Fitzgerald and Stapleton at the Chocolate Factory

Photograph: Ian Douglas

Friday night took us to Long Island City to check out Fitzgerald and Stapleton‘s The Work The Work. Let’s just start with the naked – F&S (Emma Fitzgerald and Aine Stapleton) perform naked as a way of “subverting the conventions of nudity and eroticism which otherwise plague presentations of the naked female form.” Not necessarily a new idea (see DANCENOISE, for example) but they bring a very anti-performative aesthetic to the notion. Rather than staging anti-erotic representations of performed femininity, they treat the body as mundane and prosaic, a tool for writing and choreography, for the representation of ideas and abstract states. They are influenced by Deborah Hay and, for The Work The Work, Beckett.

Friday night’s performance started with the dancers exploring the space while the audience entered, eventually finding their way to prone positions on the floor. Once there they, um, well …. let’s just say they were successful in de-eroticizing self-pleasure. There was some spoken text, elliptical phrases of dialogue. [i’m trying to remember what happened, i didn’t take notes]. At one point one of the dancers left the stage with the other one seated, facing the wall, for quite a long time. There were a few funny bits of dialogue played in a voiceover and then a long video sequence. The dancer returned and the two did some very simple movement phrases. The most captivating moment for me was a sequence when the blonde dancer (Sorry, I don’t know which is Fitzgerald and which is Stapleton) stood on a chair and started spinning her arm like a clock while the rest of her body stayed absolutely motionless. The arm got faster and faster and then when it reached maximum velocity suddenly stopped and there was a blackout. It was a simple phrase but very eloquent. It had a focus and directness of action that was not always present in the other parts of the performance.

According to the the Chocolate Factory’s website:

The Work The Work debates the interplay of individuality, power, capitalism and gender within current Irish society. Throughout the performance the artists negotiate a choreographic score written by Fitzgerald & Stapleton, designed to support and challenge each artists’ moment to moment relationship with the audience, stage environment and each other.

I’m not sure that the theoretical intent was entirely present in the performance itself. More than anything F&S presented us with some very oblique scenarios that challenged the audience to experience the piece on individualistic terms.  Ultimately it was a very challenging piece but the more I reflect on it, the more I get from it. I am curious to see what these two come up with next.

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Click here to read Gia Kourlas’ interview with Fitzgerald and Stapleton in Time Out.

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