Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland
12/02/2015 - 18/02/2015
Stripped Bare is a solo dance performance combining dance, stillness, music, poetry and silence.
Fierce technical demand and emotional intensity take us on a journey as we explore and expose a kind of terror. Can – Can’t she? Will – Won’t she? Should she? It is gaunt, stark and beautiful. It is a paradox because she expresses a great vulnerability and the audience might wonder if they even dare watch.
The presentation style is also paradoxical: she is deeply immersed in this arcane journey; intimate – yet she knows that you know that she is exposing this depth and testing this edge.
And somehow you know that were it not for grace she wouldn’t be here at all.
I am born barefoot and alone,
I will die barefoot and alone.
Sometimes my friends come with me
Often they go in the other direction.
I am born barefoot and alone.
Grace – accompanies me.
A show for everyone who is growing older and who is challenged by questions of ability, propriety, shame and glory.
12- 14 and 17-18 February, 2015
Show times: 7pm (12-14 Feb & 17-18 Feb)
Choreographer/performer: Jennifer De Leon
Review by Matt Baker 13th Feb 2015
As a mature performer, De Leon presents a unique physicality, and there is no ignoring the athleticism and talent that she has acquired over the years, but a unique and talented performer does not a successful performance make. From the incompetently read and poorly recorded voice over, which for the life of me [...]
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
A radically revealing solo performance
Review by Raewyn Whyte 12th Feb 2015
Jennifer de Leon ‘s Stripped Bare at Q Loft is a radically revealing solo performance, somewhat akin to body building displays minus the gloss of oil to make the muscles and sinews gleam, but with an aesthetic challenge to the viewer to make their own sense of what is presented.
With subtly glowing lighting from veteran light artist Twink Eltoes, and sound scores from Australian composers accompanying her movement, De Leon presents two short works – Stripped Bare and Grace – accompanies. The first, with a gently flowing raga by Elizabeth Drake taken from the score of the movie Japanese Story, and lines of poetry tossed to us to think about, poses the question of whether she is more revealed when clothed in a richly deep glowing dark blue velvet dress than when she is wearing only sports bra and knickers. The second, with a scritchy, rumbling soundscape which embraces the lower end of the sound spectrum, by Perth musician Cat Hope played by the bass band Abe Sada, provides something of a coda to the first, adding another layer to our experience of the artist’s repertoire of intensity.
De Leon is one of our most radical performers. With a dance career starting in the 1970s, and a period dancing with the Bill Evans classic American modern dance company, she has long been recognised for her commitment to lyrical, wheeling, curving, flying, flowing modern dance that moves freely in space, across the floor and into the air, and which is expressive of emotion and spiritual grace.
She has resolutely kept to her pathway despite a broken back, a knee reconstruction, and more recently replacement of both hips. She has been labelled as old-fashioned and out of touch for sticking to her particular style of dance and a choreographic approach which eschews contemporary movement trends, concerns and issues.
Yet she dances on, and in this double bill shows that while her ability to flow and wheel and curve and leap is greatly diminished, that her strength and flexibility, alignment and form are still very sound, and are now deployed in mastery of the relatively static poses of yoga which comprise much of her current choreographic vocabulary. She also shows an entirely new direction in her choreography, which may surpise those who have been aware of her career.
In Stripped Bare, we see that her slender body’s once gently rounded flesh has melted away, leaving only the barest of cover over bone and muscle and sinew, to the point where you can count her ribs and observe the insertion points of a number of muscles. Gaunt. Skeletal. Sinewy. Exposed. And you are free to observe such things – she knows you are watching, and she is asking you to confront your own feelings about what you see, to consider your own confrontation with aging, injury and mortality, to question your own level of tenacity and grit and determination to follow your pathway in the face of life’s events. When she is clothed in the blue velvet dress, you see a woman rather than a body, and begin to sense the emotional subtext rather than the sheer physicality behind the movement.
In Grace – accompanies she is clad in gray warm up pants and a black top, with her almost waist length hair flowing free and often hiding her face. The movement here starts with her lying on the ground in a state of quivering, shivering, twitching, glitching micro-movements, and this state recurs several times after sequences of spinning and turning, rolling and repeatedly stepping backwards and forwards over the same ground. As a coda to Stripped Bare, this seems to address internal struggles, the challenges of creation and performance, of taking new directions which challenge everything that has gone before.
