Performer Laura Boynes places her audience centre-stage in a bid to highlight the direct response to the support of women’s movements ‘and the #meetoo & Time’s Up social media campaigns empowering women around the world.’ There is solidarity in our being on stage with her – although still observing, by placing her audience alongside her on the main stage of the Heath Ledger Theatre, Boynes recreates a movement and begets a feeling of camaraderie.
Wonder Woman – two pieces by Sydney-based choreographers Julie-Anne Long and Adelina Larsson in collaboration with Boynes is a physical contemporary dance response to issues faced by the feminist movement. Wonder Woman reimagines feminism as a superhero and Boynes becomes the physical manifestation of that thought process – there are references to classical ways women’s bodies have moved historically, and raw, emotional expressions of the inner self. Layered with questions of identity and response, both pieces explore theories of self and social expectations of women.
The show begins with To Be Honest: a girl’s own collection of unconfirmed tales by Julie-Anne Long – a quirky and hilarious piece that layers multiple stories of girlhood (each just as plausible as the next) over personal and deliberate movement. Beginning in a breathtaking sequence to traditional ballet music from Coppelia, Boynes moves playfully through the empty theatre seats in what can only be described as a onesie-blanket. This is delightful to watch and as Boynes loses each layer of clothing, she adds a new layer of girlhood to her story. Boynes wrestles her agency throughout the story, interrupting the voice over and refusing to synchronise her movements with the tale. Feminism as a superhero manifests itself in Boynes’ own telling of her story and her omissions. Her movements are fun and playful, at times hilarious, but always full of expression. Make no mistake – lighthearted movements are just as important and deep as serious ones.
If the first piece placed Boynes in a place of agency performing how she wanted, Larsson’s Rite II: Solo counters that by giving the audience what they expect from contemporary dance. At times it feels as though Boynes is reluctant to express herself in this way – deliberately sabotaging herself by falling heavily or writhing under the emotional weight of expectation. The composition is disturbing – Shoeb Ahmad combines pre-recorded and live loops to create an ‘almost’ song. Boynes’ gasps and claps, and guttural utterances are played as if they are records played backwards – a voiceless transgression of music and polar opposite of the first piece.
Boynes’ movements are also a stark contrast to the first work – she jerks and twitches and writhes on the floor – pulling herself up against an invisible force that hinders her every movement. Hands firmly stuck in her pockets, Boynes thrashes about in frustration of her movement being stifled in a visceral interpretation of womens’ eternal struggle against the structures that continue to oppress them. She strips herself of voice, ‘washes’ her limbs, sheds her wigs (and multiple identities hinted at in the first half) and reduces herself to her raw essence – woman.
Wonder Woman is a challenging and present work featuring remarkable women choreographers and a stunning talent on the rise in Boynes. She is a phenomenal performer – lithe, humurous, and full of expression – Boynes’ star is definitely on the rise.
Review | Laura Money
Wonder Woman played at the State Theatre Centre of WA on the Heath Ledger Theatre stage from 28 – 31 August 2019