Guest Blog: David Harradine On MEN & GIRLS DANCE
All adults should feel the potential to have normal, positive relationships with children. Men & Girls Dance hopes to offer provocations about, and ultimately solutions to, what we feel has fast become a problem around the culture of adults, and especially male adults, just being with children today.
Fuelled by a media hungry for horror, most exchanges between adults and children are subject to checks and policies, leading to a state of suspicion and anxiety about being in the presence of children, for whatever reason. We understand the need to keep our children safe and we know, of course, there will always be adults who want to do harm.
But both men and children are crying out to be allowed to engage with each other in normal ways, both physically and emotionally. As witnesses to the incredible relationships built up between the men and the girls we have worked with so far on this project, we know this is both true and important.
This is how it began. We were auditioning male dancers for one of our shows, and we found ourselves in a room with a group of extraordinary men, improvising and dancing together. The day before, we'd seen an end-of-term ballet recital - mainly performed by girls - and we had the idea to place these very different dancing bodies side by side, to see what would happen if we did.
As adult artists - a man and a woman - who had made many projects in collaboration with children, this didn't strike us as a particularly provocative idea. So we were surprised to find that many of the people we spoke to about it reacted negatively, finding it a bit too challenging, a bit too creepy, a bit too weird, a bit too risky, a bit too inappropriate.
These unexpected reactions opened up an ongoing conversation about the possibility of bringing men and girls together. A conversation about whether or not it's right for adults and children to dance together. Whether or not it's possible to create a public space which gives permission for play, tenderness, trust, empathy and love.
Men & Girls Dance is a celebration of the ways in which people can be together, of how we might exist, of how we can live around and with each other. It's an exploration of closeness and of relationships, and of our perceptions of what it means for men and girls to come together in this way at this time - a time when, globally, a fear of difference seems to be on the rise as quickly as empathy is seeming to fade.
Men & Girls Dance brings together five men who dance professionally with nine girls who don't. In just two weeks, these performers will make and rehearse a show together, leading to public performances at The Place.
The show is partly choreographed, and partly improvised. So, like life, it's full of things we know already, and full of things we don't. By bringing these nine 'ordinary' girls and these five professional dancers together to make a show, we as directors - along with the audience - witness real relationships develop as they learn about each other.
As they figure out how to play together, how to dance together and how to be together - with trust, empathy and care - perhaps they suggest how we all could live.
David Harradine is the co-artistic director of Fevered Sleep
Photo credit: David Thibel