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Notes from a Wallflower: Wednesday 12th August

Quarantine was established in 1998 by directors Richard Gregory and Renny O’Shea with designer Simon Banham. We make original theatre, performance and public events with and about the people who are in it. Whatever form it takes, our work begins and ends with the people in the room. Over the last 20 years, we've collaborated with a shifting constellation of artists, performers and people who've never done anything like this before. Our work seeks to create the circumstances for a conversation between strangers...

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Notes from a Wallflower: Wednesday 12th August

Posted: 19 August 2015

Sonia is about to perform her solo. She begins by explaining the context for the first dance she is about to do and then the music starts. I think about how much the movement speaks – it seems – more thoroughly and deeply than words. Later in the solo, she describes a tale of lost love; ‘he just said no’. I can’t quite hear what she is saying. A song by Lauren Hill comes on and now I understand, both what I couldn’t hear in Sonia’s text, and what Nic was saying before about her experience of ‘Lauryn Hill’ being cathartic. 

Sonia dances and sings along in a way I can’t describe, but that expresses, in such a strong way, that feeling of loving someone who doesn’t love you, and the need to get it out. Afterwards Richard describes the feel of the dance as a kind of cathartic, shaking off. Throughout the performance of Sonia’s dances the hairs on my arms are stood on end, and my eyes are filled with tears.

During another part of Sonia’s solo she moves us along to Notting Hill Carnival. I’ve heard the story before, and I love it. ‘One of those plastic wire fences’ – she uses one hand to recreate the shape and movement of the fence in such a wonderful way. ‘Hundreds, thousands, millions – no, hundreds of people’, ‘the police want us to turn off the soundsystem’. Ring the Alarm plays and the dance is victorious, defiant, and triumphant. Sonia moves across the space with wide, open steps, arms raised.

And then her final dance is a stark contrast; a ballroom dance, to a song by someone like Sinatra. It’s not him though, I don’t think. At the end of the solo everyone claps in a way that makes me think we all felt something similar in the power of Sonia’s solo performance. Richard, joking, holds up a card reading ‘7.5’.

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After discussion, Jo performs her solo. She explains the first dance is ‘the atomic card’, ‘when we’re allowed to dance and not think. That’s what I’m always looking for’. The movement is sharp and very energetic, and there’s this moment in the middle where Jo picks out the bass guitar in the song by moving precisely and with perfect timing, and it unlocks part of the song I never really noticed.

She brings out a pair of stilettos, rolls up one trouser leg and struts the stage in what are her ‘Pina shoes’. Later she performs the dance step that Ross taught her; ‘He was the first person to call me Jo’. There is a dance with Jane. Later, she reflects, ‘I guess I’ve just done a lot of sexy dances. It’s not really who I am’. 

The dances are exposing, and they demand this audience configuration in which we can see each other and how each person is reacting. It makes me feel that we are getting some of that exposure too. Jo’s solo seems to have several moments of anxiety or frustration – at not being able to remember – along with her skill, confidence, power and energy. The format of the show doesn’t allow for any hiding behind the dances. 

Dani Abulhawa

 

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