Eff.UL.Gents is the most recent creation from choreographer Elisa-Marie Alaio and FireWALL Dance Theater, debuting at Carnegie Stage now through July 16. This work radiates passion and energy, from the six member company, Elisa- Marie Alaio, Alexis Bomer, Glenna Clark, Vicki Lynn McWilliams, Cammi Nevarez and Jenna Rae Smith. The performance offers three dance segments each symbolizing experiences from the female perspective, offering an artistic embodiment of feminism, covering subjects such as sexual exploration, body image, and a woman’s role in society.
Mason jars are suspended from above the stage, conceiving a natural space representative of modesty and simplicity. The dancers emerge in nude color tops and white shorts. They react to the buzzing of electricity incorporated into the industrial sounds composed exclusively for Eff.UL.Gents by Reni Monteverde. The dancers lift their heads up toward the glowing jars and move like moths to a flame. The dancers often use exaggerated and harsh movements; stroking their arms, kicking their legs, rolling hips and stretching necks, caressing their curves, until they remember to, ‘be gentle’. They declare bodily connectedness, exploration and acceptance of shape while an Eff.UL.Gents chant is spoken just loud enough.
The contemporary modern choreography allows each dancer to contribute a piece of herself, study her shape, recognize the privilege of womanhood as well as come to terms with the imperfections or parts which make them uncomfortable. Although their steps are often frenzied the dancers complete this series as the lights in the mason jar flicker on and off. The definition of Eff.UL.Gents is projected onto the wall behind the stage, “A brilliant radiance shining forth”.
The second series begins with a film projected onto a screen while a larger version plays on the wall behind the stage. A film of tantalizing intimacy, a prelude to the intense feelings, words, looks, touches which encompass a new relationship. The music begins, smooth, mellow jazz, as light as the mingling of new love. Soon the show escalates into an explosion of passion. Spoken word, beginning as a whisper, grows progressively stronger and confident. The dancers in black wigs and lingerie enhance the susceptibility of intimate relationships. The energy fueling this portrayal and the dancers’ bodies and facial expressions create a primal passion driven mood full of vulnerability, inhibition, ecstasy, and regret linked by incredibly raw movements.
The third and final act brings the dancers to stage in a cage. Dressed in black, pants, men’s oxford- style shirts and black ties, the dancers move over and under and around each other: trapped. They lean and stretch their arms desperate for more room, a wider space, and use exaggerated leg swings to attempt to free themselves from the cage. One dancer slides free but stays close to the outside of the cage moving in fluid motion, turning the cage until finally the door swings open and each dancer is free. A prolific rendition of a ‘woman in a man’s world’. Women pitted against one another the dancers climb on each others backs, then lift each other up.
The company concludes Eff.UL.Gents with force behind every step. From standard feminine indicators to disowning gender, Alaio has created a work of art that is provoking, important and intensely emotional. Through rigorous choreography and a team of dancers who expertly convey Alaio’s story, the audience is reminded to give ourselves permission to be human, to make mistakes, to think and speak our mind, to forgive and to love; most important, to love our own selves.
Special thanks to fireWALL Dance Theater for complimentary press tickets. Photos courtesy of Carnegie Stage. Would you like to see more articles and reviews like this from Pittsburgh in the Round? Then help us out and donate to our indiegogo!
Eff.Ul.Gents continues July 14, 15, and 16 at Carnegie Stage. For ticket and more information, click here.