Friday 16 September 2016

She Dances - Circus Review

What: She Dances
Where: The Meatmarket - The Rabbit Hole
When: 15-18 September
Devised and Performed by: Dawn Pascoe


Melbourne is a city which absolutely thrives on circus arts. The home of companies such as Circus Oz and The Women's Circus just to name two of over 30 local troupes and the home of NICA, it takes a brave and accomplished artist to bring a new circus act to our audiences. Dawn Pascoe (Artistic Director of Perth company Natural Wings) is just such a soul and when I say she brings it, I mean she brings it!

Pascoe has brought her solo show She Dances to the Melbourne Fringe Festival this year. In the show she combines lyrical dance, clowning, diabolo, and aerial trapeze and the precision and mastery of all of those skills is evident in every moment she is on stage (or in the audience, as it turns out...). The extensions in her body lines demonstrate a rigorous classical dance training background, the muscle contours across her body show her strength, and the agility of her face is up with the best of Le Coq or Commedia artistes.

Circus artists have a tradition of avoiding narrative, but Pascoe faces it head on and perfectly matches the ideas in She Dances with her performance skills. There are a couple of different 'stories' on the internet about this show (it has been performed elsewhere) - one about a bridesmaid, another about finding your passion. You don't need to know any of them to enjoy the story. It is essentially the metaphor of the lifecycle of the butterfly. The feminist in me chose to interpret the piece as a release from the constraints of cultural expectations, but really any interpretation of metamorphosis will apply to this show.

We meet the clown first as Pascoe creeps onto the stage guiltily carrying a chocolate cake, looking suspiciously as though she has come home very, very late (or early) from a hard core night of partying. Her character is flawed and loveable, especially when she shares some cake in the audience. Pascoe journeys through a tale of tension between grace and imperfection, a struggle we can all relate to. 

Perhaps the weakest part of the show is the diabolo routine - not through any lack of skill, but it really is one of the least dazzling of the juggling apparatus so the energy of the show falls at this point. There was also a little too much exploration of the trapeze before she engaged with it for me. This is a staple technique for dancers with props but we are probably past the point in history when that exploration is exciting in itself. I kind of just wanted her to jump on and start doing stuff. 

When Pascoe did begin the trapeze work it was hilarious and challenging. I am by no means a circus aficionado, but she did some things I have never seen before and I love a show which gives me that.

She Dances is sweet, and fun with an important fable running through. The audience laughed - at times uproarously - and we were all spell bound by the beauty and fluidity of Pascoes shapes, lines, and grace. Fringe can be a hit and miss affair, but She Dances is definitely an experience which will make you smile.

4 Stars

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