Love and Sex

Andy Murray on a dance production aiming to bring a new kind of passion to the stage while dealing with far-reaching social issues

Hero image

If the sum total of your knowledge of dance comes from half-watching the Strictly Christmas special, take heart. There’s an entire art form out there to discover, one that is sprawling, vibrant, and thought-provoking. By way of example, the Taunton-based company State of Emergency has been blending music and choreography to award-winning effect since 1986. The company’s latest touring show, Love & Sex, is an innovative exploration of the perils and pressures around sexuality facing today’s young people.

It comes complete with an original soundtrack by State of Emergency’s co-founder Steve Marshall, who explains: “It starts off in a disco with three young women going out for the evening. It’s full of promise, excitement and anticipation, but unfortunately things go quite badly wrong. As the performance develops, it gets to the stage where it becomes very sad and melancholy and regretful. Beyond that there’s a chance for the characters to look at themselves and pick themselves up and learn to love and trust again. The option is there for them to become free again, and I think that’s something that everyone can relate to, from any age, really.”

While it’s hoped that the show will have appeal to all ages, it’s very much designed as a piece that’s accessible to young audiences. That’s no straightforward task. “This has been a question all the time, but I think ‘young people’ as a group is a very broad church, isn’t it? I mean, what do young people like? I have a 13-year-old daughter and her tastes are incredibly varied. So I think young people shouldn’t be underestimated. The work should challenge and hopefully entertain them.”

State of Emergency is known for producing work that doesn’t pull punches, and, sure enough, Love & Sex is edgy, challenging stuff, both in terms of form and content. “There is a narrative, but it has a surreal, abstract dimension to it as well. It’s a complex, multi-layered project, and it’s been a pleasure to work with several choreographers on it. We’ve got Colin Poole, whose work is very psychological. He deals with certain kinds of relationship problems, particularly a kind of torture situation, really, bordering on abuse: very cold and very disturbing in some ways. The other choreographer is Alesandra Seutin, who’s also in the avant garde, but her section is more vibrant. There’s a lot more energy in the work and pace and movement that creates a kind of other world. It’s an opposite world really, a world of heat, passion and love. So you’ve got this conflict of two worlds throughout the performance.”

Within the show, some additional dance content has been developed by young people from Tottenham working with choreographer Vicki Igbokwe as part of Re:Position, one of State of Emergency’s dance projects for youth. The show itself is accompanied by a touring programme of outreach workshops and after-show talks. Devised with the avowed aim of “turning the concept of sex education on its head”, the programme’s been developed in partnership with the young people’s sexual health and advice service, Brook.

Marshall himself has developed a successful career as a musician, working alongside legends such as Lee Scratch Perry, George Clinton and Keith Richards, and receiving Grammy nominations for his composing and production work. His soundtrack for this new show draws on his vast musical arsenal, while reflects the diametrically-opposed elements of the piece. “I work a lot in reggae, soul, R&B, jazz, rock – across the spectrum really. For the first half, I created a musical environment which is cold, alien and sterile, using electronic and synthetic sounds. I even recreated the humming of the heating system during rehearsals. The second part of the show deals with human emotion and for this I used blues, soul and jazz – with real instruments and singing. There’s a whole variety of different elements in the soundtrack, and hopefully it has perennial appeal.”

Love & Sex, 17 January, Z-Arts, Manchester

Interact: Responses to Preview:
Love and Sex

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.