New directions indeed.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Barbara February 15th, 2015
You can't help, but feel the power in this performance. Power of emotion. Will power.
Feeling overwhelmed and inspired.
Susi Hadassah February 15th, 2015
Saturday night's performance - through the eye of the camera.....
Taking the camera into the theatre and viewing Jenny's work through its tiny yet focused eye gave me yet another perspective and I can only hope that as I held and moved it, often shaking.... sometimes from emotion and other times from the sheer effort of holding it and dancing with it where she danced.... that it did the performance justice - if only as a record, an archive of this moment that can never really be replicated.
I heard some incredibly deep and thoughtful comments from members of her audience tonight. From a young man who had never experienced dance and live performance before - "moved beyond words... powerful..." From one who has been intrinsically involved in the theatre for a lifetime - "I was right there with you.... in your struggles.... in your pain.... ultimately in your joy.... you took me there..." (paraphrased).
There is still time for you to experience this for yourself....
Two more nights.... next Tuesday and Wednesday, 17th & 18th, 7pm in The Loft at the Q Theatre.
Susi Hadassah February 15th, 2015
Thank you Jude....
Yes, yes, yes.... there is nothing static about Jenny's dance for even in her stillness there is motion and voice....
Jude Graveson February 13th, 2015
I am booked for the Weds night 18th performance so have not yet seen this current performance. But I have watched Jennifer DeLeon dance for many years, and have also witnessed a recent transformation of her practice to this more visceral reflection of a reality and starkness so absolutely appropriate to the now-present.
And I read Raewyn White's review saying YES Yes to the astute and thoughtful depth and history of viewing she has written here.
I would, however, replace " relatively static poses of yoga" with words akin to "suspended action or motion", the hesitation perhaps, anticipating and reflecting a re-think of positioning of the older, more visceral performer.
This so hits the mark...and the first time I've read such a thoughtful review,
<Stripped Bare, we see that her slender body's once gently rounded flesh has melted away, leaving only the barest of cover over bone and muscle and sinew, to the point where you can count her ribs and observe the insertion points of a number of muscles. Gaunt. Skeletal. Sinewy. Exposed.>
Susi Hadassah February 13th, 2015
Opening Night of Stripped Bare was a triumph of the human spirit....
At 6:45pm last night I am sitting alone in the eclectic foyer space of The Loft at Q Theatre. I have a few moments before the doors open and just want to arrest my thoughts and the moment. For Jenny, it is 15 short minutes before 'curtains' and I am trying to picture her as she prepares for a night of firsts, a night of wonders, a night to 'strip herself bare' and vulnerable. In doing so, she exposes a grace, a strength, a courage that epitomises a life danced with such immensity that it never fails to stop my breath and evokes an awe and wonder at our God who has brought this beautiful woman to 'such a time as this'.....
It takes me a while to settle on a place to view this first night of five.... tonight I want to be 'up close and personal'... The first thing I notice is the dress hanging in its place downstage left, containing in its presence an air of mystery, a silent witness and a voice. Front row centre becomes my choice of viewing - on the same plane as Jenny; so that I can see every nuance on her face and etched into her body. The theatre is filling up nicely - not full by any means but I can hear a buzz of anticipation in those who have come to participate in this moment.
As darkness fills the theatre, Jenny's voice captures our collective thoughts and as her words fade she walks in almost darkness to her place... this tiny figure with the spirit of a giant! Raewyn's review tells you in reverent tones the gist of what happens next and I am grateful for her attention to detail and her careful eye. Through my tears I move silently, inside myself, with Jenny as she crosses the space and enters the heart of everyone present. You could hear a pin drop in those moments that silence takes the place of music and I sense that everyone, like me, holds their breath for a time.
It almost feels irreverent to clap at the end of the first piece so we wait until she is gone and the darkness once again descends before the auditorium fills with the sound of our appreciation... As she takes her place for Grace, lying with her back to us in her favourite practice pants, I feel the tears falling before she moves. As her body shakes with a seemingly outside force, I realise that I have seen this kind of magic before - in the face of Moses as he descended from the presence of God, in the face of Esther as she kneels before her king and husband for the salvation of her people, in the face of Mordecai as he covers himself with sackcloth and ashes at the gates and in the faces of all humanity as they face moments in their life when they realise that is by grace alone that we are healed, freed, cleansed...
