by Courtney Rose Brown
The audience squashes themselves in the stairway of Tarrant Dance Studios, eagerly waiting for the doors to open. We are warned not touch the set and to stay near the exit if we’re claustrophobic; what they don’t mention is the heat. As we enter, we explore the space: we wind our way through a maze of plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling to the floor. The floor is also covered, in length, with plastic. Which is exciting at first, but then I can see it across everyone’s faces. Are we in the right place? Are we in the way? When can we sit down? At first, it looks like some of the plastic is bunched randomly, however with distance from it, I realise that it is two large faces, whose features are greatly disproportionate. These match the design on Eliza Sanders’ costume, thin white painter’s overalls.
Sanders weaves throughout the audience, adapting movement to work with the random scattering of people. Her mouth droops down significantly with shoulders hunched forward. I get the impression that she is an aged man. Sanders dances around us for ten minutes or so, repeating a simple sequence over and over and over. I find my gaze falling on the body in the corner instead (I wonder if this is the point?). Covered in sheets of plastic, the body is bundled into a ball on the ground, not moving.
Sanders mutters threads of nonsense under her breath. Loud enough so we know she’s speaking, but only audible if you’re next to her. My favourite excerpt is “himalayan salt has no health benefits!” She starts dismantling the maze and at last we can sit!
Wearing skin coloured underwear and a loose white shirt, the body in the corner is covered in white liquid with a mask made out of ginger. I am most fascinated by her role (unsure of name because I didn’t see a programme). We watch her learn how to stand, like a baby taking their first steps; her body crashes into the ground, over and over again. It is rewarding seeing her depart from what I interpret as the womb and stumble across the stage.
Feet.Us is the most engaging when the two dance together. At first they perform a sequence of movements that are slightly out of time and differ in flourishes. The differences catch my eye the most; it is like the baby character is learning wisdom from the old. As they become more familiar with each other, their movement syncs up. There is a sudden change of pace where movement is speed through as they try to out do each other. The baby character pulls a plastic sheet down in front of each side of the audience. The translucent sheet obscures Sanders as she dances wildly, fervently shouting her phrases from the beginning. Her monologue extends to alliterations and word associations, and I don’t know if there is a meaning within them.
The baby-like character removes the mask of ginger (thankfully!) and runs and runs and runs as Sanders disappears. She runs and topples over constantly but it doesn’t slow her; I don’t know why she is running, but her determination generates hope that she’ll get where she wants to go. A projection appears at the end, repeating the imagery of her first learning to stand. The picture is beautifully distorted by the way the plastic hangs; I would love to see more of this! The rejoining of the womb, with Sanders dressed the same as the baby, but with a phallic shaped of ginger, suggests a life cycle. But the ending is unclear in message and the actual end as the conclusion of the show is met with an awkward silence.
There is a lot going on, and I am unsure about the intention behind it. The struggles are mesmerizing, from the amount of effort put into each attempt, it looks exhausting. There are some interesting elements like the determination of learning, hints at the desire to escape, rebirth, the absurdity of language in Feet.Us. Parts feel like they operate just as filler, particularly in the opening as her dancing. Full of strange images, but not cohesive enough to tie them together. I can’t wait to see where it goes.