Six dynamite dancers join choreographer Eun-Me Ahn in “Let Me Change Your Name” on stage in an exploration of identity. The piece fluctuates from vignette to vignette, complete with a myriad of costume, lighting and music changes.
As the show begins, the performers demonstrate self-consciousness through a hyper-awareness of the audience. They pause to watch the crowd, watching them; and they reveal their bodies as they pull their garments over their faces, seeking a moment of privacy. The three male and three female dancers move uniformly, cleanly and clinically, walking in synchronised patterns and scooching along the floor.
Eun-Me Ahn takes the stage to deliver a meditative solo against a glaring red backdrop, gently turning her palms in and out as she cuts through space. Her dance fades with the music and she exits, making way for the vibrantly dressed corps. But all of Ahn’s solos, strung throughout the show, provide a calming focus point in between chaotic flurries of movement on stage.
Photo Credit: Eunji Park.
The rapid-fire changing scenes range from fierce to sombre. Dancers jump up against to sounds of bubble gum popping against a vivid green background, strutting around in different states of “clothedness.” They dress and un-dress each other, firing their costumes around stage. Once exposed, they coyly clutch their garments to their bodies in an effort to conceal themselves, grasping for a sense of decorum; but other times, they dance topless without reservation.
Let Me Change Your Name navigates gender with a range of movement, but the most noticeably gendered movement is female. The silly hip bounce and accompanying head bob, performed by a grinning man, makes the audience chuckle. Flicking skirts and balanced movement on forced arch, like wearing high heels, lighten the atmosphere. The cast eventually finds freedom of expression with endearing fairylike skips and flicking wrists, but there were few references to specifically masculine movement – except for a muscleman reference and a Michael Jackson-esque hip thrust.
When the dancers slip into gesture phrase work, turning and reaching, they morph into androgynous silhouettes by moving out of the spotlight. But when the performers reclaim the stage, they revert to patterns from the opening sequence – just distinctly groovier. They bop along to their own frequencies, in a Gaga-inspired jam session, and all too soon – the lights black out as Eun-Me Ahn abruptly rushes through the crowd.
As consolation, the dancers run through a funky curtain call, repeating familiar movements and reminding us of their journey into unabashed individuality.
Photo credit: Eunji Park.
Dance Umbrella 2017
Eun-Me Ahn’s Let Me Change Your Name is part of London’s Dance Umbrella Festival and runs at The Place 24-25 October 2017. The London Dance Umbrella began in 1978 and annually brings international dance into the UK’s capital city. A celebration of 21st century choreography, Dance Umbrella curates a unique performance programme, with some pieces set in the traditional theatre, while others are performer in London’s open spaces. Beyond the schedule of performances, Dance Umbrella additionally provides a range of workshops, classes, lectures and professional development opportunities. The 2017 Dance Umbrella festival runs from 11 – 28 October.
To follow along with Dance Umbrella on social media, check out the @DanceUmbrellaUK account and #DUFest17 hashtag. For dance updates all year round, visit the account of the @ThePlaceLondon.
Let Me Change Your Name is also part of Korea/UK 2017-18, a year of cultural collaborations between South Korea and the United Kingdom.
Photo credit: Eunji Park
Disclosure: Up&AtEm Travel was provided show admission to “Let Me Change Your Name” for an honest review. To work with me for reviews and other content such as guest blogs and social media marketing – contact me for collaborations.