Flaunt 2.0  Redevelopment 2016

FLAUNT 2.0  Redevelopment in 2016photo by Mark Greenmantle

It had been a little over a year since Flaunt had its first season at the Brisbane Powerhouse. During that year there was so much planning in motion for a Queensland tour of Flaunt. My producer Jo Thomas at Metro Arts had been working hard to generate interest in the work. Why should people not be interested? It’s because contemporary dance is a hard sell to venues. A Kenny Logins tribute act (or something along those lines) is much easier to sell to audiences. It depends on the location,audience demographic, and how much audience development has been done.

We had the interest from Cairns, Toowoomba and Ipswich, but we would need to do a remounted season in Brisbane which Jo Thomas lined up to be at Metro Arts. If Flaunt had already received Arts Queensland funding, it would have been harder to get this tour up because Arts Qld only invest in a project once, and not a subsequent development of a work. Anyway, in late December 2015, I had confirmation that Flaunt would have a remount and a small Queensland tour.

I’d only ever toured once before. That was SlowDive and we took that show to The Arts Centre Gold Coast and to the Cairns Festival. Dance companies tour work frequently, but as an independent artist it’s a very big deal to tour work, and I was very excited.

Creatively, I had the voice of dramaturg David Fenton ticking away in my head from last time we worked together and there was aspects of the work I wanted to expand on further. Furthermore, when you edit you own show footage, it’s a great chance for creative reflection on the work. I’d edited Flaunt 1.0 and changes to that were at the front of my mind. How I envisaged the re-developed Flaunt 2.0 was very different to the 2014 Brisbane Powerhouse show.

The programme notes said it best:

Flaunt is about women’s gender, power, sexuality and projection of themselves.

Flaunt examines what women project, publish and promote about themselves over some pivotal red letter dates over the last century.

In each time-period, I examined what was happening historically for women as well as how they were projecting themselves, or being projected. The changes for women over the past 120 years have been significant, but are we there yet? Or are the current times of social media where women are socially conditioned to police each other’s ‘acceptable’ images a step back in time for women.

Background of the idea: While researching my family history I became interested in the lives of women at particular times in history. I found a photograph of an ancestor who was an entertainer – frequently photographed and often in the newspapers in the 1920s. It was strange to see a photograph of this woman who looked so familiar. The image depicted so much about her.

Simultaneously, some young people I knew were beginning to use social media to post photos of their bodies in various states of undress. I questioned the virtual identities that young women project and how they are often extreme and paradoxical. “Who is this for, to publish yourself in this manner? Do we post for ourselves or to compete with other women? Do we progressively become ‘monstrous versions’ of ourselves online?” I wondered what people in the future might think of these images and what they say about women today. I wondered what the women of the past might also think. I thought about the concept of a body frozen in time, brought back to life and dissected for investigation throughout history.

I wondered, “What might the body might say?”

Above three photos by FenLan Photography

TEAM:Rather than work with four dancers as I did in Flaunt 1.0, I thought it would be wiser to invest in some technical people, so we recruited Frances Hannaway (set designer and Production manager) and Mechanist (and Flaunt Technical Manager) Matt Staples on tour. Matt was head of Staging at the Brisbane Powerhouse at the time, and we were thankful that the Powerhouse let him take the time off work. Because there was a lot of safety risks associated with Flaunt, it was important that the set was constructed by people who knew what they were doing. In each location we had helped to build the set during bump in under the guidance of Fran and Matt.

CAST: I was feeling more clear about the direction of the new work and I had David Fenton’s mapping formulas in my head as a starting point. However, I had one small problem: of the cast of four from the first season, I only had one original member available: Amelia Stokes (who at the time was the youngest/ newbie/ still getting the “Claire Marshall movement vocabularies/ style” on her body). Marianna was pregnant, Kirri had just had foot surgery, Miranda was in her final year of studying physiotherapy. I was incredibly lucky to be recommended two amazing dancers who came on board for Flaunt 2.0.

CAST:

Courtney Scheu, (center) who was about 25 and had been establishing a name for herself in Brisbane as a performer and independent artist/ choreographer.

Essie Horn, (left) who grew up in Brisbane but studied at WAAPA (as did Amelia Stokes). Essie was the youngest of the team as a recent university graduate.

Amelia Stokes (right) was no longer the youngest of the group and over the year and a quarter between Flaunt 1 and 2 had been busy on a lot of independent projects. She’s also become what we described as a total machine and had the Claire Marshall movement vocab on her body so well. It was so great to work with this new team.

REHEARSAL TIME: Taking on working with two new dancers would see a longer rehearsal time frame. Working with the original cast would have been faster because they would have remembered the choreography, and have the style on their bodies. In contrast, a new cast would have a lot of material to learn, which takes time. They would also need to pick up the Claire Marshal style too. The solution was an extended time frame for rehearsals, and I used Mill Street Studios for much of the re-development.

I’d just signed the lease of another space right beside the two studio spaces at Mill Street, so I was able to move the dance school classes around and claim a large studio for Flaunt and really immerse myself in the development of the work.

