Review: Amy Hodge - 7-75 - The Place

Performance: 29 April 2015
Reviewed by Josephine Leask - Friday 1 May 2015

Amy Hodge's '7-75' at The Place. 
Photo: Zoe Manders

Performance reviewed: 29 April 2015

What’s good about Amy Hodge’s 7 – 75 is that it doesn’t try and search for the similarities or shared experience between the five women whose ages span from 7 years to 75, but concentrates on their differences; with the delightful exception of hula hooping. Their gyrating bodies activate the colourful hoops with such flamboyant skill that they have us reeling with delight and admiration.

After this dazzling shared activity, each woman’s individuality emerges through text, dance and movement. Stories, fears and joys about the passage of time flow seamlessly and the ageing process unites the women through its inevitability. Nothing is forced or overstated. Fluidity is key for avoiding dips into sentimentality and text is spoken either simultaneously or following on from movement which keeps both the action and tone dynamic.

Each performer reflects on what it must feel like to be a different generation. The teenager, Jessie Scarlett Richardson recounts an experience of the menopause and how she just wanted to weep; the seven year old, Stella Nodine describes a first teenage kiss and 75 year old Betsy Field, the uncertainties of being pregnant. Anecdotes, which don’t add anything new to the experience of many women nevertheless engage and resonate through the performers’ confessional but down to earth delivery.

Bodies are central to the ravishes of time and the women boldly reveal their midriffs, pulling at any flabby bits, moulding them like play-dough with a reluctant acceptance that they belong. For all of us with ambivalent relationships to our bodies, it’s painful but exacting to watch. After further curious examinations of loose, wrinkly flesh, and vanishing muscle tone on legs, the women decide to disrobe and dance in shorts. Although there’s little joyful celebration of these lived in bodies what’s much more honest and touching is the women’s realistic approach to their changing physiques; an embracing of what they have and even enjoying it sometimes.

The work doesn’t gloss over the physical or emotional impact of life’s transitions; Hodge conveys the horror of ending up in a nursing home, alone and patronised by nurses, through a dance section in which the performers take it in turns to sit on the manipulated body of the person in the wheel chair. They create duets which build on momentum and dynamics and challenge the perceived passivity of the elderly. Then the ‘middle aged’ women – Simonetta Alessandri and Temitope Ajose-Cutting, fling themselves into a stamping, slouchy dance which vents all the exhaustion and frustration of mothers/ wives who have to put their needs second to everyone else’s.

Finally Hodge dispels any essentialist myths about women always being supportive and nurturing. During the final section, the women reject and bully one another in phrases of walking, pushing, knocking, bumping and falling over. The pace builds so initial suggestions of bullying segue into other meanings such as the need to keep going in the face of adversity. This ultimate act shows the resilience and stamina of each performer regardless of age or dance training, even if it is the teenager who endures the longest. What I leave with is an image of these women’s determination, of their refusal to quit. Another link for this small community of women which is even more potent than the fantastic hula hooping.

Josephine Leask is a lecturer in Cultural Studies on the BA (Hons) degree course at the London Studio Centre and London correspondent for The Dance Insider.

What’s On