We’re very close to our first preview of Reflections, and the studio is brimming with life. Tackling mental health in a theatrical format takes an element of seriousness, but Body Politic always brings an element of play to the process.
Let’s start with my observations of Stephen and Derek during their first creative process last year. The making of movement for Father Figurine – a dark piece about the fractured relationship between a father and a son. “I want to do something crazy,” Stephen said with a huge grin. Willingly, and quite bravely, Derek submits to Stephen’s daring vision.
They form a hunched arm link in a lung and Stephen (the father in this instance) declares he’s going to step into Derek’s space. Derek must “fly” backwards. Meaning I must fly backwards, as I play the son. This moment of movement is part of a series of escalated conflicts between the characters, and it characterises it perfectly. A connection turns into a tussle, a struggle, and the son is flung backwards, rejected. But the euphoric approach highlights how these two choreographers play with movement and create.
Fast forward to the first few rehearsals, and it was our turn (myself and Tobi Oduntan) to embody the characters and the movements. A seamless division and coming together in the studio would form. I would learn from Derek, Tobi from Stephen when it called for it, and we would entangle when our characters and the movement required it.
We had learnt from the two before, last year’s journey of Reflections being an exhilarating rush to meet a deadline – learning 7 lengthy sections of movement (and spoken word poetry) in under 4 months. Yet this new venture had a different palpable texture. There was refined movement, purposed, intentioned choreography with the same element of playfulness from previous choreography.
There were also tailored movements. “I made this with you in mind,” they said to both of us. I very quickly saw myself on the floor twisted and odd combinations of movement – blending into my thin and nimble frame. Tobi has a lot of natural raw power, and that was brought out in very fine but powerful movements.
As a company, we’re a cast of 6. The duo of myself and Tobi rehearsed separately, and the three women – Emily Parpas Georgiou, Amy Elliott, and Iria Arenas – rehearsed for their trio Me, Myself, and I on other weekends. It came time for the full cast to come together and rehearse, as the trio were to present their piece at a scratch night in Oxford.
What I witnessed was the best piece of choreography since Botis Seva’s Woman of Sun. I write as a critic also, and witnessing the height Stephen and Derek have reached with this piece was revitalising. The three women, all so unique and particular with their movement arsenal, attack and caress this piece with the attention it deserves. Technical and graceful.
Emma-Jane Greig is a magnet for the playful and light-hearted type. And this cast and choreographers, on this build up to what promises to be thought-provoking and visceral show in March, has an incredible air of camaraderie. One that allows us to poor so much of ourselves in our characters – depressed, anxious and the like – and yet approach the process with a deliberating air of playfulness and freedom. One I’m proud to be involved in.