PRE-PRODUCTION: Digging out the set. The Flaunt Set had been living down in a shipping container for a year. Fran and Matt and the team retrieved that and assembled that at Mill Street Studios.

THE SET CHANGES: The additional rehearsal time meant we had a few extra days to just set up the set (or the titan as we called it). The creative process of working with Matt and Fran was collaborative in the second development too. For example, there had been discussions about being able to have more than one dancer at the top of the set. Previously, without any additional bracing we were only permitted one dancer. Fran and Matt had a play with some additional bracing of the set and I decided that this would be something really exciting to work with choreographically. So we very quickly had some steel bracing custom made. We didn’t need the ladder anymore, but handles were attached:


Time and care was taken for all the spaces we worked in. Matt made wooden pieces to support the set on the soft tarkette and wooden dance floor beneath it.

Below: the dancers excited to have the aditional steel bracing on the set.Working at Mill Street was such a great time. There was no time limitations on when we could be rehearsing or working on the set.Fran and Matt also had to find more tarkette (we had seven layers in the show) and work out how these could be rolled and re-set easily.The dancers learned too. Our pre-show set up of the rolls of tarkette would take about an hour as there was items of clothing that were revealed and some items of clothing ended up in the roll of tarkette. We had to retrieve these items of clothing at the end of the show to ensure they were washed and then reset for the following day.

REHEARSALS: We rehearsed at Mill Street Studios for two weeks commencing on the 22nd of March. During this time I developed a lot of new material and scrapped a lot from the first development. I pieced together the work in a time line in Final Cut Pro. It was easier to visualise this way. David Fenton and Fran and Matt would come in to watch rehearsals. David Fenton and I would discuss the work, my intention, and the creation of meaning in it. He would ask me questions and challenge me, and I’d come back the next day with a clearer mind about what I was making. Below: Lighting designer Michael Richardson attends a rehearsal with Fran and Matt.

Costumes:
Costuming was more elaborate for Flaunt 2.0. We had to find costumes representing the 1890’s, 1950’s, 1970’s, 1980, current times, as well as futuristic (just slightly). The 1980’s era was a last minute addition to the work. To be honest, I thought that including the 1980’s might be over doing it. However, it was important to the narrative and the women. The 1980’s section saw the dancers in power-jackets and the set was used as a representation of the glass ceiling. I used a snippet of Yazoo’s “Don’t Go” in part of this section. It turned out to be one of the really important parts of the work, connecting to the “fax” section, and the computer generated “Why don’t you love me” section.

Due to the 1980’s section being added quite late, Frances Hannaway had to go on a quick expedition of op-shops for some 80’s grey power suit jackets for costumes. I sent her some reference footage from a book I own called Fashion, Excess and the 80’s.  Matt Stapes had to try to source some really boring corporate looking vinyl for the set. I think they did a great job.

Reconnaissance (reckie) visit at Metro Arts (where the season would open):
Production meeting at https://www.facebook.com/metroartsbrisbane and a sticky beak imagining the set at the Sue Benner Theatre. Charles Wiles was also present. Charles programmed Flaunt in Cairns, as well as SlowDive for the Cairns Festival. Charles has an incredible background as a lighting designer for Sydney Dance company, but then heading the COCA (Centre of Contemporary Arts Cairns) and his work with audience development for dance saw Flaunt have two sold out shows there. We made the local news, and newspaper. But that is just testament to Charles’ commitment to the arts and to dance.  It was great to catch up with him in Brisbane at our reckie at Metro arts.

Here’s some photo of our reckie to Metro Arts. I had a work presented at Metro Arts back in 2006 as a part of the Brisbane Fringe Festival.  It was so nice to be back.

Metro Arts has a very interesting history. You can read about this here: https://www.metroarts.com.au/history/

Bump Out of Mill Street Studios and into the Sue Benner Theatre at Metro Arts: After two weeks of rehearsal at Mill Street Studios, we de-assembled the set, packed it onto the truck and bumped into the Sue Benner Theatre. We had help from family and friends, and Frances Hannaway’s family were such a great help with bump out.

Sue Benner Theatre: Bump in 4th April 2016.

In terms of the space at the Sue Benner theatre, the height of the space was a concern due to the height of the set. But I liked seeing the set in a smaller space. It gave the set more power compared to being on a larger stage or performance space.

The truck would be able to just fit down the lane way for bump in. All was going to be ok. Even the festival in the lane way had agreed to be quite during our Saturday evening show.Rehearsals Continued at Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts. We were refining the work/ culling sections/ adding details. Dramaturg David Fenton worked now with the dancers in developing their characterisation and performance. Set designer and production manager Frances Hannaway’s background in dance came in handy one day when I was held up trying to finish the soundtrack. Fran jumped in and cleaned a section of the choreography. We were all multi-tasking. Even the dancers helped with the pre-show set up. My producer Jo Thomas is also an actor and was very understanding of how stretched artists become in the lead up to a show. Jo would drop into rehearsals and see how we were going and orgnaise times for interviews and press without stress.
Below: photo of a full run in costume.

