Using the F Word: A Commentary On Feminism

Local Arts Reviews

Using the F Word: No other Word

Flatbed World Headquarters,

through December 9

Running Time: 1 hr, 30 min

Quick, what image pops into your head when you hear the word "feminist?" Someone with an uncanny resemblance to Britney Spears? Someone self-righteous and militant? Is she wearing flowers in her hair but no bra? Does she look angry, wearing a shirt that says, "I hate men?" Is she a she? Or does the very mention of the word have you cringing? While there may be a few varieties of feminism that are extreme, angry, or man-hating, the REALMdanceproject's Using the F Word: A Commentary on Feminism refuses to pigeonholed by them.

Using nine choreographed dance-theatre pieces, some with minimal choreography, as well as highly kinetic five-person ensembles, the six-person company fashions a collaborative yet tenaciously personal portrait of feminism. Take "New Millennium Woman," for example, in which Kanya Lyons is the epitome of the fashionable feminist, remarking, "Shiny wet lips are sensuous ... and ridiculous skills tend to transfix people." Citing Cosmo and the way to success' door through power flirting, this piece is anything but direct.

The first act closes with "Delphi," a duet by Rebecca Millner and Kristi Melon, in which two women meet, at first confronting each other, teeth-gritted, in wincing competitive poses. Gradually, they move into a cooperative manner, helping and providing support for each other.

While visually sound, the first act moves at a mere snail's pace compared to the whirlwind that is the second act. It begins with a three-part piece titled "Real Live Girls" that kneads together comedy and gravity in perplexing swaths across the Flatbed's concrete floor. The first section, "Duty," deals with one woman's love-hate relationship with high-heeled shoes, punctuated with music by Tuck & Patti -- "The minute I stood up, I knew this was the wrong place for my foot to be." The next section, "Ambition," finds the five girls, dressed in Abercrombie and Fitch-esque white shirts and baseball caps, trying to pal around as if they were boys. The last section, "Pride," begins with the girls stripping off their Ambition costumes to reveal black outfits fit to club while the pulse of the Lords of Acid sets off the girls' slashing, tempered movements, a seductive dance of the Furies.

In her dialogue-driven "12 Steps," McMillan, admits that she was once an "annoying, coquettish bitch" and presents her road to recovery with a program designed to help "bimbos of both sexes become human beings." Stacy Christie, like a duck in a shooting gallery, tries to follow along silently with McMillan's advice. But like many 12-step program participants, she falls short.

Using the F Word presents a profusion of information. At the end of the evening, I sat stunned, wondering what the show was all about. Having two men perform in several pieces, there was a more human, as opposed to purely female, viewpoint. In the end, while listening to the lyrics of the show's exit music -- "Without game, men prey on each other/ The family weakens by the bite we swallow" (from Jane's Addiction's "Three Days"), I remembered something Ani Difranco said in a 1999 interview with Mother Jones. "If [feminism's] some kind of taboo or dirty word, or means you're ugly, or you're angry, or you're not dateable," she said with a slight laugh before continuing, "then you've just reduced the language by a whole concept. I just don't know any other word than 'feminist' that describes a person who believes women are people."

In this way, REALMdanceproject trumps it.

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Using the F Word: A Commentary On Feminism, REALMdanceproject, Beth McMillan, Kanya Lyons, Rebecca Millner, Kristi Melon, Stacy Christie

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