In my final year at polytechnic as I was planning my degree show my dance tutors told me that dance and comedy didn’t mix. What a gauntlet to set down! My show, promptly became a comedy dance show about a most reluctant angel. It involved me lusting after cream cakes and pulling rebellious faces at the boss. I also got to eat a wagon wheel live on stage. I danced, the audience laughed and my tutors ate their words.
The show appeared at the Pegasus in the mid 1990’s. Some of you, or your parents may have seen it.
Years later I am still fascinated by the combination of dance and laughter. They seem the most natural partners to me. Dancing makes me happy. Theatre also makes me happy so I find it tricky to leave speaking out of the equation. I make dance theatre piece that are sometimes funny. I like taking my audience on a journey, including them in the story. I don’t always want them to have tp read the programme notes to be able to connect with what’s on stage.
And here I am, developing a funny, sweet, sad dance theatre piece about a dead man. About what happens when someone doesn’t come back. About waiting and not knowing. About how liberating the freedom could be if only you could move on.
Where did I get that idea? Like many artists my ideas come from real life. I’m not stuck at home waiting for a dead man BUT my long-term partner is a clown, (yes, that’s his job). His work tends to take him away from home quite a bit when he is on tour. So, I’ve had lots of experience of sitting at home, unable to go out because we have young children. Whilst I was waiting I would often fantasize about him coming home to a gloriously tidy house, happy children and a somewhat alluring ‘mrs’. The reality was always quite the opposite. The house was always a mess, I’d be frazzled and grumpy and the kids would always grass me up for having lost my temper over something irrelevant. I was never quite ready for him to come home, even though I really wanted him to.
Are you still with me? A slightly more macabre side of the waiting was thought that, with all of my partners travelling around there was a chance that he might have an accident and never come home, or he might be tempted to stay away by someone that really WAS alluring and did manage to keep a tidy house. WHAT IF HE NEVER CAME BACK? There would just be a hole. A frozen time.
I began to explore these ideas and think of times and places where this has happened, sometimes to whole communities. I remembered working in Sarajevo after the war there and a man pointing to the beautiful hills surrounding the town and telling me that their lands brothers, uncles, fathers and sons were all out there, missing. And in South America, political defiance has often led to large groups of people, usually men, ‘disappearing’. There are tales of the women in these communities, desperate to claim unidentifiable bodies as their missing husbands in order to be able to move on, emotionally and legally. The truth is, they don’t know whether their husbands are dead or alive. They can only imagine.
Dead Man Dancing first appeared as part of Moving With the Times back in March 2012. It was only 10 minutes long then but it did make people laugh, and indeed cry.
Now I’m developing it. Dead Man will be part of a full evening of work by my company AnaMorphic. There will be waiting and chaos, sand and slippers. I will still wear wellies, because damn it, they are funny. They are not what you expect in a dance show, but then at 42 years of age with a desire to eat Wagon Wheels… neither am I.
This article was written for the Pegasus Theatre and was also published on the AnaMorphic website