(Big Girls Do BIg Things) | Eleanor BauerPhoto – Nada Zgank

A ladder, an oversized polar bear suit, high heeled shoes and a set of cymbals. One dancer. In bringing these things together US Belgian-based dancer/choreographer Eleanor Bauer creates a work of playful eloquence, humour, poignancy, ambivalence and honesty.

She starts by crawling into the bear suit and explores all the possibilities that offers, letting the weight of it settle on her, wearing it back to front, upside down, sticking her legs through the arms, mucking about in a seemingly random interaction with it. She pretends to be a bear for a while, handling the cymbals with clumsy paws, has fun running a microphone over her pelt, then eventually gets sick of that.

Something essential and childlike is going on here, you feel engaged on a similar, exploratory way with the props and Bauer's antics. She seems to be speaking to frailty, which is confirmed when she dons the heels and the bear suit becomes a red carpet gown. A bit of catwalking and posing then she acts out, singing the lyrics of "Crazy" and ascending the ladder in those high heels. Love's crazy and what she is doing is crazy. You are so frightened she will tumble off the ladder. As she goes higher up she sings in a higher voice; it's terribly funny and the repetition, the stretching out of this routine and her power of command is extraordinary. Eventually Bauer's nearly hoarse, near the top rung, wringing out the top notes with her head angled under one of the lights. Then there's a shift and seated on top of the laddder she delivers an oratory, a wonderfully powerful monologue she admits to having nicked from US performance artist Karen Finlay.

But this is a dance show, she seems to say next; I promised you dance so I give you some ballet. Seeing Bauer in her strong sexy body execute some of the more delicate steps from Swan Lake is a thrill in a class of its own. The refined balletic moves give way to something primal and creaturely, suggesting an untamed thing in danger of being lost; we may eventually have only polar bear suits and the memory of bears. Yet at the same time, Bauer is being unutterably herself here. Then she wraps herself up in the black curtains at the back, hiding herself, and the show ends. The work is completely natural, beguiling and makes perfect sense. A meditation on what we wrap ourselves in to go out in the world and a whimsical expose of the same. A dance theatre highlight.

Dancehouse in partnership with Lucy Guerin Inc. and Stompin
Eleanor Bauer

Venue: Dancehouse | 150 Princes Street, North Carlton VIC
Dates: 29 – 30 November, 2013
Tickets: $25 – $20
Bookings: www.dancehouse.com.au

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