Feminist discourse has circulated since the first wave of feminism during the 19th century: today they have different names like the #MeToo movement, Women’s Marches and woman’s circles to hold space for the beautiful feminine energy belonging to women. But the truth is, this “third wave” of feminism is a continuation of the work of those early suffragettes. Feminism at its core is still about petitioning for equality; regardless of class, colour, creed or gender.
Independent dance artist Laura Boyne joined forces with fellow artists Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long to give voices to women through dance in a piece quite controversially named, Wonder Woman.
Boyne says whilst the work wasn’t portraying the character of Wonder Woman it was still fitting because of a question the women tinkered with throughout the creation of the piece.
“Part of my commission to the two choreographers was the provocation of ‘what if feminism was a superhero?’,” Boynes says.
Melding two works together Boyne, Larson and Long cast light and dark on issues belonging to women, making it a forum for serious discussion but breaking the heaviness with the perfect balance of humour.
“Julie-Anne’s work To Be Honest: A Girl’s Own Collection of Unconfirmed Tales is a fun piece playing between fact and fiction and past and present,” Boynes says.
In this autobiographical depiction, Boyne’s takes to the stage shrouded in modesty from the full body gown and headpiece to the apologetic and delicate dance steps—not wanting to offend or take up space. Emerging from her chrysalis, Boynes morphs from a woman of the 19th century to a girl born in 1985.
Prancing around on stage, her character recites pop-culture facts from the year of her birth, including Madonna’s Playboy cover of September 1985. This motif appears throughout the dance in the lives of others also born in the same year. Not only is Madonna a common thread, but the sexual violation, body shaming and social norms for a girl in the 1980s are spoken about in more than just the script. Each character’s reluctance to sexualise their art and their self-expression is embodied by the purity and fun of the choreography by Boynes.
Adelina’s piece God’s Work brings a heavy overtone to the tail end of the performance.
The work is heavily based on improvisation, leaving room for audience members to perpetuate their own truths and experiences onto the character.
“There’s a sense that the character is possibly harrowed by a number of things, but you’re not entirely sure what that thing might be.”
“You get a sense that she’s working through something,” Boynes says.
Boynes’ tormented dance with herself could be read as a woman stripped of her femininity through a single act against her, or it could be read as an allegory for all women and the loss of their feminine traits as they learn to assimilate into masculine structures of the world around them. This state of being is problematic though, because there needs to be space for both energies to thrive and evolve into harmonious societies otherwise we lose the ability to feel and empathise and walk through life numb––which is how I felt at the end of the show.
However, Boynes insists Wonder Woman is not meant to leave audiences feeling dejected.
“I’m not doing this work to make people feel more depressed or traumatised by [the] things that are happening to us in this world because we’re in a pretty difficult time.”
“I want people to walk away with empowerment,” she says.
“When you realise that other people are experiencing what you are experiencing, there’s a human element to that, and you can all feel like a community going through the same thing.”
Wonder Woman was on show during the last week of August at the Heath Ledger Theatre.
Visit the State Theatre Centre of WA’s website to keep tabs on more upcoming performances!