[DANCE/DANCE THEATRE ~ WORLD PREMIERE ~ SA]
The Mill – The Breakout, Fri 15 Feb.
FEMME is a one-woman exploration of gender performance and expectations, and it’s obviously personal and deeply felt. Erin Fowler is a talented choreographer and dancer, and FEMME is a work that is near and dear to her. This is the good news.
The show begins in a large tent. It’s womb-like and somehow prehistoric – we see snatches of the dancer in silhouette against the canvas, like a shadow play on the wall of a cave. This opening is legitimately haunting, and beautifully done. Fowler then emerges in a series of costumes – little girl, Disney princess in pink tulle, sporty beach babe, bride. Outfits modelled on men’s idea of women. FEMME is a series of movement pieces set to music, interspersed with recordings of interviews with people talking about their experience with gendered expectations, body image issues, and sexual violence. For Fowler, as for many women, the personal is political.
Unfortunately, it falls flat. The argument that Fowler builds focuses on the idea that gendered expectations are painful and detrimental to all genders – no argument there, although while the patriarchy hurts us all, it’s harder on women and Trans people. However, Fowler doesn’t have to be the voice of all women; her experience of womanhood is her own. But when Fowler uses recordings to argue that it’s more impressive to succeed as a woman while also maintaining femininity, it rankles – it seems naively unaware of the structural and societal causes of misogyny. Again, Fowler isn’t Judith Butler, but her performance is political and as a piece of political art it falls short.
FEMME is earnest but underwhelming, and politically basic. Fowler is a talented dancer, however, and her passion for her subject is obvious. There’s the potential for something powerful here, but it is as yet unrealised.
FEMME continues at The Mill – The Breakout, at various times, until Sat 16 Mar.
Book at FringeTIX on 1300 621 255 or adelaidefringe.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.