Review: Laura Dannequin’s ‘Hardy Animal’

Edinburgh Fringe Festival – a three week celebration of all things arty – takes place annually in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Place in London has given a sneak peak at some of the work that will be travelling over 400 miles north next week.  Along with the usual quirky Fringe Shorts 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 with thoughts wondering 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 and instead Dannequin stands centre stage as her voice overhead describes her darting to the floor and dashing across the space. I can imagine this happening yet she is not moving.

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 we are 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 – blasting 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.

You can also watch a great video about the research and development of the project:

Laura Dannequin, Hardy Animal at The Place, London, 29 July 2014

About Fringe Shorts

The Place supports 12 young artists to create live art performance work for Fringe Shorts,  part of Fringe at The Place in July.  The selected artists will benefit from rehearsal space, mentoring from the artist development team at The Place and a fee of £250 to create short, quirky, site sensitive pieces with a particular focus on audience engagement in a promenade setting.

From the many exciting proposals submitted by recent graduates and students on the brink of completing their study from London Contemporary Dance School, the National Centre for Circus Arts, Wimbledon School of Arts and Guildhall School of Music & Drama, five were selected and these are:

•  .2Dot present Idemalia – The Identical Other, a playful mix of performance, installation and participatory activities exploring concepts of gender and identity through poetic imagery

•  Celina Liesegang presents #justletmetakea, questioning the Selfie trend through a mix of colourful dance, sarcastic undertones and strong physicality

•  The 7-strong collective ViceVersa present Endowments, a new circus promenade piece exploring the female body and its perception in today’s society

•  James Morgan’s Success Comes in Cans, is a miserable manifesto for the apathetic, disenchanted and hopeless. It is a darkly satirical affront to the system that says: “you can do anything if you set your mind to it”

•  Broken Mirrors Just a Performer, fusing cabaret, performance art and installation work to create an intriguing, poetic solo performed by Anders Duckworth

The Place is committed to supporting innovative projects and nurturing emerging dancers, and dance makers. Fringe Shorts is part of our Spectator School strand of programming which is designed to enrich the audience experience and to offer alternative routes into enjoying and understanding dance.

“ The five Fringe Shorts will bring a sense of the unexpected and fun to the Place during the Fringe at The Place season, and allow audiences to engage directly and a various levels with new, experimental work. It can be incredibly hard for young artists to get rehearsal space, mentoring and financial support to experiment with new ideas. During the Fringe at The Place season, 12 young artists will not only get a platform to show their talent but also an opportunity to experiment with audience engagement in different ways each night. I’m excited to be working on a project that offers these outstanding young artists an opportunity to develop their skills to enable them to successfully make the transition to being professional dance makers.”  Lélia Gréci, Programme Manager – Spectator School, The Place.

Image by Paul Blakemore

by Nick Kyprianou