dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
New work explores the public and private face of performing
Choreographer and dancer Rosie Kay has used her work to examine a host of contemporary issues from faith to fantasy and combat stress to conspiracy theory but her new piece 'Adult Female Dancer' turns the spotlight inwards.
Premiered at Birmingham Repertory Theatre as part of the Absolute Solo II Triple Bill, the production marks Rosie's return to dancing after an absence of six years. Created during the first lockdown, 'Adult Female Dancer' is a solo work exploring Rosie's own story as a dancer, woman, artist, performer, daughter and mother. And it is searingly honest as Rosie lays her soul bare, sharing experiences from her professional and personal life.
Rosie Kay Adult Female Dancer
The 30-minute performance begins with Rosie introducing herself 'My name is Rosie – R, O, S, I, E, Kay,' and telling us she was born to dance. But, as she takes us through the highs and lows of her life so far, she also admits there are times when she has been unable to dance – prevented by physical or emotional limitations.
In a recording narrated by Rosie, she explores not only what it means to dance but also its impact on her mind and body. 'Dance is everything and nothing,' she concludes. Rosie holds nothing back as she shares the wonderful experiences dance opened up – performing around the world and before royalty, but also the pain it can bring as she lists a litany of injuries from top to toe.
The piece is set to an eclectic soundtrack including Brian Eno, Ennio Morricone, Bach and Rondeaux but it ends on a triumphant note with Patti Smith's Gloria. Here we see an exultant Rosie back where she belongs, dancing and enjoying the experience.
In recent years, Rosie has choreographed huge crowds of performers from Wozzeck at The Rep to the Birmingham handover of the Commonwealth Games so it is refreshing to see her return to centre stage, creating new work on herself and for herself. Adult Female Dancer is an important work focussing on the effects of the rigours of dance training – useful viewing for performers across the arts world.
The triple bill features three very different works and yet these ideas of public versus private and the demands of being a woman in a world of performance are a thread running throughout the programme. Artemis Clown, created in 2018, sees Rosie as a Pierrot-style performer, smiling for the public and yet suffering inside. There is an innocence and childishness to this clowning but when the mask slips, we see the person behind the painted face.
The programme also features a ten-minute archive recording of Patisserie, a solo piece Rosie created in 1999. Filmed in Edinburgh, the work again looks at the idea of exterior versus interior as it explores women's desire to be desired. Based on interviews with young Polish women, Patisserie exposes the pressures these women feel to look perfect no matter how they are feeling.
Twenty years later, Rosie is still questioning what it means to be a female and how that colours her world. This triple bill puts her firmly back on stage not just as a choreographer with much to say but as a dancer and performer.
Absolute Solo II was due to be premiered last autumn but was postponed due to lockdown. The performance on May 19 was the first show at The Rep since then and the theatre's artistic director Sean Foley took to the stage to welcome back audiences.