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(Big Girls Do Big Things)

No more expectations...

A half lit black stage with a messy look created by the objects on it is what the audience see when they enter the Brigittines’ studio where Eleanor Bauer’s preview performance (Big Girls Do Big Things) was performed as part of the third edition of the Working Title Festival in Brussels.
Black curtains hang on the three sides of the space, longer then they should be creating piles of fabric on the floor, a lousy ladder in the left corner seems forgotten by the technicians…  In contrast with the blackness and messiness of the stage there is a white bear carpet carefully placed on the floor. The set and the music - recognized after a while - give an impression of something already started somewhere we cannot see. As is written in the programme, the music is Sibelius’ Second Symphony. What does his heroic symphony have to do with the things on the stage?
The setting arouses curiosity and expectations for some action, which are left unsatisfied with Eleanor Bauer’s surprisingly simple entrance focused on her way to the white carpet. Wearing a black bathing suit with a short black chemise which puts on display her big body she seems to be coming out of an intimate environment. While sliding carefully into the carpet, now turned into a bear costume, we realize that it is too big for her. She zips it up and starts to move in this unfitting costume. It is not clear anymore, while she crawls in this costume creating ambiguous figures, whether this is only a creature of shapeless movements under the skin. When her movements bring back the image of a bear she clumsily goes across the stage where under the pile of curtains she finds a pair of cymbals and starts to play with them. The cymbals, which probably are the least expected things to come out of the curtains, are now her toys with which she plays in many different ways, neglecting our expectations that they will be hit together.  
This enlarged white bear with the cymbals in her hands stands up and starts to dance. Becoming a floppy, clumsy dancing bear is just one of many transformations Eleanor will try out throughout her performance. She wears different images and characters in which it seems she will never perfectly fit. The dancing bear now with movements of a rap singer comes downstage, crawls down on her knees, picks up a microphone from the floor, unzips her bear’s face and starts a rap song.  We see her with hair sticking to her wet face, blushing and breathing heavily singing her song with the tempting look at us.
“I do what I want, I do it when I want, it’s better I don’t do it to you.” This seems to be her last sentence before swinging her microphone in her hand while looking to the audience. We wonder if she is going to hit someone with this. Of course not - she just arouses our tension and leaves it there… she throws the microphone on to the floor and slowly with her rapper movements goes to the back. While slowly undressing her costume she experiments different things with it. She goes back and forth as if on the catwalk and little by little changes from a rap singer to a glamorous lady.  This transformation is an attempt for applying an image of a more elegant woman. The bear costume shifts from one garment to the other: it turns into a fur reminiscent of glamorous movie stars, becomes a long skirt and a mini evening dress with a furry top. When she stops upstage she gets a pair of white high heel shoes that were hidden in the curtain. What else is hidden in those curtains? Wearing the shoes in an unstable manner exposes more of her big muscular body, incongruous with any of those appearances. She constantly brings our attention to her visual look and the tension between reality and the image she is trying to create. The frames of the picture are too narrow for her constant desire to find a place to fit in.
Suddenly with a very low voice she starts to sing the song of Patsy Cline “Crazy”. The tone is too low, although she seems to have it in control... Moving towards the ladder she repeats the song. But this time the tone is higher. She continues to repeat the song and with each repetition she climbs the tone and the ladder at the same time. In the higher tones she enters a more unstable place where everything looks very close to getting out of control. She takes the last step of the ladder and this is as much as her voice can take for singing the song, now she is almost screaming, before the moment of the highest pitch she needs to breathe and prepare her voice. Finally she finishes the song and sits on the ladder.  No more singing. She crosses over her sweaty legs glamorously which only make visible the impossibility of her glamour, looks around and says “it is lonely at the top”.
Here she is, sitting on a lousy ladder, screaming a minute before, wearing a dress made out of the bear costume looking at us with blush in her face and her legs shining with sweat talking about how difficult is to sustain the position in the top. Again in this picture words and image created with the performer’s body on stage resist for any synchronization with each other.
She starts a monologue developed on the performance Constant State of Desire of American controversial artist Karen Finley with an increased touch of southern American accent. She lists all the things that she has done – some of them already familiar from Finley’s monologue – which in the end didn’t change anything because “…nothing happened”. Is this revealing any association with the young artist in the field with their constant desire of being seen? The constant state of doing things which at the end make no changes at all…  Referring Obama in her monologue reminds us of his campaign: “Change”.  And nothing happened.  
She finishes the monologue, slides her costume from back of the ladder, throws her shoes in the curtain and stands up as if she is going to dive into the stage. May be this is the moment when something really is going to happen or maybe it already happened in between of all our expectations for big changes.
There aren’t any attempts to incorporate glamour anymore in her movements when she is going down from the back of the ladder. The way from the top down is always from the back door and bears no grandiose at all.
Sibelius’ Second Symphony starts again. We must be close to the end. Bauer is dancing, in the image of a dancer which fits her most. Her movements resemble the memory pictures from ballet to modern dance; from Swan Lake to Martha Graham’s Lamentation. She laments for the dance destined to disappear in the passing of time as she disappears in the curtains.
(Big Girls Do Big Things) opens the door to enter the possible world where Eleanor Bauer envisions herself as a performer.  She seems to stay in the delicate margin where nothing really fits in perfectly. Though it’s questionable whether she really wants to fit into one image or another it is a constant search for creating a new place in different frames. She not only resists the expectations of the audience but also of what may be expected from her.

Ayrin Ersöz
 

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