Written for The Wonderful World of Dance
29th July 2014, The Place
Edinburgh Fringe Festival – a three week celebration of all things arty. This week the Place has given a sneak peak at some of the work that will be travelling over 400 miles north next week. Tonight, along with the usual quirky Fringe short performances, which have sandwiched each main feature, saw the last of ‘Fringe at the Place’ as Laura Dannequin graced the stage with her story of chronic pain and illness in Hardy Animal.
Dannequin’s solo performance began by plunging us into darkness. Losing myself in this abyss, I found that I was wondering off into my own thoughts as Dannequin so articulately reeled off witty comments of what could be expected in the hour ahead. I already know that this work is about her and I wait for some action to happen. But it doesn’t, instead Dannequin stands, centre stage and her voice from overhead describes her darting to the floor and dashing across the space. I can imagine this happening yet she is not doing it.
Informing us of the devastating effect that back pain has had on her dance career humour is found in how she describes being passed from doctor to doctor and from procedure to procedure to try to cure her pain. Dannequin hands flashlights to members in the audience and as she reveals her naked back I am able to inspect it whilst she wriggles as if being poked and prodded. She is laying herself, her body and career bare, finding courage in allowing us to judge her like the countless health practitioners that she has seen.
At first reading the piece may only seem accessible to dancers and how we are nothing without our bodies, but our mobile misfortune is so easily something that can happen to anybody, forcing a cascade of events to unfold. The tiniest activity, such as getting out of bed can be excruciating because of a lack of full body functionality.
Finally Dannequin seems to find the strength to move and the result of this is a disjointed, yet fluid and fresh movement vocabulary. Dealing with her condition she appears to discover a way of dancing that is unique to her and is rather similar to how a jellyfish floats – graceful but containing much power.
A cleverly constructed work that still may need some tweaking, as it seems to stay on one level, the pace becoming monotonous. However, hearing Adele, Rolling in the Deep, being blasted from the speakers, while Dannequin shouts in frustration definitely jolted me from my seat! Credit is also due for memorising and perfecting such a lengthy monologue.
Hardy Animal was educational, emotive and tasteful. I would surely recommend seeing Hardy Animal if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Edinburgh this August.