FEMME, performed by dancer, choreographer and fashion model Erin Fowler is showing at Perth Fringe World after winning Best Dance at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe. The backdrop of a glowing 4 x 3m tent is used as a change room at the end of a catwalk with chairs on each side so the audience can see each other watching the show. The performance is a sequence of costume changes followed by movement and dance across the catwalk to an upbeat soundtrack. As Fowler changes costumes we can see her silhouetted body in the tent before the reveal of the next outfit. This structure is repetitive but finally the music stops and voices emerge of women’s experiences, and men who identify as LGBTQI, who feel disenfranchised and pressured by a society that has certain expectations based on gender stereotyping and fixed sexuality.
The performance is described as “exploring concepts of femininity and female sexuality, the female body, the gender roles we conform to, or break against, and what it means to be powerful in a largely masculine dominant culture”, and the performance largely achieves this. However, at times, I couldn’t help but feel that some of Fowler’s movements and body positions in the chosen outfits resemble images and provoke reactions that the performance is aiming to counter and confront. At the same time, I wondered if it was Fowler’s intention to suggest that the modelling industry is an excuse for such images to appear acceptable. Though I’m not sure the performance should attract such confusion, otherwise, it runs the risk of becoming what Fowler is claiming to resist.
Furthermore, there were times when Fowler could have connected more with the audience, particularly when the recorded interviews were being played. For example, speaking along with some of the comments, as if these were her experiences, would have created this connection.
Fowler’s dance and movement skills are outstanding and this show could develop into a very important piece.
FEMME is showing until 7th February in Biology at Girls School, 2 Wellington Street, Perth at 7.30pm.
Photo Credit: Chris Herzfeld