How to dance le petit mort

Femme Fatale; three pieces by female dancers and choreographer at the New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich; October 6. How to dance an orgasm? That must have been the question on the lips of female choreographers Cristina Santucci and Loic Saillot, from French company Cie Artopie, when they came up with the concept of Petit Mort (French for orgasm).

Femme Fatale; three pieces by female dancers and choreographer at the New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich; October 6.

How to dance an orgasm? That must have been the question on the lips of female choreographers Cristina Santucci and Loic Saillot, from French company Cie Artopie, when they came up with the concept of Petit Mort (French for orgasm). This solo for a female dancer was full of intensity and drama. And the most clever, inventive aspect was that all the action took place from the waist up, as dancer Chinatsu Kosakatani was cloaked in an enormous, dark, billowing, Victorian-style skirt that covered not only her legs but the swivel chair on which she sat for most of the piece.

Dressed in a figure hugging lace top, Chinatsu captivated the audience. At first staring straight ahead as a French monologue talked over the droning, monotonous, at times operatic sound track, she eventually began to raise an arm to encircle her face. The initial fluidity was all of a sudden juxtaposed with fast and frantic, jerky arm movements performed with an almost martial arts precision.

Chop sticks holding her hair up in a bun were, in a matter of seconds, flung to the sides of the stage, allowing her sleek, dark locks to cascade around her shoulders, often obscuring her face and adding to the drama of the piece.


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The skirt stayed over the chair the entire time, with Chinatsu occasionally climbing atop it, like a giant doll, or flinging herself to the floor, as at the end, after a frantic, frenzied climax. At one point she sunk down inside the skirt (reminding me of when the wicked witch of the west, in the Wizard of Oz, melts away to nothing) but then out came and arm and she remerged. The dark, mood lighting and trance-like music added to the sense of drama, intensity and eroticism. This was a woman possessed, overtaken by passion, her body quivering and jerking, depicting the rise and fall of bodily energy and yet all conveyed from the waist up - the dress perhaps symbolising the hidden depths of women. Totally captivating and intriguing.

I was less compelled by act two, a duet in two parts - Hands Free No 1 and No 2 - performed by Anna Williams and Rachel Krische, also the choreographers. It was less clear what their pieces were about, but the awkward, ungraceful movements of the tall dancer as she squirmed and stumbled across the stage, followed by the faster, jittery, more urgent moves of the smaller dancer, brought to my mind the idea of a woman in labour, struggling with the birth of her child. The pushing against each other and the interplay between the two as they raced around the stage, seemed to suggest this was the case, although it could have been something else entirely, such is the fun of contemporary dance -the audience can decipher it in their own way. Their follow-on piece, for me, seemed at times just like a series of warm up exercises with no real performance element.

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The final piece, Between the Lines, was by Isobel Cohen, who had created a dance around a Shakespearean love sonnet. It started well, with Isobel emerging, limb by limb, like a rag doll from a large wooden chest, dressed in a rose covered top and with her face painted white. But then she began reciting the sonnet and that's when the lines between theatre and dance became too blurred and the piece fell apart. During one taped piece of speech, she stood beneath a ladder while a stage hand dropped leaves, then feathers, then water on top of her. There were too many random things going on and, compared to the other pieces, it seemed more like a performing arts GCSE exam piece.

People would have gone away more impressed had the running order been reversed.

Katy Evans

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