Bound To Please
by Barbara Newman
Country Life | Apr 17 1997
Lloyd Newson is a realist with convictions. "I left traditional dance", he says, "because of its lack of specificity ... of questioning and ... of rigour beyond technique. Psychology training has helped me to see patterns of behaviour and language and think of physical ways to interpret these."
True to his words, in 1985 he created an innovative physical theatre company, DV8, to push the subject-matter and expressive manner of dance far beyond their traditional boundaries. His latest work, Bound To Please, attacks the ideals of conformity that infect dance, romance and both sexual and social intercourse. Fashion and custom now dictate that dancers and lovers should be young and lean, unmarked by time and unruffled by thoughts of their own. But reality is more interesting than that, and this work aggressively celebrates its variety.
Diana Payne-Myers, who is 67, begins the piece with a delicate port de bras, poised like a dainty figurine on a music box, and ends it examining her lined, weary face in a dim mirror. In between, a man considerably less than half her age woos her gently, in a riveting duet of trust and mutual support, and makes love to her passionately — their naked bodies twist like fish in a narrow cupboard.
Why not? Newson insists. Young people do not hold a monopoly on sex. Nor are dancers defined by their obedience. "Right, left," intones their teacher, as they practice an adagio sequence together. "Right, wrong," mutters one woman, fighting their absolute uniformity. On Ian MacNeil's ingenious two-level set of sliding doors and hinged walls, the eight performers slip from disco frenzy to the clipped unison of ballet rehearsals; their bright public poses collapse into slouching curves, lickering with nervous twitiches, when they are alone.
Confronting us with old age and the arid conventions that dominate dance, Newson risks alienating the audience he hopes to attract. But I would rather watch him ask complex questions with choreography than spend a dozen evenings with smoother, more soothing work. He is a truly original talent, and this work should not be missed.