As protein shakes and health foods take the market by storm and sports brands increasingly sell a lifestyle as well as trainers, Rose Beermann’s piece ‘My Body Is The Field For Tomorrow’s Battles’ offered a refreshing take on our gym-crazed culture. A team of four strong, athletic women depicted the process of building a heightened physique in a tongue-in-cheek display of their fitness-obsessed worlds.
As any fitness fanatic will know, training starts from the right mindset. Much like Nike’s famous slogan ‘Just Do It’ incentivises the consumer to abandon all fear and go for it (no doubt aided by their newest luxury lycra line), Beermann’s dancers inaugurated the piece with a series of motivational speeches. Assuming a strong stage presence, they spoke directly to the audience, expressing their desire for self-improvement with a steely dedication. Their monologues, however, were laced with a subtle sarcasm as they made increasingly hyperbolic statements about their mentalities and the capabilities of their bodies.
One by one they launched into their work-out routines, repeating their movement cycles on a loop until they reached a point of exhaustion. This resulted in two interesting choreographic effects; compositionally, the phasing in and out of movement as their cycles overlapped and, theatrically, the emotional test of endurance as they pushed themselves to achieve their goals. The openness of their physical exertion and the visibility of their suffering left the viewer in conflict between feelings of encouragement and empathy.
The sheer weight of their efforts was exemplified with the dragging around of seemingly heavy, rubber balls – the ‘4kg’ and ‘6kg’ labelled balloons were lifted with a deliberate movement dynamic, becoming a dead weight in a series of lop-sided duets. This was followed by the conjoining of their bodies in an improvised exploration of muscle strengthening exercises; as they pushed and pulled at each others’ limbs they conglomerated into a single entity, resembling a strange sort of work-out machine.
The climax of the piece was reached with the transformation of the stage into what seemed like a post-apocalyptic landscape: sand bags were emptied and steam rolled in. The dancers, now brandishing harnesses, moved together, exploring this surreal, broken world. Although this scene did not quite achieve the full impact of its potential, it acted as a necessary transition into the closing image. Silhouetted against the eclectic light changes and accompanied by epic music, the dancers held their ground in a visually captivating composition, reminiscent of superheroes taking pride in their superhuman powers.
‘My Body Is The Field For Tomorrow’s Battles’ was both funny and disturbing due to the underlying truth of its subject matter. Ultimately, all suffering was justified by the personal training ethos, whereby the infliction of pain functioned in aid of the positive goal of becoming stronger. But why is there such a need to become stronger? And what was the point of the dancers’ struggles? With this carb-burner of a piece, Beermann gave us a glimpse at the futility of it all, with comedic success.