesses their mitosis into a negative and positive pole eager to explore their capacity for dominance and submission. A powerful hand-crafted soundtrack elegantly accompanies the different choreographic tones required for the seamless transitions of this power struggle between the two dancers.
Double Goer surprises with its attention to detail. It creatively stages elements of feminine rituals, which almost become protagonists of the performance. Hair, for instance, is at once a feature to amplify undulations, movement, wildness, unison and freedom. Later on, it is a tool that either signals superiority, status, dominance or disappearance, dissociation, and emptiness. “Hair as protagonist” in this performance reflects back to the audience the often unspoken and unexamined importance of hair in the construction of femininity in a way that is beautiful and ridiculous altogether.
As one might expect from a performance about female competition and power, female rage and pain carved their way onto the stage. Through a long, drawn-out and agonizing-looking scream of both dancers, the audience is roped into the potent rawness of what is, socially, so often kept unexpressed or derided. At this point the two dancers are sweaty, red, their veins oxygenated and hair dishevelled, eyes wide, which thickens the air breathed in the room. Being so up close to the performers at the edge of their power and vulnerability is somatically potent and undoubtedly sent waves of goosebumps on the audience. However, this exploration stays footed in the physical realm and fails to take itself seriously enough to bring the audience to the deeper emotional layers that such a strong visual story could midwife.
Double Goer plays with other small details repeated throughout the performance to weave continuity in instability. Several times, the dancers’ thumb and index finger close together in an intertwined circle. This small act, through subtle repetitions, endorses importance and starts interrogating us on what we are actually seeing – the dance is intense, it is strong and muscular, with slapping, pulling, pushing, but it never does so in a way that tips the tension over an irreversible edge. This small contrasting symbol shines a discreet sliver of light on the necessity and fragility of the performers’ connection. So is it really battle and competition being performed? Or is it two polar elements, bound together in infinity like those fingers, whose equal attraction and repulsion for each other is in fact… what makes their existence possible? The theme of union through duality permeates this performance. Movement/life is birthed here through equal access and opportunities to lead and be led.
Double Goer explores double entendre further in one spectacular scene. In an unsettling moment, one dancer exits the stage to put on a mask that turns their face into a compelling white skull, in a Mexican Dia De Los Muertos fashion. Death unequivocally enters the scene, fills up the space so much that for the first time, the other dancer exits the stage. But the polarity Double Goer relies on is maintained as the audience becomes the other magnetic pole of the dance. The music changes from industrial noises to what feels like a repetitive devotional Indian chant, and the neon lights turn smoky red.
Yes, death is stealing the show, but in an unexpected way – she is seducing us. Death dances, entices, even chooses victims but the air is heavy with potential and possibility. The high pitched, feminine repetitive chanting alludes more to the irresistible eroticism found in the old religions that threw themselves in devotion to the Great Mother, to Kali to Shakti to Durga or Hecate, than it does to the great Reaper. Once more, an equilibrium is found in the non-dual tension of the dance: death brings life and possibility, death gives as much as it takes.
From the raw power of the opening scene, staging entangled naked bodies in a rather primordial atmosphere, the final scene brings us to another flavour of innocence. One dancer arrives on stage wearing a colourful padded triangular dress with hand symbol drawings, crowned with a cloud-shaped hat. The other dancer, seemingly under pressure to rise to the challenge, exits the stage only to come back with her own padded triangular dress, and a rainbow-shaped hat. We are now faced with two very distinct funny, witty clown-like creatures in a funny symmetrical portrait.
But visual elements disturb the seemingly child-like innocence of this painting – the dresses are printed with charged symbols. One with large hand shapes and one with a large serpent climbing a staff. Spiritual meaning instantly floods the mind – continual renewal of life, fertility, death and rebirth. Adding to this, the two dancers are linked together again in the infinity/chain shape used throughout the whole performance. They try pulling it apart, but their thumb and index fingers seem to jolt them back towards each other with greater power than one might expect from two fingers.
Regardless of time and space, primordial undifferentiated cellular goop at the start or demarcated playful innocence at the end, the inescapable tension required for infinite creative existence remains and binds them together. In a time where differences are made to be annihilated and tensions used to ostracize and put greater and greater distances between groups, this performance alchemized another way to be with those inherent forces of life without ever letting them destroy or exhaust us. A way that leads to enduring connection, shared experimentation with power, play and ultimately a wider access to our creativity to make life more interesting.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer