The costume throughout Flesh and Blood is a very important attribute to the piece. All seven of the female dancers wear the same costume in each of the five sections therefore this shows that the costume that Lea Anderson chose was relevant to the themes within the piece all the way through.
The costumes are of a medieval style, we know this from the design of the dress as they have square necks and tight fitting wrist length sleeves much like the dresses that were worn in that time period. The dresses reach ankle length on each of the dances and have a fitted torso with a dropped v-waist which then falls into a slightly gathered, loose material lower half which flows down from the waist to the ankle. In this piece I believe it is important for the dresses to be fitted on the arms and torso area as these are the main areas of which are used in the contact work such as lifts- and it then makes it easier to perform these moves as dancers can get a better grip on each other.
There are also many intricate arm and hand movements where dancers have to intertwine with each other- therefore the tight fitting arms ensure that the moves can be performed with clarity and precision. The material of the dresses is particularly specific to the underlying storyline of Joan of Arc, as it is a metallic and shiny stretchy silver fabric. This infers the idea of the dresses symbolising armour, which is relevant to the battles that Joan of Arc had to fight. The masculine armour like fabric then contrasts against the feminine style of dress, again backing up the important theme of Joan of Arc throughout the piece. The shiny material also shimmers in the light and emphasises movements and enhances angles that the dancers perform, whether they are big or small moves which then makes developing motifs clearer to see.
The dancers have bare feet in each section of the dance, I believe this adds a sense of vulnerability to the hard faced characters and shows that no matter how determined Joan of Arc was she, and also the characters within this dance all have a weak spot. The dresses that the dancers wear also have calf length, fitted grey leggings underneath which we see in section two- and also work to highlight and emphasize movement. I also believe it was important for the dancers to wear leggings as section two has a lot of floor work involved so it is practical to have these underneath the dresses.
Make-up and hair are also important aspects of the costume within this piece and they highlight areas of intricate movement. This is shown in the Cathedral in section 2 of the dance where small eye movements upwards, then to the left are used. This move is simple but is an important reoccurring motif which could symbolise looking up to god- and therefore needs to stand out, which is done through the use of dark eye makeup that contrasts against the dancers pale faces. The red lipstick worn throughout shows the dancers are still feminine even though they have to wear a masculine army colour, and have a short style of hair which is what Joan of Arc had to do in order to disguise herself. The red lipstick symbolises danger and passion and also shows that even though they are pretending to be males- they are still strong female characters for sticking up for what they believe in.
All of the dancers look on average between the ages of 25 to 35 and are all female. I believe this shows a strong sense of unity within the piece to symbolise the fact that they are part of an army and also makes them all equal to each other. This is important as it shows that the piece is thematic- rather than narrative with main characters. Due to the style of the dance, I believe the dancers will of had to have had training in ballet and contemporary and be able to perform in confined spaces such as the black box theatre setting which is used and be adaptable for the site specific places that they had to perform.
Another key aspect of the performance is that the dancers are very precise in the unison sections. This is effective as it heightens smaller movements such as the tapping of the feet in the cathedral setting in section 2. A way that the dancers could have done this is through using specific counts in the music and keeping to a rhythm. Due to their being a lot of minimal eye movement in unison within the routine- also shown in the black box studio in section 5 when the dancers look up as if to heaven, it is important that the dancers were aware of their focus points so that their movements were precise and equal to each other, which is something that is important throughout this piece.
The movement in section one is very contained and small. It is a duet between two of the dancers and involves using a lot or inticate armwork where they have to weavein and out of each other. This could symbolise that the battle Joan of Arc had to face was a constant struggle. This concept is also shown and the first female dancer in this section looks as though she is being dominated and controlled by the second femal character who is stood behind her throughout- almost overlooking all of her actions and having imput into what she does. This is shown as a movement when dancer two pushes dancer one down to the floor to continue her movements on a lower level. This makes dancer two look more superior and therefore gives off the impression she is symbolic of the males telling Joan of Arc she wasn’t allowed to fight.
Section two involves all 7 of the female dancers and is set in a black box studio. The floor work in this section such as the repeat motif which is shown also in section five where the dancers lay on their back with their feet flat to the floor and their knees bent on and angle with their arms by their side as they push their legs straight out to move backwards gives off an impression that they are symbolising beetles and other insects. Thesharp and angled movements give off imagery as if they are symbolising being bugs- which links to the heaven and hell paintings by the artist Bosch. Because much of this section is on the floor it is symbolic of Hell being present- and is where most people believed Joan of Arc went after her burning at the stake. The calf length leggings and bare feet that the dancers are wearing can also be seen in this scuttling back movement and highlight the angles of the legs- as is also done with the tight fitting sleeves on the arms.
This section is set inside of a Cathedral and shows 3 of the dancer standing in the alter and the other 4 laid in the knave. This symbolises the communication that Joan of Arc is said to have had with God who told her to battle with the men, this is shown through intricate eye movement from the dancers standing in the alter as the first thing they do it look upward to heaven, to the left as if to purgatory and then downwards as if to hell. Use of a head tilt to the right when looking to the left is also used which could symbolise shock in hearing or seeing something.
The dancers laid on the floor are symbolic of the dreams that Joan of Arc is said to of had and repeat motifs such as the rolling of the fingers that tap onto the floor suggest that her nightmares and dreams were reoccurring and made her react immediately- even before she woke up and decided that she wanted to go into battle. The dynamics in this section are a lot slower then any other andthe dancers are all individuals which suggests that when Joan of Arc visited the church she was distanced from everyone else and felt more alone and vulnerable.
Section 4 is set outside of the cathedral and is an adapted version of section 1, as it has 2 unison duets- one further forward than the other. This section is also very contact based and manipulative which gives an indication of the relationship that the dancers have with each other. The ‘crusifix’ arm movement is a repeat motif throughout and is shown is section 2 when the dancers sit up from the floor, as if god is helping them progress and become better people. It is also shown in section 4 when the dancers are lifted by the dominating dancers, and their feet are left loosely flailing beneath them while their arms lower so their palms are flat facing downwards. This motif could symbolise that god is now taking Joan of Arcs soul to Heaven as she is burnt at the stake. The shaking of the feet indicates that many people believed she would go to Hell- which is why the arms are lowered from the crucifix movement as this is less holy and God wouldn’t have wanted that for the female who stood up for herself.
Courtney from Study Moose
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