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Men and Girls Dance review at the Place, London – ‘direct and vital’

Fevered Sleep's Men and Girls Dance at the Place, London. Photo: Matthew Andrews Fevered Sleep's Men and Girls Dance at the Place, London. Photo: Matthew Andrews
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Men and Girls Dance is undoubtedly a provocative title. But then this is a piece designed to challenge the preconceptions of its audience.

For each venue that this Fevered Sleep touring show visits, the company’s five professional male dancers perform with nine girls from the local area. They may only have known each other for the duration of the project, but the relationships between them couldn’t be more natural.

Initially, the men and girls appraise each other from opposite sides of the stage. They are thoughtful, watchful. Soon, their playful games draw them together. The girls cover the men’s faces with sheets of newspaper and sellotape; they make monsters of them and then they play tag.

As the men and girls disappear beneath a paper parachute there’s a fleeting instance of discomfort. From the emerging laughter it’s clear the game is innocent but, fed by the stories we so often see printed in the papers, the longer they are hidden from view the more doubtful we become.

Crucially, it’s the girls who establish the contact between themselves and the male performers. They want to interact, to be lifted and carried, to touch hands. Their interactions are caring and joyful and the girls laugh as they dance. Via microphones they relate what they see and feel; the men do the same. It’s candid, and often very funny.

The show radiates a sense of friendship. The relationships we see on stage are gentle and genuine. Such open and human interaction between men and girls may not always be possible but Fevered Sleep successfully make us question why that is.

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Fevered Sleep's direct and vital dance piece sets out to challenge its audience