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 to generate interest in the work because contemporary dance is a hard sell to venues.

We had 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 invests in a project once, and not a subsequent development of a work. Fortunately, in late December 2015, we had confirmation that Flaunt would have a remount and a small Queensland tour thanks to funding by the Australia Council.

I’d only ever toured once before – which was Slowdive which occurred at  Arts Centre Gold Coast and Cairns Festival. Dance companies tour work frequently, but as an independent artist it’s a very big deal to tour work.

Editing my own work saw a lot of time to look at the 2014 version and to reflect on it. 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 published in the newspapers in the 1920s.

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 photos by FenLan

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.

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.

CAST: Courtney Scheu, (center) who was about 25 at the time 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.


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 the movement style was embodied. In contrast, a new cast would have a lot of material to learn, which takes time.


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 it


SET CHANGES:
 The additional rehearsal time meant we had a few extra days. 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. With the safety guidelines and without any additional bracing we were only permitted one dancer. Fran and Matt built additional bracing on the set and which was really exciting to work with choreographically.

Below: the dancers excited to have the aditional steel bracing on the set.

Working at Mill Street was such a productive 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.

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.  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. 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.

From rehearsals at Mill Street to measuring up the Sue Benner Theatre at Metro Arts:

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.

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, however I liked seeing the set in a smaller space.

Rehearsals Continued at Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts. We were refining the work/ culling sections/ adding details. Dramaturg David Fenton worked  with the dancers in developing their characterisation and performance.

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.

INSPIRATION, DEVELOPMENT and STRUCTURE in Version 2.0:
My brother Grant and his partner Jane had been renovating their apartment. They stripped back the 1990s carpet and found 1980s Lino, under that was 1970s tiles, and under those was late 1960s 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.

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

SURFACES:
The white tarkette was preset already. This was for the futuristic state where the body is unravelled and examined. (Photos are by FenLan)

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).

This was the 1890s section, with the lino made to resemble floor boards (warm lighting helped) and costuming with heavy long skirts. The set was an unclimbable structure as the dancers kept falling.

The lino was rolled back again to reveal black and white check surface leading into the 1950s 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.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, we used a 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 1980s. Unlike the luscious green tarkette, it was quite brittle and plastic. In a yin-yang flip to the 1980s 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 1980s 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 promote themselves as the traipsed 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 also had some press in the lead up to the season:


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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