'Troop is a classic seduction parade.'
Judith Mackrell, The Guardian
'I thought it was great - very refreshing.'
Tim McKeough, Press Representative, the South Bank Centre
'a fascinating deconstruction of the showgirl
Professor Valerie Briginshaw, Chichester University
Purcell Room, South Bank Centre
The debate surrounding the suggested objectification of the showgirl is particularly relevant today amidst a boom in the art of burlesque, which traditionally features dancing girls and striptease, and is a popular feature of the international nightlife scene. Choreographer Jane Turner, who first worked as a showgirl at the Scala Ballet in Barcelona, offers a glimpse into the dynamics of the dancing line via contemporary dance theatre in Troop. Turner's cast is fronted by seven dancing girls, each distinguished by a personalised costume - Sam Dightham's deliciously modern combination of frills and flesh - which befits their sexualised caricature. Turner's movement material is inspired by "showy" steps and kicks, and the bare-footed dancers overlay a more organic, earthy element until the addition of character shoes transforms them into leggy stereotypes. It also provides the basis for a sequence where each dancer chatters away on a mobile phone (it's actually a discarded shoe, although it's so well-acted it may as well be a phone). They gossip and natter while moving around the space - snatches of speech rising up from the hum of voices - seemingly unaware of the audience, who have become voyeuristic witnesses of these private conversations. Highlights like these are plenty... Turner's material is often fresh, her cast of leading ladies well chosen, a convincing performance.
Katie Gregory, DANCE TODAY
Troop, conceived and choreographed by Jane Turner, is an exploration of the modern archetype The Showgirl, in which 'dancers create characters who create characters'. It is a show in which that archetype is, in the choreographer's words, less subverted than celebrated. The Showgirl is the embodiment of 'being alive' and thus to be invited into our hearts. It's OK to be gazed at, runs the message, as long as we can gaze back: 'I'm watching you, watching me, watching you'. The relationship of the showgirl to the male (and female!) gaze is at the heart of the piece.
Troop takes all the expected tropes and presents them to us beautifully and without irony: the Busby Berkeley line-up, the Tiller Girls circle, the silhouette, the strut, the podium dance. There may be no subversion, but there is commentary - and these more theatrical scenes are the strongest in the piece: in one, a stage-full of dancing girls grooving in their own world each in turn stop to take a telephone call - here, we see clearly, are other people's daughters, mothers, lovers and girlfriends. In another scene, tired feet relinquish dance shoes, which are piled up into one set of arms, then dropped to the floor, creating an instant image of end-of-the-night abandonment. I'm less interested when Troop strays too far into an expressive dance territory that become a little too close to parody for comfort. Thankfully, this happens only occasionally. Mostly, an elegant and engaging tribute to that beautiful creature, The Showgirl.
Dorothy Max Prior TOTAL THEATRE February 2008
East Anglian Daily Times
16 November 2007 | 16:21
Troop, Colchester Arts Centre, November 15, 2007.
Choreographed by East-Anglian based Jane Turner, Troop probably best fits the category of dance theatre. There were elements of song, elements where the acting became more important than the dance, but mostly the performance focused on the movements and characters of the seven showgirls: some saucy, some overtly raunchy, some haughty, some aloof.
All dressed in skimpy leotards - blue, red, green, violet - with bare legs, the showgirls basked in the audience attention, bursting onto the stage with high kicks and huge smiles. But as the performance went on, the mood changed from exuberance to exhaustion and back again.
Playful and provocative, the girls went through the motions of putting on their make-up and attire, messing about back stage and interacting with the two male performers - one a kind of ring master and one a dancing drummer.
Performance-wise, it was clear who the ballet dancers were as their movements were carried out with more grace and precision than the others. However, for me, the classically trained girls looked out of place in such a contemporary, earthy, seductive style of show: their movements were too refined and their faces expressionless for almost the entire time, whereas the other girls smiled, winked, made eye contact with the audience and generally looked like they were up to mischief, which was far more fitting.
There were certain story threads to pick up on - such as the relationship between one of the girls and the drummer boy, one girl's binge-eating problem (at least I think it was biscuits in the bag) and in another section, one girl shook and twitched with such intensity it appeared she was suffering some kind of drug-related withdrawal symptoms.
In the main, the performance was quite abstract, set to a backdrop of cinematic clips of showgirls and kaleidoscopic patterns. One innovative section had a tiny showgirl circling round and round on a suspended hoop projected onto two of the dancers' bare skin.
The 40-minute performance was over in a flash, such was the interest maintained the entire time. Although rather strange in places, this erotic, exotic show of scantily clad young women was rather mesmerising and is sure to attract audiences wherever it goes.
'Her images not only compelled the attention, they resonated long after in the memory - clearly a choreographer to note'
MTD Journal of the Performing Arts.
Suddeutsche Zeitung, Munich
'Emotionally propelled choreography...formidable'
The Stage, London
'Sensuous... beautiful, creative work'
'Inventive use of films and projections that can alter the space and the dancer's bodies in weird and wonderful manner'