By Cedar Brown
Rawcus’ Glass is a meditation on the social functions and meanings of glass: what it means to see and be seen; the invisible barriers inherent in our society; the glass world of our devices; the pressures and fragility of human connection. An ensemble of performers ‘with diverse minds, bodies and imaginations’, Rawcus’ work is striking in how it exposes normative expectations of what the dancing body looks and moves like.
Emily Barrie’s elegant and mutable design is animated by the performers, transformed in configuration and meaning throughout the piece. Plastic sheets evoke structural barriers, smartphone newsfeeds, cocoons of isolation. The performers move within glass boxes, conjuring the trappings of societal expectations and problematic histories of voyeurism towards disabled bodies. Yet these same boxes are repurposed by performers for their own structural and interpersonal objectives. The sonic soundscape crafted by Jethro Woodward creates a liminal playspace, allowing and supporting the development of this shifting imagery. Richard Vabre’s sharp lighting design also plays an important role in highlighting and illuminating key images – evoking boundaries, channelling focus and producing the ambient grey of conformity.
Relationships are central to this work. Marc Brew’s choreography has performers moving with and against each other, sometimes pushing others down in order to get ahead, at other times supporting the weight of each other in fragile interdependence. Throughout, other people offer both the potential for pressure and tension, but also the possibility of softness and support.
Throughout, classical ideas of dance are expanded through sequences of ballet evolving into more expressive movement and the juxtaposition of Swan Lake with dance that engages with but defies classical norms. In other sequences, performers find possibilities for fun and expression in the face of routine and uniformity, and established physical boundaries are subverted and re-engineered.
Glass develops images that speak to key social dynamics illuminated within the global pandemic: structural boundaries for marginalised folk, subversion of expectations, isolation, and the connection and support found in each other. It speaks to a challenging of expectations that opens up opportunities for expression and connection. As a non-disabled non-neurodiverse audience member, Glass generated a space for me to reflect on the assumptions I bring into the theatre about what dance is and can be.