‘The Mountain and Other Tales of She Transformed,’ is part of the Yorkshire Dance Centre’s ‘Encounters’ Program celebrating women in dance. The piece opens with a female dancer already on stage, kneeling in a pink, plastic costume as the audience comes in. Smoke fills the stage, while the sound of insects and birds fill the background.
There is exploration of the self, inwards and externally with hands. As if learning for the first time what the female form is, we learn with her. The dancer, Hannah Buckley, makes guttural and breathy sounds as she moves around the stage in contorted and contracted positions. She relays a story as she dances. The story is about a woman in the woods. ‘There is an old woman who lives in a wooden place, who everyone knows.’
Buckley starts making animalistic sounds, then human ones. ‘They say she is buried in a well, she is called wolf woman’ because she gathers the bones of wolves. At one point, the dancer lifts her knee and consecutively slams her leg and foot downwards on to the stage. She then starts slapping herself, as if from an external pressure and for some time before unexpectedly stopping.
She is very poised when stood up, but when she goes back to the floor, she uses diverse, exaggerated movements until she replicates the beginning of the piece and self-exploration, of the form of woman. Buckley bases her work around feminism and the space woman is able to control on stage and outside of external influence. This is very different from what women are able to command in day to day life.
1.7 by Zsuzsa Rozsavolgyi stems from the work of two researchers included in the writing of Gabor Szendi. It relates to many things but ultimately, here, to birth and abortion. A dancer stands with a gold veil over her head and body until the audience comes in.
At the start, Rozsavolgyi pulls part of the material away from her eyes forming a burka. Indicative of woman having to cover up in other cultures. The piece is theatrical and invites the audience in to view the subversion of women. Rozsavolgyi takes the veil off to reveal nudity. She makes sounds ke, ho, ha, then breathy sounds.
There is the sound of water dripping. Someone is humming, ka, kee, ha. There is a relation to the creation of life. Woman said to be ten layers deep. The attention is on the dancer’s very long hair for some time. She throws her head about and the hair follows.
R and B and rap is played in the background at the same time as visually seeing women on a screen. Rozsavolgyi then uses humour by introducing pictures of pubic hairstyles that is supposed to identify what type of woman one is. The piece then goes on to a beauty contest and it is related to the comment, ‘A real woman does everything right.’ The piece shows how hard it is to be a woman.
Women are not even on a level playing ground with men. The piece works with video and costume to show how women are seen and received. She calls the vaginal opening the gateway. The gateway is where babies come from alive or dead. She then goes in to great depth about abortion. In the end we/women make the final choice about what we do with the life within us.
Reviewed by Jane Austwick on 8 March 2019 at Yorkshire Dance, Leeds