Nothing to Lose
“Force Majeure have done something genuinely exciting: they’ve provided a new lens through which we can view the medium (of dance). It’s utterly invigorating and stunning theatre.”
Tim Byrne, Time Out Melbourne – Read more…
NOTHING TO LOSE
A case for dance as the most provocative and exhilarating medium out there.
Sometimes a title tells you nothing and sometimes it tells you all. Nothing to Lose, director Kate Champion’s final show with dance company Force Majeure, falls decidedly into the latter category. It’s a title that functions as a Janus statue – suggesting personal empowerment while simultaneously evoking social marginalization – and only hints at the complexity at the heart of this extraordinary work.
The show begins with an open provocation. Six fat bodies lying inert on the stage suddenly become animated, sexualised. Fellatio is simulated within the first thirty seconds. The message is blatant: fat bodies are hot, flesh is sex, get used to it.
Of course, given the intellectual rigour underpinning this show, these provocations function as a mere taster for the confrontations to come. A sequence built around the sometimes jaw-dropping comments the performers have endured in their daily lives (“at least you won’t have to worry about getting raped” is a typical example) feels almost like an act of public shaming.
Or at least it would, were shame a part of this piece’s vocabulary. At one point, the audience is encouraged onto the stage to poke and prod the dancers as mock museum exhibits, and any sense that the show will pander to the voyeuristic quickly evaporates. There is definite incitement here, but it’s collaborative rather than accusatory.
Several sequences stand out. A joyous celebration of wriggling, the dancers lined up like unusual suspects, is a total delight. Another scene juxtaposes one dancer wrenched by a primordial scream with another flapping helplessly on the floor like a desperate fish out of water, to chilling effect.
Clothing is charged with meaning. Sports gear, leather and in one memorable scene an erotised orange dress, focus attention on the fetishistic nature of fashion, and the perversity of its homogenised representation in contemporary media.
The performers are wonderful, and Champion elevates their individual personalities beautifully. The sheer range of movement is impressive, from the lyrical and pensive to the full-throttled and aggressive. The energy is expertly manipulated throughout, building to a powerful and triumphant ending.
The sound design [Kelli Jean Drinkwater] and lighting [Geoff Cobham] are a marvel. The performance space is in constant flux, bright and inviting one moment and ominous and oppressive the next. It’s suggestive of a gym, a nightclub, a brothel: anywhere the body is commodified and on public display. Nothing to Lose is, in this regard, a total reclamation of space.
The inescapable fact of a dancer’s body provides the tension in all dance. It’s the reason filmed dance never quite impacts on an audience the way a live performance can. Deciding who dances is a sociopolitical act. Force Majeure have done something genuinely exciting: they’ve provided a new lens through which we can view the medium. It’s utterly invigorating and stunning theatre.
Tim Byrne, Time Out Melbourne
“Kate Champion has delivered an unforgettable piece, her final one as founding artistic director of Force Majeure.”
Chloe Smethurst, The Age – Read more…
NOTHING TO LOSE
Force Majeure founder Kate Champion’s unforgettable final work challenges ideas about obesity
Fat. Fatty Boomba. Fat Pig. Whispered insults are flying. The people onstage are undeniably overweight, but their attitude is defiant. Dressed in just their undies, they seem to dare the audience to reduce them to a label.
It’s not often that we see these kinds of bodies onstage. In Nothing to Lose, dimply, heavy, pillows of flesh are exhibited, celebrated and explored. Members of the audience are invited onstage to touch the performers’ bodies. ‘Feel the weight’, they are instructed. ‘Count the ripples’.
Society’s attitudes to obesity are examined through cutting text. Deftly spoken, embarrassing questions (you know you’ve heard them) interrogate the viewer. What do you eat? Have you tried running? Swimming? How do you have sex?
Aggression and frustration as well as sassy self-love and acceptance are expressed through imaginative movement sequences. Both performance and choreography are excellent, brilliantly exploring the possibilities of fat dancing bodies, and bringing out each artist’s strengths. Dressed in a gold bikini top, athletic socks and thick gold chain, Anastasia Zaravinos’ momentous solo is danced to a grand operatic aria. The scale of the drama she creates just by swivelling her hips is incredible.
Sexy, vivacious and strong, the final group dance combines the ferocity of the haka with a streetwise hip hop attitude. Simple yet nuanced, joyful and powerful, it perfectly embodies the spirit of Nothing to Lose.
Working with activist Kelli Jean Drinkwater, director Kate Champion has delivered an unforgettable piece, her final one as founding artistic director of Force Majeure.
Chloe Smethurst, The Age
“Champion and Drinkwater’s Nothing to Lose is an awe-inspiring triumph as the artistry of vulnerability renders size as beautiful and obsolete.”
Emily Jean Rutherford, Same Same – Read more…
NOTHING TO LOSE
As you watch the strength and fallibility of the performers, the intimacy of human experience is consuming.
As a society built on excess, we are fascinated by striving for moderation. This struggle often manifests in the way we treat our bodies through eating enough, but not too much, exercising enough, but not too much, thinking enough, loving enough, being enough, but not too much. This obsession with moderation is borne out of fear, fear of losing control, fear of other. Such normative fear is implicit, learned subliminally through peers, media outlets, pop culture & societal conduct. Despite being trained to adhere to these ideals, we also have the agency no to, and Force Majeure’s Nothing to Lose, has just that.
In Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay speaks of bodily obsession as apart of the human condition. The inescapability of our own flesh is perplexing and knowing that we will only ever live in one body bears an intrinsic infatuation. In Kate Champion’s swan song for Force Majeure the production company she pioneered in 2002, this infatuation is chronicled through an exploration of the capabilities of bodies often exempted from the stage. Champion’s artistic associate and fat activist Kelli Jean Drinkwater has brought the authenticity of experience to the piece. Such a sensitivity that Champion would have struggled to deliver simply because she has not lived inside a fat body.
Presented in a series of vignettes, the show opens with muted lighting, static bodies scattered across the stage. These bodies suddenly ignite, guiding each others movements with a malleable playfulness, superseding the common rigidities of dance pieces. The piece is an unapologetic journey of exchange whose sensitivities are raw and contemplative.
As the show progresses six of the cast members preside upon plinths 12 audience members are invited onto the stage to examine the works of art as narrated by Julian Crotti. The lighting is stark and intensely intimate. Addressing societal inquisition into large bodies, participants trace, lift & slap the flesh of the performers. This intimacy between the artists and the audience unearths an essential human vulnerability, whilst simultaneously exposing the sex and power of these people.
The costuming underpins the provocation of the show with tongue-in-cheek references to sports gear and bondage, an ode to the fetishised nature of fat bodies in fashion. The soundscapes by Drinkwater oscillate between cool bass vibrations to ethereal waves with references to the baroque and the Rubenesque. High key illumination ebbs and flows creating high contrast scenes accentuating the authenticity and emotion of the work.
An overwhelming strength of the piece is that we watch these performers wholly experiencing their bodies. We see their internal struggles evolve into a contemplation and celebration of human capability. We see the fat body move in ways a thinner body would never achieve. The choreography excels in allowing the performers to truly inhabit themselves. As you watch the strength and fallibility of the performers, the intimacy of human experience is consuming.
Champion and Drinkwater’s Nothing to Lose is an awe-inspiring triumph as the artistry of vulnerability renders size as beautiful and obsolete.
By Emily Jean Rutherford
“Her brand of dance-theatre has always been stimulating but with Nothing to Lose Champion raises the bar and then some.”
Deborah Jones, The Australian
Photos: Heidrun Löhr