Randi & Lea
'3 Maidens', 'DhIVA', 'Incense a re-interpretation', 'Introduction: Exit', 'All Girl Cha Cha Cha'
Diva by numbers
June 24, 2004 -- The Place, London
Not quite as advertised in The Place brochure, but hey, who’s to argue with these two queen divas. Some are born into diva-dom, some have diva-dom thrust upon them, and others throw diva-dom in your face and slink off gracefully, one eyebrow raised, tongue in cheek. Liz Lea and Lorena Randi operate under this third category, which they have invented for themselves, and their programme of works, almost all new, demonstrate a how-to guide to being a diva.
First, you must have dance talent. By that I mean genuine physical capacity, not just show(wo)manship. Randi demonstrates this with her opening solo. The work’s title, “3 Maidens” and its accompaniment of Stravinsky’s ‘Danse Sacrale’ from ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ lets us know she knows her dance history references, and also that she means serious business. This is a daring, stark work, exhibiting Randi’s steely, unwavering presence, hyper-extendible limbs and athletic energy.
Next, you must be able to incorporate humour and theatrical touches to your performance, without letting this detract from your exquisite dance expertise. Cue Lea, with self-titled work “DhIVA”. Choreographed by Roger Sinha, this work has a character surprisingly similar to Lea’s own past works, which have incorporated elements of her British contemporary and Bharata Natyam training backgrounds by fusing, stretching and lashing them together using her own particular powerful personality. The comic elements define the poignancy of the East/ West conflict, whilst being self-referential to the British Asian dance scene and it’s trend of interlocuting itself in terribly British accents, almost as though to justify and auto-exoticise itself, rather than explain its narratives.
This brings me to Liz Lea’s “Incense a re-interpretation”, i.e. of Ruth St. Denis’ 1906 work, which she introduces with not so much an explanation, but more of a brief dance history lecture. Unsuspecting and captive, the audience are made aware of a further diva trait: spin, as in, tale-relating and self-evangelising, not as in dervish. Re-construction is a loaded issue in academia, and Lea has already run into trouble with this project and other projects such as “Radha”, but to her credit she carries off her St. Denis impression so extremely well that the politics of the situation are comparatively insignificant.
Fourth diva manifesto: be overt about your sexual prowess, and endeavour to bring out the Oedipus complex in every male you meet. Slinking around in a shiny black dress in sultry lighting should do it. Balance with open legs in flesh-coloured underwear, and although penis envy is obviously all rubbish, it’s not a concession to second sex status to be carried off stage by a big tall man. Randi’s “Introduction: Exit” is a witty piece with a genuinely funny, abrupt twist at the end.
Lastly, indulge in a bitch-fest
of diva-dissing with your female best friend. All other divas are clearly,
risibly inferior: study them carefully so that you can tear them to pieces
in a thorough and accurate way. “All Girl Cha Cha Cha” is
a parody of all that is ‘Come Dancing’-esque, minutely observed
from badly executed moves, silly walks and fake grins to badly applied
fake tan, visible bra straps and disintegrating diamante accessories.
The only thing is, to do a send-up this well, you really have to be able
to dance incredibly well, which is probably what added to The Place audience’s
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