By Jay Ménard,
How does one carve their own identity, embrace their own idea of femininity and humanity in a world that has structural biases in place that serve to help hold back individuality and encourage conformity? That’s the question The Dance Movement’s company dancers ask – and demand – of its audience in its Palace Theatre production at this year’s London Fringe.
Sit Still Look Pretty challenges the concepts of body perception, the impact of advertising ideals, cosmetic surgery, the struggle to speak up, and the pressure to conform through a series of interpretive dances.
The dancers, for the most part, wear matching body suits. Body suits adorned with fabric that looks like cages – an apt metaphor for the emotional, physical, and societal cages that are placed – externally – by our culture as a whole on a woman’s body. It’s a production that pits the women on stage against their bodies – or, more aptly, against the expectations placed upon their bodies by the outside world.
The dancers are adept at portraying a wide range of emotions ranging from fear to anger to pride. Without a word, and accompanied only by a soundtrack of various songs and spoken word moments, the dancers ably convey their message and draw the viewer into their struggles.
There are a few standout dancers and a few standout moments – a solo to a spoken word production of “My Daughter Malala” was particularly engaging; and an uplifting interpretation of Emma Watson’s UN Speech “If Not Me, Who? If Not Now, When?” showed the power and potential these young women have.
Sit Still Look Pretty may not be as precise or refined as a production performed by older dancers, but that’s part of its appeal. And that infusion of youth is perfectly suited for a show dedicated to showing the struggle of today’s young women. In fact, the minor rough edges only serve to add impact to the message being delivered – it’s still not easy for a woman today. There’s still a struggle, even within a society that considers itself enlightened.
And these young women refuse to be defined by outside forces. They are defining womanhood, humanity, and themselves – through dance.