Impressive, uplifting and smartly constructed, Fevered Sleep’s Men & Girls Dance is a dance theatre piece which doesn’t shy away from its subject – evoking unanimous, permanent grins along the way.
Fevered Sleep’s Men & Girls Dance is a meticulously-handled experiment of both process and product. What occurs is exactly as it sounds: five professional male contemporary dancers share the stage with nine prepubescent girls (local to each stop on the tour). Significantly, they don’t just dance alongside each other. They dance with each other, often tenderly in fact, and with far less irony than you might expect.
The result is something bold, incendiary and unnerving, but also something refreshingly hopeful and beautiful. Newspaper (sheets and sheets and sheets of it) litters the stage, literally and figuratively defining the space and playing differing roles in every movement section – a simple omnipresent reference to how media has tainted perceived relationships between the two groups. A combination of broadsheet and masking tape creates a huge ‘parachute’, the adults ‘catch’ the girls under it as per the popular children’s game and, when they suddenly join them underneath, it suddenly strikes you how unease surrounding these two groups being together but out of plain sight is never more than a heartbeat away. Even when these men have proven themselves to be so delicate and platonic with their younger counterparts.
Of course, Fevered Sleep are more than aware of this tension – it forms the spine of Men & Girls Dance. The choreography is rooted in play: moves are borrowed from the games we all relate to from our childhoods, and – both inside and outside of the confines of the intricate sequences – neither the adults or kids ever stop ‘playing’. The girls giggle with each other from start to finish, and the men respond to the girls ‘cheekiness’ with a spontaneity of their own. Whether all of this ‘play’ is spontaneous or planned to a tee is unclear, credit to both the performers and creative team for that alone – and for managing to establish an astonishing chemistry between the two groups considering the individual children are only present for a short section of the tour.
The message is profoundly positive: men and girls certainly have the potential to have gentle and genuine friendships, not tainted by anything other than our own media-instilled assumptions. The piece ends with the performers in a line, looking at us looking at them. They’re no longer on opposite sides, they’re all jumbled together, they’re all the same.
It’s an uplifting and smartly constructed hour-or-so of dance theatre which evokes involuntary snorts, quiet little chuckles and unanimous permanent grins. Men & Girls Dance also wins the prize for the best show programme I’ve ever received. It’s just bloody excellent.