Company Chameleon is a successful Manchester-based dance company set up in 2007 who perform over fifty indoor and outdoor productions each year worldwide. Their production Of Man and Beast tells a story of friendship and friction between five men using powerful dance theatre.
I’m a volunteer Bell Square Blogger and write about some of the events at Bell Square, the outdoor arts space in Hounslow which puts on free events fortnightly throughout the year. I work for Watermans Arts Centre, who programme Bell Square.
Connor Cochrane: What are the main challenges of telling a story through dance?
Anthony Missen: Finding the right movement language, to find something that really communicates what it is that we are trying to say. There’s a big challenge to get something very specific, clear and readable, and that’s accessible for people that are not so familiar with dance to be able to understand.
CC: In summary, what is Of Man and Beast saying about masculinity?
Lee Clayden: There are many many different layers to it, courage, unity team-spirit, love, generosity, sensitivity.
Taylor Benjamin: We are what it is. We are all different ages, we are all from different places, all from different backgrounds, and I think it’s all from a different perspective each time. And that’s the great thing about it, you can say some stereotypical things about masculinity, but it’s different to every person. We’re an eclectic bunch: this motley crew sums it up.
AM: I think something else to say is, men are generally much more free to show strength, and I think the beautiful thing about this piece is that it exposes the vulnerable and sensitive past of men that were not always so comfortable to share. With this we all know each other very well, all happy to go ‘here it is in all its glory. All the things I want to show and the things that maybe I don’t want to all the time.’
CC: What made you choose rage against the machine?
AM: Rage Against the Machine just absolutely suited that scene. That idea came really early on and it it just seemed to fit. Its really explosive and ferocious and aggressive, and a lot of the music was composed especially for this show, but that track particularly was just right in every way.
CC: What did you think of Bell Square?
AM: I thought the venue was great, Nice big open space, lovely crowd, really well mixed: that’s really nice to see. Hopefully there were a lot of people in the audience who haven’t seen much dance before and that’s a big part of why we do what we do. Bringing it out of the theatre and getting rid of some of the elitist feeling that surrounds it all. I hope some people discovered new things in watching it today.
TB: I think again with the masculinity thing as well, we get some men walking past, and are like ‘what are you doing’, and we say dance and they walk off. Other people see it and they come in, and we get a lot of response at the end and they say ‘I’ve never seen dance or it’s not usually my thing.’ A lot of men come up and enjoy it.
LC: Great location: the people are just feeding through to town so you’re catching people as the piece is going on. That’s fabulous.