Feature: Figs in Wigs - playing with movement

Tuesday 21 April 2015 by Clare Evans

Figs in Wigs 'Show Off'

Figs in Wigs are an all-female, five-strong performance company making work that is a unique mix of theatre, dance and comedy. We asked member Alice Roots to tell us how dance has become such an important part of their mix and why they started using choreography to express themselves, although none of them have conventional dance training…

Figs in Wigs are Rachel Gammon, Suzanna Hurst, Sarah Moore, Rachel Porter and Alice Roots. We use puns, fake fruit, and pop culture references to create dance pieces, theatre shows and pop songs that are refreshingly surreal, absurdly comic and always aware of their own theatricality. Beneath the deadpan monobrows we seek to address big issues one sequin at a time, and although we might not change the world with glitter we’ll have fun trying. Imagine Kraftwerk meets Chicks on Speed at a fruit stall… and you’re nowhere close.

We started making dance as soon as we started making theatre. As untrained dancers we developed a simple system of our own to create routines in a democratic manner. Everyone produces an equal amount of movement to counts (5, 6, 7, 8), often inspired by everyday actions. Then we work together to organise the sequences, always on the quest for a fast, intricate and often comedic routine. Original? We think the end product is, if not the process (that was borrowed from our seven-year-old selves making up steps to Steps in the lunch break at primary school).

This method generated a form of creativity that made dance-making a favoured practice of ours. The non-hierarchical and prolific approach to making really excited us. Dance-making became an integral part of Figs in Wigs’ work. Our dances are originally made for the show they are found in. A ‘magazine dance’ pondering the love/hate addictive relationship one has to trashy magazines in Give The Fig A Roll (a piece about love, hate and hearsay) is a good example. However the Magazine Dance is also able to stand alone as a strong three-minute performance with a voice and a sense of humour. We think this is because of the dramaturgical and choreographic approach we take. When we think of artists like Pina Bausch, Hofesh Shechter or Louise Ahl we see this fusion as well, and we find it really exciting.

One challenge of choreographing as untrained dancers is not being able to speak or write Dance. Learning, remembering and teaching can be difficult. We came up with a solution though: name your moves. I will give you an example:

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 ,7 ,8
wilting flower
dead flower

Next time we see you we will show you what we mean.

We have choreographed work for Duckie and Bryony Kimmings’ That Catherine Bennett Show , a ‘credible likeable superstar role model’ for younger children. We have collaborated with Sink The Pink and travelled to Brussels as part of Brian Lobel’s Cruising For Art with Dance Peas – part dance show, part world record attempt. Our feminist show We, Object was The Times Dance and Physical Theatre pick of Edinburgh Fringe 2013, perhaps down to our ‘Mona Lisa disco-ing as she fondles a whoopee cushion’ dance section.

We think a dancer is anyone who wants to be one! We see ourselves as dancers because we use movement as a medium. For us, making a dance is playful, creative and about critically engaging in ideas in a more physical way. Anyone can do that. It has taken us some years to develop the style in which we do this, but we have always been dancers really. Figs in Wigs’ work strives to challenge the notion of the skilled (over-trained), and to examine high and low taste across culture and art forms, including dance. A healthy sense of humour and self(ie) and a DIY approach are to blame. Despite strictly being ‘outsiders’, Figs in Wigs feel very welcome in the ‘dance world’. All in all audiences, venues and people in the profession have responded very positively to the strand of ‘dance’ we are playing with.

As we have developed our theatre style, our choreographic style has also grown and now one cannot exist without the other. In making Show Off we have developed this melding. The politics of the piece is delivered in quick fire wordplay and dance and movement. From a performance lecture on art delivered by talking heads, to a section devoted to the set up of a band, put to music, we are playing with choreography in theatre performance.

Catch Figs in Wigs in Show Off at
Soho Theatre, 1- 4 May 2015

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