What The Frock Are These Costumes?!

Alice talks about her experience making a show where the costumes don't fit the norm, and what it's like to perform in an outdoor dance show. Photos by Chris Parkes

Growing up I always questioned societal gender norms; stereotypes of how males and females should act, what sports they should do, what toys they should receive. So when I heard that Frock would be exploring these issues I couldn't wait to dig my teeth into the process.

How men or women should dress is an issue that is particularly clear when looking back at past generations and something that’s always bothered me. In the show Lucy Bennet (Choreographer) changes these gender expectations by simply switching the type of clothes we are wearing in the piece. 

The girls wearing suits and the guys wearing dresses in the comfort of the studio was something we all got used to pretty quickly. But I was surprised by how different it felt when we first stepped outside into our performance space at Norfolk & Norwich Festival. It really made me aware of how the general public can still see cross dressing as something out of the norm, and the audiences can be everything from uncomfortable and baffled, to rejoicing and congratulating us on our choice of clothes for the day. These head turns, welcoming eyes and smiles allowed the performance matter to trickle into the minds of those in our presence even before we performed. The power of presence to an unbeknownst audience.  

The great thing about touring an outdoor dance piece is that you never know who you might perform to. People might walk past and catch a show by accident, and it might be the first dance show they’ve ever seen.

But outdoor work can also be unforgiving; the energy we exert seems to just disappear into the vastness of the outdoors and beyond, which can be exhausting! It’s also hard to perform delicate and subtle movement but also project the performance to the person at the back and beyond- something I had to master quite quickly. 

With all that said, there is so much freedom and joy received from dancing outside- whatever the weather!

In order to really find the root of my character and it’s movement I had to get used to

  • dancing in a suit,
  • moving in my outdoor shoes and being certain on my feet, 
  • dancing outside on a hard floor, 
  • dancing in different types of weather (especially when it’s windy with my long hair down), 
  • and general distractions; such as dogs (I love dogs). 

Another element of outdoor work is that there’s no chance to go ‘offstage’. Being in character during the times I’m watching the other performers and not dancing myself brought questions to the front of my mind; What is my character thinking? How do they respond to what they see? Questions I have to constantly ask myself to keep my character active and alive during performances. And like the weather; my answers are forever changing.

But I love a challenge and gradually overcame all of these issues through perseverance and patience, allowing my body to adjust to new sensations. 

The beauty of outdoor work is that it’s unpredictable, and there are many factors that can change every time you perform. Therefore, I will always need to remain aware and adapt accordingly, which keeps me on my toes- literally!

 

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