The moment ends to quickly for me and I am glad that I have more nights in which to embrace this work.... if you read this and want to experience something more, something deeper than you can imagine, then try and get to this performance over the next few nights. But don't come if it is entertainment that you desire. You won't regret coming, however, and you will be forever changed....
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Susi Hadassah February 14th, 2015
Questioner raises some valid points here! Thank you questioner.....
Questioner February 14th, 2015
My question is 'what credentials does Matt Baker have to review dance?' His comments as an 'off the street' audience member are OK for a chat in the bar but how much notice should we take of someone who has no dance vocabulary and no connection to the culture of dance?
Susi Hadassah February 14th, 2015
My response to Matt's review:
It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but what happens when there is no beauty in the soul of the beholder? Matt's critique leaves me cold. I cannot believe that he was in the same audience as I was. And that he did not see or that his heart did not feel.....
If to review an artist's work calls for someone to find how many ways they can tear them down, then Matt has indeed fulfilled this. Correct me if I am wrong - I did believe that the modern art of reviewing was a practice in which only constructive critiquing was observed.
No two nights will be the same....
It is Friday 13th February, the second night of Stripped Bare by Jennifer de Leon. I write down my intentions concerning tonight's performance as I sit on the steps outside The Loft's foyer. I ask myself the question: If I didn't know Jenny and had never seen her work, what would my reaction, my response to her performance be? So while I sit there preparing myself to enter in as 'audience' I decide that I would sit at the back and view it from a 'God's eye' perspective. I determine to watch with a fresh eye and heart and that I would look at patterns and shapes and the way the light played with her body and face. Furthermore, I would reflect on the choice of music, costuming, lighting and use of the space.
And so.... now it is 8:45pm and I sit at Britomart with 20 minutes before my train ride home. I am energised after walking from Q Theatre and another stunning performance... different, no less beautiful... but that is the delightful thing about live performance - no two nights will be the same. Tonight I am awash with emotions but uppermost is an exquisite sense of joy. The kind of joy that transcends time and place and circumstance and brings with it a peace indescribable.
I saw a different side to Jenny tonight - that of a master craftsman who had spent a lifetime honing her craft and I felt a deep sense of awe as I caught the fragrance of its beauty. I felt myself suspended in a place outside of time. Tonight, her voice resonated with a bell-like quality and, under Twink's expert lighting direction, the stage became a sacred space of light and darkness interweaving its aura around Jenny's litheness and casting her, at times, in ethereal shadows.
The introduction of sound in the middle segment completely changed this piece but I am not altogether sure if it enhanced or detracted from it. I think that the silence spoke to me more clearly and gave to this moment that breathtaking suspension that Jenny's work signifies. With Twink's lighting caressing her form and shape in Grace, there were some purely magical moments where Jenny moved into and out of the light. From above, as she traversed the floor, she danced a pas de trois with the two shadows that joined her.
Music has always played an important part in Jenny's work and her choice for Grace in particular, was intriguingly radical. Played too long, it has a harshness that reverberates and brings me to a point of almost wanting to scratch my ears off. But it works, for I am transfixed on the reality of her pain, her struggle to be free, healed, whole and when that climax is reached I forget that there was this irritating sound gnawing at the edges of my consciousness. As Jenny takes her final position and her face turns up to the heavens, Twink's lighting captures her gaze and holds it for a prayer-like moment before bringing the lights down quickly into blackness.
Jenny's costuming, like her, was stripped back, pared down and in its simplicity, it spoke volumes. The beautiful midnight blue velvet dress had an entity of its own and even while hanging suspended from the rafters it took on form and shape and danced for us. It was clever to leave the dress's hanger still suspended there throughout the second piece, for it left an imprint on the mind of what came before.
From my seat up high, my perspective was transformed. Jenny had lost all vestiges of first night tentativeness and commanded the auditorium with a surety, a certainty that was startling. Leading us on her journey, her pilgrimage, I discovered my epiphany tonight in her first work. When she took her position balanced on her elbows and forearms with her feet arching over her head, her face upturned and hands stretched heavenward, I caught a glimpse of divinity hidden deep inside humanity. This is the image I carry with me into the night.
I leave you with Jackson Coe's (Q's Ticketing Manager) comment of Jenny's first night's performance:
I saw the show last night and it was wonderful. Congratulations on creating such a moving, visceral and challenging piece of work.