Wild Card: My Body Is an Exhibition at Sadler’s Wells
It’s hard to classify My Body Is an Exhibition. It’s half exhibition, half immersive dance show, or an art show where some of the pieces are alive. Any delineation between performers and audience is removed on arrival in the foyer, as two dancers move in slow tandem. One is elegant and very heavily pregnant – not a body usually seen in traditional dance performances.
The path through the exhibition is marked with purple balloons. On the mezzanine level are artworks by Christopher Matthews, the curator: collages of traditional images from dance, rearranged in surprising ways. Through that is a bright spotlight with a cut-up version of a Janet Jackson photo; the lyric “look at that body” repeats, inviting the audience to examine and play with their silhouettes. In the auditorium is a projection of a piece by Songhay Toldon, whose choreography incorporates elements of voguing and rave culture in a mesmerising offering. At the end, Tolgun retreats from the light until only the palms of his hands are lit.
Following the route backstage, through dressing rooms and corridors, one comes across the main stage from the performance side, where two men on white plinths face each other, gyrating solemnly. This is Matthews’s latest piece, My Body’s Number One. The usher notes, “They’ve been at it at least an hour, they’re very committed.” The lack of music creates a silence that is confronting, creating awareness of the body in the space as one moves through it.
Another Matthews piece, Lads is an eerie pas de deux, featuring the creator himself, of a pair in tracksuits, one writhing on the floor as the other takes photos. Eventually, the viewer is spat out onto Gray’s Inn Road, a little bewildered.
The use of the space at Sadler’s Wells feels transgressive, almost like being at school for a sixth form art exhibition, but on a national level. The lack of the usual social cues and barriers between performer and audience is challenging, putting the audience in the exhibition. It has a strange, almost incoherent propulsion and creates an experience that forces one to interact with it on its own terms.
Photos: Ambra Vernuccio
Wild Card: My Body Is an Exhibition is at Sadler’s Wells from 25th June until 26th June 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.