Dublin Fringe Festival 2019: Losing Your Body
Body memory. The hypothesis that the body also stores memories and not just the brain. In Rachel Ní Bhraonáin’s “Losing Your Body” an aspiring dancer believes her body might be talking to her, and it doesn’t have nice things to say. Feeling like a series of intimately autobiographical revelations, delivered through dance, drama, and some less than dynamic aerial work, “Losing Your Body” might speak to losing your mind. Yet it does so by way of an extremely pleasurable performance.
Lying on the floor, Ní Bhraonáin sleeps fitfully, as if awaking from a disturbing dream, or descending deeper into it. A set of ropes attached to her waist via a pulley sees her playing with the tension as she struggles and twists. Then abruptly sits up, bright eyed and bubbly, ready for the next customer, the interplay of opposites being superbly foregrounded. In "Losing Your Body," aspiring dancer Ní Bhraonáin is a good girl with bad thoughts. Not the salacious or vicious kind, but the everyday kind. The fermenting self hatreds that bubble beneath the customer friendly smiles. Concerns about her weight, her dancing, her ex, her job. Her injuries and blackouts. Her stroke like symptoms concealing something deeper perhaps. If Ní Bhraonáin seems blasé on the surface, underneath her body is keeping count. Meanwhile Ní Bhraonáin pursues her painful path to becoming dance royalty, or at least getting a degree and making a workable living from it. Her body articulating hidden tensions via a series of crippling and debilitating migraines. As if pushing back. Or trying to tell her something. Something Ní Bhraonáin often finds herself reluctant to listen to.
Told though a series of smart, funny, intimate and insightful monologues, Ní Bhraonáin’s writing proves wonderfully engaging, revealing an over achieving under achiever trying to make sense of herself and her body. If “Losing Your Body’s” aerial routines aren’t all that spectacular, they’re remarkably more powerful for embracing directness and simplicity in articulating what lies beneath the words. With performer Robyn Byrne, like a mirrored alter ego attached to the opposite end of a rope, Ní Bhraonáin conducts intermittent tug-of-wars between body and mind, like unifying and repelling opposites, seesawing between what’s seen and what’s secret like a pendulum. Unlatched from the rope, Ní Bhraonáin executes some sublime dance sequences as her training progresses from Dublin to London, displaying her Cherry Pie, 80s Go-Go dancing skills looking a long distance from her ballet roots. Yet Ní Bhraonáin’s dancing is best when she dances personal, as in a jittery solo as she channels energies snapping through her body she can’t seem to control. Or articulating the muscles and bones on her back. Or engaging in a delightful duet with Byrne, revealing a wonderful interplay of delicate tensions, like someone trying take care to herself, if only they knew how to accept the comfort.
If Ní Bhraonáin’s writing, movement sequences, and aerial work appear simple and pared back, they reveal something wonderfully honest and primal. Indeed, everything in “Losing Your Body” speaks to a simplicity and directness that’s deeply moving. If transitions are awkwardly long at times, and some aerial sequences allow tension to slacken in places for labouring their point, “Losing Your Body” delivers a beautifully constructed tale with some superb visual sequences. A story that speaks to heart and heartache of being a dancer.
“Losing Your Body” by Rachel Ní Bhraonáin, runs as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2019 at The Lir Academy until Sept 21.