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Review: You Animal You - Force Majeure - at Dance Massive

By Yona Eagle

Heading to North Melbourne Town Hall this week, I was excited to see what powerhouse dance group Force Majeure had in store as part of the 2019 Dance Massive Festival. Commissioned by Sydney Festival this year, Force Majeure’s work You Animal You transforms the Arts House into a gladiator’s arena that shines a light on the boundaries between what makes us animal, and what makes us human.

Together with my friend - a fellow former Dance Mum - we attended the show and marveled at the athleticism and intensity of this piece performed by the fabulous dancers, Ghenoa Gela, Lauren Langlois, Raghav Handa, with newcomers Jack Riley as well as Hayley McElhinny for the Melbourne season. At the conclusion, we couldn’t help but remark, ‘since when do they talk so much in a dance performance?’

Indeed this is a dialogue focussed dance work, mainly spoken by McElhinny who enters the stage, dressed in a gold sequinned dress, reminiscent of a lioness, proudly and precisely walking and shifting her weight from hip to hip toward a tennis style umpires chair that she climbs as if on Pride Rock.

This is part of the game. The piece examines how the animal instincts of the pack override the individual.

The brilliance of this piece lies in the conceptual portrayals of the animal cycle. Lionesses take care of their cubs for 2 years before carrying another litter. This is shown brilliantly by the gyrating Riley inside an inflatable plastic bag. He eventually slides out - naked - and his performance of skidding around the stage in a pool of water and then struggling to teach his body to be erect on his legs was a highlight of the work.

We watch and we learn. We understand that the pride forces out the male lion cubs to fend for themselves.

Choreographer, Danielle Micich, places this action at centre of an oval formed by the audience. It is a gladiator's arena, bare with the exception of spurts of yellow confetti.

In You Animal You, a diverse cast of multidisciplinary artists takes to the stage for this exciting and boundary-pushing work, each bringing strengths that make for an arresting exploration of humanity. While we often feel far evolved from our animal counterparts, this work makes it clear that these animal instincts and desires are still deep within us, and that we are not safe from the pecking order of the animal kingdom. Whether human or animal, it is still survival of the fittest.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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