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LIVEWORKS FESTIVAL OF EXPERIMENTAL ART


For highbrow perusal

Fiona McGregor: Eisa Jocson, Death Of The Pole Dancer; Macho Dancer


Eisa Jocson, Macho Dancer Eisa Jocson, Macho Dancer
photo Giannina Ottiker
Eisa Jocson comes to us with accolades from Europe. These two solos investigating the performance of gender and sexuality are in a mode familiar to Sydney audiences of queer parties and clubs going back decades. Performance Space itself has intermittently supported such work since cLUB bENT in the mid 90s.

Jocson seems an ideal vehicle for these ideas. Trained in the visual arts and ballet, an award-winning pole dancer, her prowess is evident with every move. Death of the Pole Dancer was mostly taken up with the assemblage of the pole, one of my favourite sequences, with its simple indication of source, structure and the everyday behind the exotic dancer’s work. After grappling with the pole, Jocson eventually mounted it, hooking herself up feet first, sliding glacially down [to a distorted version of Dusty Springfield’s “I just don’t know what to do with myself,” Eds]. Audience members who could see her face would have benefited from a fuller range of expression.

Bringing to the stage a form that originates in spaces of sexual spectacle is more difficult than meets the eye. In the local context, foremost artists such as Sex Intents and Glita Supernova, were themselves strippers: the queer club spaces to which they transposed spectacle by women for men spelt instant subversion. The body dictated, even mocked, the dance for its own pleasure; the gaze was female and male queer.

Jocson’s audience was Sydney’s usual performance aficionados, the sexes evenly distributed, better versed in gender politics and more diverse in sexuality than their counterparts down at Sydney Theatre Company or over at Metro Theatre. Yet not, I would guess, well acquainted with pole dancing in clubs, or so-called macho dancing in the Philippines, where men dance erotically for mostly male clients.

The invisibility of the original context was problematic. The T-shaped stage for Macho Dancer brought the dancer among us, down to the last bead of sweat, yet interaction was a no-no. The product for salacious entertainment was replaced by a product for highbrow perusal. We sat politely admiring Jocson’s athletic androgyny, her immense skill and strength, the compelling slow moves. We wondered about her melancholy expression.

We wondered too about the original macho dancers in the Philippines, dancing no doubt with little choice, dictated by poverty. Were we westerners implicated in that? Yet these works were honed in the laboratories of the European avant-garde. What about us women? Is this part of the inexorable move of women towards sexual consumerism? Cause for celebration then? Yet gender, rather than highlighted, felt flatlined. We thought about pole dancers and macho dancers, yet we did not feel any closer to them for the experience.


Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art, Death of the Pole Dancer, artist Eisa Jocson, Carriageworks, Sydney, 4, 5 Nov

RealTime issue #130 Dec-Jan 2016 pg. 16

© Fiona McGregor; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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