Designer Body

Choreographed and directed by Liv Lorent
balletLORENT
The Sage, Gateshead
(2008)

Production photo

In the centre of the Sage's circular Hall 2 is a circle of six circular plinths, with another in the middle. In these plinthsare what looks like piles of fabric.The floor is covered with some sort of glitter, dark blue coloured squares. The air is full of smoke. High overhead a mirror ball turns, throwing its light over the tiers of audience and the plinths. Abstract music, with heavily accented bass, plays, literally resounding in the chest of those members of the audience who, like this reviewer, are set next to the stacks of speakers.

Then the plinths start to revolve, the lighting changes, and, one by one, the piles of fabric rise to reveal seven dancers, dressed in flowing mid-nineteenth century couture, with frock-coats for the three men and long dresses for the four women, all wearing hats, who unfurl, reach out and stretch like insects emerging from a coccoon.

The plinths continue their revolutions, sometime changing direction, sometimes speeding up or slowing down, and the dancers move on them, sometimes in synch with them, sometimes working against them. At time the dancers' movements are synchronised, at times they move in groups, at times in almost canon fashion, with one starting a movement which then goes round the circle.

Then wind machines begin to blow and the garments begin to fall away, beginning with the hats, until they are all completely naked, and slowly the plinths cease to move and the lights fade.

Liv Lorent describes the piece as "an evolution from one state of being to another with no place to hide... The couture designed body that was presented at the beginning of the work ends as a completely nude sculptural form - a completely different kind of designer body."

The demands on the dancers are immense: balance and control are essentials in any dance performance, but on a revolving plinth with changes of direction and speed they become so much more difficult, so much more demanding. But the balletLORENT dancers are equal to the task.

If Liv Lorent's aim is to make the audience think, then she succeeds admirably. The audience left the Hall with discussion in full flow and they headed not, as usual, to the outside but to the bar where, when I left some half hour or more later, they were still deep in conversation about the piece.

And it is utterly absorbing. And challenging, for all of Lorent's work, whether the romantic Luxuria or the somewhat tongue-in-cheek la nuit intime, depends upon contact and interaction between the dancers. Here each is isolated, never making even eye contact with the others. Each evolves from the couture-clad beginning to the final naked human being. So both form and content challenge the audience.

"Designer Body" will be performed at the British Dance Edition 2008 in Liverpool on Friday 1st February.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan