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Cholmondeleys and the Featherstonehaughs - 'Double Take'
Two views of the Chums
and the Fans
Queen Elizabeth Hall,
May 20, 2004
by Lydnsey Winship
Lea Anderson's Chumlees and Fanshaws
(it's easier to write them the way they're pronounced) are 20 years old
this year, and what better way to celebrate than a birthday bash. To add
a bit of a twist to the proceedings, Anderson has thrown in some characteristic
gender bending. From Shakespeare to panto to drag, there's always been
something intriguing and entertaining about a man playing a woman's role,
and vice versa, and Anderson carries on the noble tradition. In this case,
the all-male Fanshaws dance "Flesh and Blood," a piece created
for the all-female Chums in 1989, and the female troupe serve up a selection
of short Fanshaw pieces from the repertoire.
The girls look like they're having a ball in a series of cabaret inspired,
pulp/pop culture pieces. Dressed like spivs in suits and quiffs, they
drink and banter round a smoky bar room table waiting for their turn in
the spotlight. The simplest ideas are often the best. "Greetings"
is a duet composed entirely of gestures of greeting that is inventive,
comic and acutely observed. "Strangers" sees the dancers combining
a karaoke rendition of "Strangers In the Night" with a Twister-style
game of contortion. Best of all is "Elvis Legs," a montage of
the King’s most hip-swinging dance moves. A crowd pleaser yes, but a brilliantly
executed piece of dance too.
One of Anderson's best qualities is the ability to create radically different
worlds just by changing her dancers' gait and gestures. She can completely
dissolve their personalities, their egos and their human qualities in
one twist of a torso. The men in "Flesh and Blood" are monk-like,
in floor-length lamé dresses and rouged cheeks. Their square shoulders
bulge in their frocks, their presence is alien and their obsessive, repetitive
moves slightly disconcerting. One minute they're seemingly chained to
the earth, their limbs making mechanical moves, the next they're spelling
out delicate hand gestures like overgrown geisha.
It's hard to believe these are the same men who tumble back on stage at
the end of the show to join in with the girls in a spirited finale. Bouncing
up and down in t-shirts, sweatpants and big smiles they look like any
other gang of pretty boy dancers. Just goes to show what a difference
a dress makes.
May 21, 2004
by Stuart Sweeney
I really enjoyed this show. The
all-male version of "Flesh and Blood" had power and guts, if
not the finesse, of the earlier all-girl versions. It provides an opportunity
to assess what is distinctive about Lea Anderson's choreography. My impression
is that she makes greater use of unison than her contemporary dance peers,
whether it be for the full ensemble or with sets of dancers performing
unison in contrapuntal mode. Gestural movement is also important, especially
in the trio at the front of the stage early on in "Flesh and Blood,"
speeding up to a frantic pace. Anderson also finds unusual movement, such
as the dancers on the floor performing sinister scorpion-like oscillations.
Overall this study of obsession and ecstasy retains its power, and the
designs -- so cutting edge when first seen -- still look good.
I saw an early version of "Double Take" which closed the opening
gala for Laban, and again it provided as much fun as I've had with my
clothes on. It's based on a cabaret format reflecting the origin of the
ten short dances in bars and clubs with beer-covered floors. Girls in
suits always have a head start, and "Walking Woman," with hats
as well, again shows Anderson's skill with unison and variations. "Greetings,"
based on forms of.... greetings, is fine fun leaving you wondering what
will come next as we pass quickly through typical hand-shakes and cheek
kissing on to uncharted waters of knee grabbing and other arcane practises.
The high spot has to be "Elvis Legs," which takes some interesting
moves from The King and transforms them into a wonderful trio dancing
on the spot and set on a diagonal. In "Elvis" and other numbers,
Maho Ihara's pure dance skills stand out in a talented team of dance theatre
artists. Centered, full of precise dynamism and swinging her arms and
legs to the beat, Iharo is truly a King or perhaps a Queen.
Happy 20th Birthday Lea, and here's to many more, combining humour and
Edited by Lori Ibay
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