Claudia Marsicano enters the stage in a bathing suite. She is big. Fat. She takes us, the audience, through several exercises, singing, talking, and dancing. In two exercises she makes us stand up and move with her. The movements of her face, neck, arms, hands and fingers are articulate and her presence full of charm. Half way, she takes off her bathing suite and continues in underwear. She invites us to look at her.
Note: we have made a decision to use the word ‘fat’, embracing the argument it is a merely descriptive word and not a slur or a term that contains moral judgement.
Annette: What were your first responses when Marsicano entered the space?
David: It felt unavoidably like a statement, or a subversion. She has the sort of body you don’t usually see in dance or, when you consider how revealed it was, in our society in general. I did feel fairly quickly that we were invited to view a body, not a fat body. She was very charming and personable, spoke to us directly, laughed and invited us to laugh.
Evgeny: The first scene positively shocked me. It was entertaining but also dark somehow, how she slowly moved on the stage, stood en profile and started singing Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’. I was quickly drawn to her face, which contained so much charm that it absolutely distracted me from her body. This charm, however, also negatively affected me. The performer was very nice, smart, talented and entertaining. When installing a place for fat people on stage, why do they have to be cheerful, nice, entertaining and smiley?
Annette: I just read that ‘Osa’ means ‘dare’ in Italian. I found her courageous, but Marsicano didn’t present herself as being courageous. She seemed to feel comfortable in her body, and already being surprised by that reveals how we unconsciously assume how fat people should feel and behave. She also sang Britney Spears’s ‘Toxic’. Both Parton and Spears were sex icons, and both were shamed for their bodies when they couldn’t keep up the sex icon posture anymore. In the same way, fat people are often shamed in our society, and are expected to feel shame. Marsicano was on stage for an hour, inviting us to watch, without embarrassment or shame.
David: There was a constant contrast with the norms. Not only her physical appearance, but also how that affected the movement. For example, when she referenced classical dance, doing a long sequence of ‘floaty’ ballet arms to a piece of Baroque music without a hint of irony or parody, the traditional movements looked new because they were being executed by such a different body.
Evgeny: She used tropes often used in a one-woman show. She interacted with the technician, someone we couldn’t see, and also with us, the audience. She had a lot of space to question that form, as well as to question the theme – but she didn’t. The piece was very entertaining. I had a nice time, but for me its effects will disappear quickly.
David: Yes, I think it’s hard to describe it as anything other than ‘feel-good’.
Annette: Which we shouldn’t underestimate. It is a trap to consider everything that is dark or torturous to be deep and of quality.
David: We were confronted with some of our expectations and assumptions around body types and beauty norms, but it was subtle. We saw a woman enjoying herself, and inviting us to enjoy ourselves. I appreciated that a lot, but I agree that it’s not a piece which called for revolution.
Annette: It might also be a different way of engaging with the political. It was revolutionary to have this non-normative body taking space, visible and demanding attention.
David: And being confident, and being joyous. If I were to consider this piece as a whole, I would say it set itself very modest and achievable ambitions, but achieved them completely. ●
In Part 2 of Tanz im August talkabout, the Berlin Three watch The Waves by French choreographer ‘and trained philosopher’ Noé Soulier, and Nora Chipaumire’s portrait of myself as my father, an exploration of black masculinity…