Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland
11/08/2021 - 15/08/2021
Presented by SOFT.co
Perfectly balancing social provocation with relatable humanity, SOFT.co are delighted to premiere their latest feminist contemporary dance theatre piece Inflated Rebel, playing at Q Theatre’s Loft from August 11-15. This rambunctious and innovative contemporary dance theatre offering is a genre-defying bid to challenge the binaries of obedience and rebellion, complete with oversized puffer jackets, blow-up pool toys, and inflatable set.
Bad woman. Self-inflatable insurgents in a temperate feminist cloud of rebellious intentions and depreciating values. INFLATED REBEL walks the bind of power in its deflations and violent softness. A queer breeding experiment where we kill the reared and feed the uncanny. Probing the binaries of orthodoxy and rebellion, courage and bravado, submission and humility, and asks, what happens when the only thing to fear is the babe itself?
With dance at the heart of its storytelling language, the morphing textile set becomes both a costume and a character, accompanying the pair of performers on a journey both outrightly humorous and deeply poignant. Defining the intimate intersections between the female experience and the strange lands of their collective imagination, SOFT.co pose a series of questions in Inflated Rebel, such as how do we be a badder bad woman? Or conversely, how do you be a gooder good woman? Playful in the in-between, they hope the answers might scare us to death and/or climax.
Based in Tāmaki Makaurau, SOFT.co is a dance theatre company co-founded by contemporary dance artists Rose Philpott and Jessie McCall, who have worked with the likes of Footnote NZ Dance, Okareka Dance Company, Malia Johnston, and Sarah Foster-Sproull (Foster Group). As queer, pākehā, females their work investigates the intersection of their individual lived experiences with the strange lands of their collective imagination. Facilitating a dedicated space for their collaborative choreographic and design work to percolate and mature, the creative duo make work together with a strong emphasis on the female experience. Integral to the choreographic development of SOFT.co works are the visual design elements such as costume and set design, alongside highly specific sound design, creating an immersive and cohesive world for audiences to step into.
Inflated Rebel is one of several works that has been through SOFT.co’s unique incubation process, which allows them to revisit and rework projects multiple times. Having its first public showing as part of the 2019 Auckland Fringe Festival, SOFT.co then collaborated with visual artist Ralph Brown on a related digital project, ‘A Series of Inflatable Rebellions’ in 2020. Making its premiere as part of the Q Theatre’s Creative Development Programme MATCHBOX season, Inflated Rebel is the next chapter in the journey for these avant-garde artists. SOFT.co’s other credits include their first full length work ‘HEALR’ which sold out two consecutive Auckland seasons, at The Basement in 2016 and in Q Loft as part of Tempo Dance Festival 2018 as a part of Tempo Dance Festival to audience and critical acclaim. The duo also performed a section of the work to open for Aldous Harding at the Pah Homestead in 2017.
Jessie McCall and Rose Philpott
Set design & construction
Rose Philpott and Jessie McCall
Music sounds and edits
Experimental dance , Dance , Contemporary dance ,
A sensuous, seamless structure of vignettes
Review by Felicity Molloy 12th Aug 2021
I cannot decide whether I am pleased or not that these two homegrown dancers have not spent a large amount of their lives traipsing the world performing, and can, therefore honestly say that the Soft.co work is authentic trappings of inner ever-fervent imaginations. As the production crew grows for Inflated Rebel, with special mention of an adept stage manager, Georgia Foley, so does the impressive dance scope of Rose Philpott and Jessie McCall.
From the initial entrance and moving from upstage left to downstage right the two women, clutching their inner thighs to a workbench, are confident, and the pace of each subsequent duet or solo is riveting. Inflated Rebel comes in a sensuous, seamless structure of vignettes – as is their stage mark. In the intersections of production, ideologies, choreography, and music, the two performers dance freely and for synergetic purposes. This time round, creative ideas are expressed in previously unseen fullness. In the misty, golden, and clever stripes of white light designed by Tim Jansen, the work etches itself on our imagination, all the way to the end when a brightly coloured stream of blow-up toys falls on the floor.
Themes of queer, and yes, Pākehā if we are to consider the colonising process of dance technique on dancing bodies, express a systematically deconstructed troubling feminism; gesture and movement vocabularies that peak and sway and fall. Themes of womanhood, as identification, are subtle frames for a profound take on contemporary feminism. Each vignette is established through an intimate gaze on the tribulation of queer rebellion against hetero-normative assumption. Cream bandaging unbandaged reveals carpenter tools, strangely emblematic of the cost of women who can do it all.
Colours are symbolically bleached out. I am reminded of a clean menstrual pad as Jessie gently peels a white squab from the workbench. The set is a set of sheets, like those hanging out to dry on a washing line. They are attached to a perilous swathe of cloth on the floor, all without stain. The dancers enter and exit through slits in their home-made curtains, as though slipping through time bound, cyclic sequence. At one-point Jessie wears the set, white virgin in a wedding frock and, in breath-taking timing, approaches the front with the whole cloth lot ballooning behind her. Their white clothing ranges from marching girl skirts to fabulous coats and high boots, to not much at all. Rose and Jessie wear their long brown hair, also as a costume. These dancers are comfortable with bodies bare. They relieve each other of clothing or fit themselves into each other like arguing friends. As two blocks of wood become the baby, and the floor swathe the swaddling, I found myself thinking about these dancers as they grow older – of a queer take on matriarchy.
Inflated Rebel shows craft, thinking bodies, experience, and innovation. The dancers twitch when they touch each other unexpectedly, yet their bodies wind around each other with deep embodied familiarity. Their feminism finds its capability in non-violent action and seems defined by sisterhood, rather than oppression or reaction. An artistic decision to claim social positioning amidst the space of contemporary dance, is in itself a courageous step for them in the making. So far, the clarity of Inflated Rebel comes through care, dedication, individuation in symbiosis, and delicately acute looks and timing.
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