Review: Protein Dance in Dear Body at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Soutbank Centre

Performance: 28 - 29 April 09
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Friday 1 May 2009

Ten Years Younger meets The Biggest Loser in Protein Dance’s DearBody. Luca Silvestrini’s development from the Place Prize piece *B for Body* brought Sally Marie back as a central character on her journey of bodily love.

The topic of body image in the UK is only rivaled by our love of property development, and with a recession in full swing the body may win the prime time TV battle. Silvestrini’s witty satire on body beautifying regimes from A-Z, set in a clinical temple dedicated to fat busting, Zen boosting and plastic enhancements. The Queen Elizabeth Hall was transformed into a quasi-religious setting – where natural was the devil and self-hatred the philosophy.

Protein’s distinguishing feature is its eclectic make up of performers whose acting ability matches their dance technique. With the creation of such believable characters you were drawn into this idiotic world of self-harm and derision, only to realise they are just holding up a mirror to the society in which we live.

The cast included no nonsense Sarah Storer, a plastic junky with a sideline in sado-masochistic aerobics; Vicki Manderson, a yoga bod promoting happy stools; David Lloyd, an adrenaline seeking self-harmer and Sally Marie (director of Sweetshop Revolution) as Everywoman – curvy, insecure and drip fed by the media.

The movement bore resemblance to commercial aerobics classes (complete with radio mic), celebrity movement videos and S&M torture – coupled with a strong British contemporary identity. The video animation by Rachel Davies sought innovative ways to percolate film into the choreography, using bodies as canvases, a hospital curtain as a screen and small on-stage projectors which the dancers manipulated into place. Both the animation and music by David Coulter with Leo Abrahams thoroughly complemented the choreography.

With an easy to follow narrative and lovable characters *Dear Body* is seventy minutes of comic delight. The true genius came from Silvestrini’s extensive research into issues of the body and theoretical underpinning from Susie Orbach – author of Fat is a Feminist Issue (1988) and Bodies (2009), making the work current and relevant.

Another refreshing element was the use of community dance which enhanced rather than compromised the performance quality and artistic integrity. With only a few days rehearsal the London cast excelled bringing the human element of Dear Body home.

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