IN FLAGRANTE – MELBOURNE
IN FLAGRANTE, Flagrant Productions at the Butterfly Club, 16-28 May 2017. Photography: above: Amanda Macfarlane, Sofia McIntyre and Maria Munkowits; below - Sofia McIntyre
I have never understood the craze for burlesque or neo-burlesque; as an art form I haven’t sought it out. I do have the basic understanding of its beginnings as parody then high glitz and taking off one’s clothes and teasing. It’s interesting (to me!) that I haven’t sought it out because the subversive, the political coupled with a great sound track is something that I do like.
On this occasion, the small stage at the Butterfly Club is clean and clear, the red curtain looking more plush than usual; the house lights dim, the audience eager, I’m slightly tense. Then the music, the brilliant music. They have chosen to work to Waldeck’s trip hop album – the ballroom series. The four performers enter through the audience and reach the stage, they are wearing what looks like designer gas masks that cover their mouths. They are all dressed alike, they dance in unison and individually using the same choreography. It’s a tantalising beginning.
In Flagrante – from Auckland – is comprised of fifteen vignettes, all brilliantly executed. I still wonder why performers choose to dance almost nude – is it the freedom of expression, the celebration of the female form – don’t know, but by the end of the show I had completely moved past all of that and was one of the first to “Brava!” with my applause.
There were a couple of segments I didn’t warm to, but still appreciated the execution. These dancers are good. Choreographer and director Mary-Jane O’Reilly has taken the vignettes and her dancers and given them meaning, pizazz, a touch of glamour, a sprinkling of humour and stunning choreography. The performers’ enjoyment and their understanding of the genre and what they’re doing is credible and engaging.
Their costumes (yes) are perfect, I loved Traffic (Sofia McIntyre), and how marching girls can get you in is beyond me, but get me in they did. The Nurses routine (Amanda MacFarlane, Maria Munkowits, Sofia McIntyre) gives us the subversive and the political, it’s dark and it is mesmerising. I wasn’t sure how to react to Horses (satirising the sexuality of being in the saddle and bondage) but the choreography was pretty sharp.
The four dancers, including Olivia Tennet, have a glint in their eye when required, a steely mask when needed, a sexy slap or two and they have been well served by the direction, choreography and sound design.