There’s a wee girl across the row from me on my plane, red hair, green dummy, blue eyes, fierce smile, purple boots and flowery tights, yellow smock and the kind of cheeks that bloom pink when she giggles ... she’s playing peek a boo with me, throwing her head back, hiding her eyes, giggling, arching her whole body, kicking her feet, I laugh and hide and she laughs and hides and wriggles and wiggles and moves and laughs some more.
Her mum is sat to her right and her father in front - her parents don’t notice our play but as ever I wonder what would happen if they did.
As I leave the airport I walk through two folding glass doors- this threshold space between here and there - to collect my baggage - a sign on the doors depicts two yellow figures, one smaller than the other, holding hands, a line crosses through them that suggests don’t hold hands, wait in line, do not go through together.
Here we are together, again, for the first time with this project outside of the UK. Here we are together again, with some new men and new girls. Swedish girls. Girls from Malmo, Skane. Girls we’ve met through Skanes Dance Theatre.
Here we are together again in a dance house, this one beside the water. Not far from the Turning Torso. Down by the docks, what once was a hinterland, as you wander, bike or bus around the paths you can see a lighthouse, the Oresund Bridge – a link across the water carrying people from Copenhagen to Malmo, Denmark to Sweden, Sweden to Denmark.
A boardwalk and beautifully kept parks with giant silver slides and a huge yellow florescent sphere to play in, hovering in the air. In the street a man and two young boys kicking about a bright, glowing orange ball and more people going gently about their days. The weekend we were in Malmo families went out and lit little glowing lights, for their loved ones no longer here.
Just around the coast, jutting out in the water are the Ribersborgs open-air baths. Where men and women of all ages go to sauna and to bathe throughout the year. Where you enter separately - depending on how you identify - and once you’ve moved through the changing rooms, taken some time to sit among others - feeling your body open up, relax, expand, looking out along the horizon, watching ships and tankers going by - you can dash or saunter outside, step down and dip your whole body into deep salty water. Swim out to a wooden pad, a little way away, to meet folks you know or don’t and talk together floating in this space between in the sea.
And we are here again to talk. As people come to see this show. This show we’ve made again with these girls and these men, in this place. This process that every time tells us a little bit more about how things can and could be.
People came to The Talking Place - our cosy corner before you went inside the theater - and sat together or alone in chairs or on bean-bags reading the Malmo Edition of the Men & Girls Dance newspaper. People came from near and far, because they saw it online or in the paper or heard about it from their friend or neighbor. They came with questions about what they might expect, what did we expect, how had it been before, what was different working here and there and there, in another context, how are things effected by that, by language, people, words.
Why Men and Girls?
I don’t live here, but I’ve come,
across the bridge
It means a lot to me, it’s important
One of things that’s different here - that we love - are the rights of the child. Sweden is a place where children count, their voices, their visibility in society. In the way time is given to their growth, to being nurtured, to play. From politicians in decision-making, to maternity and paternity leave, to what is taught at school and how. Children’s rights are foregrounded and because of these beliefs it seems to be that these girls have such a strong sense of their agency, their entitlement and themselves, their power to ask questions of the world, of others, of us and to make choices.
The simplicity, the precision, the honesty, their energy and the complexity…
…I’ve never seen anything like it
it’s one of the best things I’ve ever seen
Everyone should see this, everyone needs to see this, it’s just the most beautiful, wonderful thing
It’s human, it’s hopeful
In our conversations before and after each show we heard people talk about how we learn together, how learning goes both ways, about truth and reciprocity. We heard about extreme discipline, abuse, neglect and when trust is broken, what it takes and how to heal. The shadows of past events, that place doubt in people’s minds, effecting how we look, what we see, where and how we choose to live.
And stories of people from different places, fascinated by men pushing buggies with their children on the streets. People talked about teachers whose approach to instruction unsettled and sunk their passion for dance and then how they found that joy again, later in their life. And from women who were once girls, whose fathers brought them up alone. For whom men and girls together is all they’d ever known and how very important to them seeing that relationship - more than seldom- is.
We never see these bodies, these differences, in heights and size - it’s so beautiful to see them alongside each other
I want to be small again
I was cynical, uncertain, but it’s just joyful
For me that IS normal.
I laughed and I cried
They’re not doing anything - other than being together
From women and men who have danced and been physical since they were small and about what people saw in the act of finding words for things, what’s possible when we don’t quite know but, somehow, we still see and feel. We heard from proud grandfathers close to tears, filled with joy and so much surprise.
For me it was gymnastics, now I dance flamenco, five times a week,
I’ll keep dancing until I lay down
Thank you so, so much I am /was a dancer -
You awoke my inner child
I like that they didn’t know the words but they know, somehow we know
We heard about oceans of feelings, about big monsters and little monsters, and wonderings about what gets hidden underneath, when people cant connect with one another, with bodies turning, twisting, torsos, arms and legs and spines, with hands and faces and feelings, smiles, with nose and sweat and hair.
We heard about this dance, here with these men and girls and what it meant to the people who came to be with it and them and us, in this space, this place together sharing what’s between. And we listened, to what their wishes are.
So much love
Just so much joy,
I felt so much joy
This might have changed my life in some way. Thanks
I think it was so amazing and important and shone a light on something important about male identity that needs to talked about and seen…and it makes me want to go out into the world and shout to others – you’ve got it the wrong way round.
You have to learn to be yourself…
…to love yourself and let that be, out in the world
Thank you for being here
With the world as it is right now,
I just hope that she can still do and be all these things
that are her dreams.
All quotes from visitors to The Talking Place, Skanes Dansteater, Malmo, Skane, Sweden 1-4 November 2018.