Dear Body

Protein Dance

Conceived and directed by Luca Silvestrini

Queen Elizabeth Hall

(2009)

Review by Terry O'Donovan

If there was ever to be a dance sit-com Dear Body could be the first episode - or maybe the first series all in itself. Set in a sinister cross between a gym, plastic-surgery hospital and a holistic retreat, Dear Body presents us with a series of body-obsessed teachers for those who need to buck up and lose a few pounds.

Blonde bombshell aerobic instructor Sarah Storer is rarely seen without a pout and killer red heels, Vicki Manderson swishes around the stage as a yoga-obsessed hippy, whilst Nuno Silva shows off his Adonis-like body whilst repeatedly combing his chest hair. Into the mix comes Sally Marie's innocent protagonist. She wheels herself on dressed in a beige suit, all wide-eyed and willing to do anything to get beyond the 'A' in her self-imposed 'A-Z in change'. She is one of a plethora of 'normal' bodied individuals, danced here by local non-professional dancers, institutionalised to sweat themselves into new bodies.

It's not long before her suit is stripped from her and, sporting Bridget Jones-style pants, she is catapulted through a series of rigorous tests, hardcore get-fit classes and is prodded and poked by her 'mentors'. Alongside a pumping soundtrack with music ranging from Aphex Twin, David Lynch and Bach she is pulled and twisted, told how to look and who to love and ultimately spun out looking like a modern-day mummy, no longer a person, but a disturbing product of our image-obsessed world.

Choreographer and director Luca Silvestrini has created an eerie exploration of the body-driven society in which we live. He successfully weaves his community dancers (different at every venue) through the piece, but it's a shame that he doesn't pull and poke at these beautiful 'real' bodies a little bit more. With this group he has the opportunity to celebrate the individual which the piece boldly says is disappearing.

Elsewhere he succeeds in making us both laugh and cringe as the company move from silly caricatures to a debauched, naked orgy of obsessives hell-bent on getting their fix at any cost. At one poignant moment Sally Marie is pinned against a platform and images of hands and legs, chests and fingers projected onto her body. It's a rare moment in an over-busy production to reflect quietly on the enormous history each of our bodies' holds and how it affects our mental state.