Roberta Jean’s Methods of Being communicates hope

Phrases by Josephine Leask.

As we enter the Lilian Baylis Studio, a lady (Stephanie McMann) is mendacity crumpled on the darkened, smoke-hazed stage. She restlessly shifts place, looking for a snug place to relaxation on her entrance. A haunting chorus of a lady’s voice sings on the accompanying soundtrack, “she’s had a heavy day”. McMann’s physique language prompts recollections of power menstrual ache and the futile searches for consolation and stillness. However there’s one thing extra severe at stake right here than bodily ache. Choreographer Roberta Jean’s Methods of Being is a efficiency that involves phrases along with her lived expertise of Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Dysfunction (PMDD) and the extreme psychological well being issues it triggers. Relatively than wallowing within the ache, uncertainty and melancholy which can be symptomatic of PMDD, Jean responds creatively to its challenges, along with a group of remarkable artists.

Methods of Being centres round a ‘hunt’ for cures and treatments that can assist her discover a approach via intervals of ache and extreme melancholy. Investigative somatic-based motion, an atmospheric visible panorama by Hollie Miller, Jude Christian’s poetic narrative included into Jonathan Webb’s soundtrack tells Jean’s outstanding story, of residing with this debilitating situation: the failed standard medication, the descent into darkish locations and the invention of different therapeutic strategies.

McMann – who’s additionally efficiency and rehearsal director – dances an extended and anguished solo, slowly unfurling her physique from the ground to maneuver in house. Joined by Katye Coe, Maëva Berthelot and Nicole Nevitt, the 4 ladies lead us on an investigative journey, physicalising responses to standard cures to natural medicines, somatic expertise and eventually psychedelic medication. Their sensing and reflective language is formed by somatic follow, contact improvisation and releasing. Every dancer enters the stage quietly, separately, regularly revealing their distinctive motion personalities. At first they’re enquiring and internalised as they verify in with their our bodies and the house round, registering emotions in small actions and moments of stillness. Then they join with each other, dancing as a neighborhood.

From the way in which they’re shifting, I take into consideration what somatic experiencing would possibly seem like; a type of motion remedy that helps folks deal with trauma by inviting them to answer bodily sensations of their our bodies. They carry out small wafting hand motions as if expelling one thing from the physique, or bigger round arm gestures that recommend a gathering in; consistently shifting with and thru discomfort.   

Christian’s script, created along with Jean and in session with Dr Ben Sessa develops a lovely, complicated textual content, wealthy with metaphors that place struggling feminine our bodies in relation to the bodily manifestations of landforms, water, fruit and mushrooms. Philosophical musings about house and time describe the repetitive cycles of melancholy that come and go. I don’t observe all of it, however Christian’s heat, chatty supply grounds a number of the extra obscure allusions to mushrooms or black holes and dimensions of time into which a traumatised physique would possibly disappear. Her phrases are a commanding presence at the same time as they arrive and go, that each unsettle and reassure. When Christian describes the preparation and experiences of taking psychedelic medication similar to MDMA and LSD, she appears like a therapist guiding a affected person via the phases of a visit.

When her phrases cease, the dancers take over, decoding the consequences of psychedelic remedy, choreographically. In surges and waves of exercise, they begin cautiously, then embody the manic launch of vitality and the plateau of the psychedelic expertise. Nevitt shudders and shakes in convulsions that ship her physique juddering, spinning and bouncing throughout the stage. The others are charged up however extra self-contained. Of their hair-fringed, hippy costumes and ecstatic faces, they could possibly be a part of a 60’s summer season rave. Dramatic lighting casts them into intense purple spots one minute or fleshy pink hues the following. However Jean is cautious to distance her work from the hedonistic territory of leisure medication, utilizing textual content and choreography to painting psychedelic remedy’s potential for constructive change. Christian’s voice explains how such medication may also help melancholy by permitting long-term adjustments in behavioural and sensory programs and by making new connections between neurons within the mind. In a finale that feels restorative, the 4 ladies file in a single behind the opposite to run in a relaxed vogue throughout the stage. The curved line they kind conveys a picture of togetherness and freedom; the wholesome, rhythmic travelling movement suggests a therapeutic journey. Whereas Methods of Being attracts no conclusions, it does talk hope.

Header picture by Emli Bendixen.