Last night I visited the Arnolfini for the first time. Which is pretty terrible for a drama student who has lived in Bristol her entire life. I went thanks to a last minute email from one of my university lecturers offering complimentary tickets, and I’m very glad I did. I will openly admit my tastes in theatre are what most people would consider fairly mainstream and also quite narrow, which I have only realised once I started university. However, this performance really opened my eyes to some of the other ways theatre can be performed.
In Between Time is described as a ‘baroque inspired performance’ concerned with the politics of the flesh. I went into the production knowing very little about it except it was about dance and there was some nudity involved. I don’t know what I was expecting but it certainly was not what I witnessed.
Doris Ulrich walked onto the stage proud and elegant in gold stilettos and a long black coat. She sat and happily smiled at the audience. Throughout the performance she was graceful and eloquent in both movement and speech. Her piece broached the difficult subject of whether there is a ‘perfect’ body for dancing. As an ex-dancer myself, her words resonated deeply within me. I have never been skinny, was always surrounded by girls with tiny waists, thinner legs and perkier breasts. Our movements were not so different in performance, yet I knew without a doubt these girls would be chosen for roles about me.
During the performance Ulrich made live telephone calls to dancers and choreographers asking for their opinions on the perfect dancer’s body. She spoke to the ‘less traditionally’ beautiful – a dancer/choreographer now in her late 60s, a bald man, and a blind man. How did their perceptions of beauty match the traditional view? The quote that struck me most was from the second interview, where her subject, upon being asked if he could have hair would be still choose to be bald, replied
I am not a man without hair, I am a bald man.
Likewise, upon being nude on stage, I saw this embodied in Ulrich herself. She was not a woman without clothes, she was a naked woman, proud in her body and what her body can do. As she says herself in an interview with Rosemary Wagg
I think real beauty is not in the outer mantle of a body but is found in what the body can do.
I won’t pretend to have understood the entire performance, but it provoked in me a thought process about what beauty in dance is and can be. And isn’t that the whole point?