How well do you know yourself? How might you express yourself and your inner thoughts through dance? Eloise Jones choreographs (and stars in) Dissociated, a new musical exploring recovery from child sexual abuse written by psychotherapist Dave Bain. She told us more about her process. Time to get booking!
Alex is 27, suffering from insomnia and her lucid dreams are becoming less… lucidy. She’s getting married and nearing the end of her training to become a surgeon, so things should be looking up – but she’s losing control. She meets Annie, who seems all too different and familiar at the same time (in fact, Annie six different versions of herself)- but maybe she can help? If Alex will just let her in…
Dissociated is written and directed by Dave Bain and presented by Skitzoid Productions from 15 to 26 October 2019 at the Etcetera Theatre, where it’s backed by One In Four, a charity that supports survivors of child sexual abuse. The two-hander is performed by Georgie Imrie (as Annie) and Eloise Jones (Alex), who also choreographs, having previously worked on Skitzoid’s musical about suicide, Game Over.
Eloise Jones on… The choreography
Approaching the choreography for Dissociated has been a unique task for many reasons. Firstly, the songs are all very different in terms of their context. Some happen as a result of the usual musical theatre concept: a character is feeling such an intense emotion that they burst into song! Other times, Annie uses music consciously to shock, delight or comfort Alex. Secondly, the subject matter – child sexual abuse – isn’t exactly something that is generally considered for a song and dance.
In light of the above, and due to the nature of the show, the biggest factors that influence my choreography are this: Alex’s life (her past, trauma and recovery) and her relationship with Annie. If I didn’t focus on this, then the movement would have no meaning or grounding, and there wouldn’t be a place for it in the show.
If you’re not dancing to the music that’s playing, then why is it on?
On top of this, whenever I’m creating movement I look closely at the music and lyrics – as simple as it sounds, that’s my stimulus. If you’re not dancing to the music that’s playing, then why is it on? Throughout the musical numbers, we see Alex and Annie’s relationship change – sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Will Alex’s desire for independence finally win out?
In some of the more light-hearted numbers between Alex and Annie, in which music is used consciously, the choreography finds them reminiscing on happy childhood memories – specifically tap. Alex loves tap, and musicals, which is handy. However, she acknowledges that she wasn’t brilliant due to her left foot being out of sync with the rest of her body.
The choreography for these numbers reflects the experience of dance she had as a child and the dance steps she was taught: the pure childhood joy of dancing around. Nostalgic.
Annie is trying to reconnect Alex with herself through these memories; Alex’s reluctance to accept Annie in these songs at first is insistent, playful, and in vain, because Annie seems to have the agency in Alex’s lucid dreams – much to the latter’s frustration. Alex just wants to move on with her life: “I need answers, not feelings.” Thanks, Annie, but no thanks.
In the more “I’m so emotional that I’m going to burst into song” type numbers, the choreography is more connected to Alex’s trauma and recovery: her abuse, flashbacks, insomnia and current coping mechanisms. In these numbers, clearly tap is not the way to go. Human-based, contemporary movement is called for here, with an interesting push and pull between the two characters.
With such a small cast, there are limits to what you can do choreographically
As both the writer and director, Dave Bain brings some sense of what he’d like to see in each number choreographically, and I create the movement for that; for instance, “a push and pull between the characters” or “unification”.
In Dissociated there are two ‘live’ actors – myself and Georgia Imrie – with others being included through pre-recorded footage, both visual and audio. With such a small cast, there are limits to what you can do choreographically, but it also lends itself to an interesting dynamic throughout the numbers and playful partner work.
I’ve always had a particular passion for raising awareness about child sexual abuse and its prevention, and I’ve learnt a lot more about this often taboo topic whilst working on the show. It’s a subject that we seriously need to address much more in society, and Dissociated does this in a playful, truth-based, and touching way. It’s a privilege to be telling Alex’s story.
Dissociated runs from 15 to 26 October 2019 at the Etcetera Theatre, 265 Camden High Street, Above the Oxford Arms, London NW1 7BU, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £13.20. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!