Sending up stereotypes

March 25, 1992

Bite Pull Suck
The One Extra Dance Company
The Performance Space, Sydney
Directed by Graham Watson and Julie-Anne Long
Choreographed by Sue Healey, Sue Peacock and Julie-Anne Long
Until April 5
Reviewed by Angela Matheson

Choreographer Julie-Anne Long grasps a simple truth: women are still trivialised by crude stereotypes. Being bitten, pulled and sucked — feminist poet Sylvia Plath's description of how women are reduced to functional sexual objects — is the idea teased out in dance pieces by the One Extra Company.

And with jewelled and feathered female dancers mincing and wriggling across the stage in a parody of the worst excesses of the Folies Bergere and Penthouse Pets, Long's message is clear — stereotypes are ridiculous. To press home the point, boiler-suited stagehands, performed by Shaun McLeod and Steev Zane, find themselves drawn into the parade, slow stepping and swaying with the women to the strains of "What's New Pussy Cat".

This isn't the first time the One Extra Company has tackled pressing social issues head on. While heavily subsidised companies like the Sydney Dance Company produce technically acclaimed dance which often reinforces traditional stereotypes, One Extra continues to take risks, up-end the status quo and produce some of Australia's best and most intelligent contemporary dance.

In this case, three female choreographers have been given free rein to interpret Plath's words. Sue Healy's piece opens violently — dancers, with tongues flicking, are pushed and pulled between relationships. As they move to the disturbing slurping, gorging and sucking noises composed by Bill Frisell and Andrew Yenchken, sensual affection rapidly turns to vicious rejection.

Sue Peacock's piece, which examines the boundaries of human bonds, is reminiscent of One Extra's People Like Us, in which emotional limitations are represented by dancers being constrained by ropes. Finally, the dancers depart, peeling off the stereotypes, leaving the stage littered with tinselly clothes, high heels and false eye lashes.

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