INSPIRATION, CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT and STRUCTURE in Version 2.0:

I probably should mention a bit more about the work and the inspiration in version 2.0. My brother Grant and his partner Jane had been renovating their apartment. They stripped back the 1990’s carpet and found 1980’s Lino, under that was 1970’s tiles, and under those was late 1960’s tiles. There were probably someone’s memories attached to those surfaces in time, and I thought that for Flaunt, as we travel over time, that the tarkette floors could also be wound back to revel another layer. There were costume changes too. I set a rule that every era had to have the following:

  • be a significant era in time for women in some way
  • include a popular piece of music of the time as a featured moment
  • have some costume referencing the era
  • have a movement trait that was specific to the era layered into the choreography
  • have a technical aspect of the work reflecting the era (i.e. Mirror ball in the 1970s)
  • have another layer of tarkette
  • have the spoken text relevantly woven in
  • have the tarkette rolled by the same dancer but in different ways appropriate to the era
  • have the dancers interact with the set “structure” in different ways
  • what was the dancer’s relationship with the set or the “structure” in every era visited in the work?
  • the dancers understand the relationship between themselves in ever era
  • what is she projecting/ publishing/ promoting of herself in the time?
  • what is her Power struggle in this scene

My creative process (under the guidance of David Fenton) became a massive chart/ document, but it gave the work more clarity. 

In a nut shell: I thought I would include a few photos of the surfaces/ tarkettes/ states.

The white tarkette was preset already. This was for the futuristic state where the body is unravelled and examined. (Photos are by FenLan http://www.fenlan.com.au)

Then we had a time travel interlude with stobing lights and sounds suggesting time travel backwards in time. The trio wove in motifs seen over the piece ahead, but performed retrograded (going in reverse).

We land with a thud in in the 1890’s. This was the 1890’s section, with the lino made to resemble floor boards (warm lighting helped) and costuming with heavy long skirts. I also had some Victorian jackets, but in the end they were not necessary and the restrictive heavy skirts were ample. The set was an unclimbable structure as the dancers kept falling to the ground in every attempt to climb it.Finding a popular tune from this era was a little difficult and popular music in the 1800’s was interesting to research. My rule was that all “popular” song snippets had to be by female artists.
The lino is rolled back again to reveal black and white check lino which leads into the 1950’s post-war section. Rather than looking at the idea of women entering the workfore during the war, the focus was on women who had to go back to their household/ housewife roles after the war. Ideas around training little girls to be doll-like and learned feminine behaviour was seen here. I used a snippet of Lesley Gore’s “You don’t own me”.From the 1950’s to the 1970s, we used this luscious green Italian tarkette and vintage frocks.
I referenced the sexual revoution and juxtaposed this with the 6 o’cock swill which was a slang term for the 6pm rush for last drinks before public bars closed (Men permited only) and the culture of heavy drinking among men. In between all of the more contemporary sounds and atmosphere in the score, I used Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” in one part of this section.  The Set (structure) represented the character’s missing husbands and essentially patriarchy in this section.For the 1980 section, Matt found some atrocious grey vinly from the late 1980’s. Unlike the luscious green tarkette, it was quite brittle and plastic. In a yin-yang flip to the 1890s section, the dancers were suited up in power jackets rather than skirts. Furthermore, they were able to climb the structure which represented the idea of the glass ceiling.  Again, showing the struggle for women, we looked at the flip side and human side of the stuggle and costs to get to the top (so to speak). I wove in a section of Yazoo’s “Don’t Go” and might have incoporated some of my favourite 1980’s shoulder moves.
Current times: looking a current times to make comment is easy when there’s social media, and I looked at the instant gratification of social media. The self-obsessed “selfie” era was referenced with the use of mylar on the floor (as a mirror to be constantly looking into) and the structure was essentially as a platform for the dancers to promte themselves. I went with a trashy night club track and trashy attire as Meryl, Cheryl, and Beryl trapsed around overly sexualised movements informed by images on social media.
The top of the set was also used more in Flaunt version 2.0. It was used often to show more depth to the charachters, or another side in terms of what we saw from them below.

The all-consuming self-obssession builded to the climax of the work. Death by the refelctive mylar.Following this was a reprise of the time travel trio, but in a forward direction.
The final layer (in terms of a surface) is was the clear vinyl that the dancer was wrapped in at the beginng (in the future). The scientists essentially wrap her up and put her back on the slab/ lab side.

The Flaunt v2.0 season at Metro Arts ran from Wednesday the 13th of April 2016 to Saturday the 16th of April 2016.

We had some good press in the lead up to the season:
We had positive reviews:
https://bluecurtainsbris.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/4337/

And here:

Flaunt

BUMP OUT OF METRO ARTS: We took a cast and crew photo and bumped out of Metro Arts on the Saturday evening.
“Lucky we’ve got a Titan”

Felicity from The Centre of Contemporary Arts Cairns (CoCA) was on board as lighting operator for Flaunt and drove the truck back up to Cairns ready for the season in Cairns.
I felt so happy that I was able to remount Flaunt, and was very excited that it was going on tour.
Below: A few more photos by FenLan

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