Breaking theMouldAfter being informed of the Local Authority’s interest inexhibiting works that ‘break the mould’, I have performed research to findpractitioners that fit this category.
Breaking the mould is a subjective concept,but it does have the ability to be defined as ‘putting an end to a restrictivepattern of events or behaviour by doing things in a markedly different way’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2018). Using this Oxford Dictionaries definitionas a guide, I have found two practitioners who exceptionally break the mould intheir works are choreographer Matthew Bourne and playwright Sarah Kane, with bothpractitioners breaking the mould in distinctly different styles.Matthew Bourne is a British choreographer that is known forrecontextualising pre-existing works in order to have them better suit the modern-dayaudience. He has studied dance with various dance companies and in 1982 heenrolled in the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance, eventually being awarded aBA in Dance Theatre in 1986. Bourne takes on a post-modern approach todance, where he uses recontextualisation, eclecticism and intertextuality tochallenge what people believe dance to be, which therefore allows him to breakthe mould.Swan Lake, one of Bourne’s most easily recognisable works,offers a new perspective on masculinity that easily breaks the mould in termsof what dance means. Rather than continue with the classical imagery ofslim young women who use graceful movements (as seen in Tchaikovsky’s originalballet) Bourne gender-flips the swans; they become powerful men who are what havebeen described as ‘the pinnacle of masculinity’ (New Adventures, 2017).
Bourne’s re-invention of classic ballet through post-modern interpretations,such as swapping the gender of the swans of course presents itself as achallenge to the audience. This challenge to the audience is furthered by thehomo-erotic pas de deux performed by the Swan and the Prince, in which neithercharacter is forced into a stereotypical feminine and masculine role that wouldbe expected from a traditional pas de deux; Bourne makes both men equallypowerful and reliant on each other. The character of Lead Swan remains atraditional symbol for strength and grace and is not devalued through dancingwith another male – Bourne’s carefully choreographed imagery causes theaudience to forego any beliefs they might have held about two men dancing andthe gender-flipping of a previously female, fragile character; instead hefocuses on the strength and power a swan holds and uses that to his advantage. Bourne breaks the mould by changing the audience’s expectationswhen watching ballet; he does this through recontextualising beloved works suchas Swan Lake, and uses his own experience as a gay man with a passion for dramaand dance to pave over the audience’s perceptions and turn negativeconnotations into positive ones, like the idea that a homosexual relationshipdoes not emasculate one member of the relationship whilst simultaneously givingthe other member complete dominance.
Along with this change in belief regarding traditionalballet, the mixing of different dance styles, for example when the Princeenters the club and partakes in modern Morris dance, also help Bourne to breakthe mould. His unique and first-hand understanding of this issue is whatsets him apart from other renowned choreographers; his own experience withmasculinity and sexuality is what allows him to break the mould within his ownwork so clearly. Bourne even has stated previously that ‘presentingthe right role models to young people is so important’, which Bourne certainlydoes through his unconventional, mould-breaking portrayal of gay men and malerelationships that are certainly shown ‘in a markedly different way’ (Oxford Dictionaries, 2017).
Swan Lake is not the only work by Bourne that challenges theaudience’s conceptions regarding masculinity and sexuality; Dorian Gray isanother prolific piece of dance that breaks the mould by challenging views andpeople’s misconceptions, though it is much more detailed in its doing of this.The Picture of Dorian Gray, written in the Victorian Era by Oscar Wilde hasface mass scrutiny in the past for its powerful allusions to homosexualrelationships that the titular character may have had with other men in thenovel.Since the book was used as key evidence against Oscar Wilde when he was ontrial for homosexuality, it has been debunked as having any kind of display ofhomo-erotic content by historians and old accounts by friends of Oscar Wilde.Bourne, however, recontextualised the story and the history surrounding it tobring it to the modern age. Dorian and Basil are the focus of thenarrative within the dance; they show a clear romantic connection that againmight challenge an audience’s perception of masculinity. Dorian’scharacterisation is key to this; the beginning of the performance, Dorian meetsBasil for the first time and dances a highly sexualised pas de deux with him,the unsure and timid dynamics make it certain to the audience that he is notused to attention. Both men are equally built and begin with the samepower dynamic, Jason Piper (who played Basil in the original cast) called thedynamic between the two men ‘pure power… there’s a new level of intimacy.
Wehad to learn each other’s bodies.’ (Weigand, 2009).It is clear in Basil and Dorian’s meeting that theexperience they are having whilst dancing together is fresh and new; Dorianremains embarrassed and almost shy of the new experience throughout the wholeof the dance. Bourne treats the romance between the two men realistically;Basil is interested and reserved whereas Dorian is shy and almost passive sincehe is unaware as to what he should be doing. They move together as oneunit, caressing each other’s face as a sign of aesthetic attraction.The intimate moment between the two men does not represent one as less or moremasculine; the two depend on each other through weight transferals and heavyeye contact that is sustained as they cross into each other’s intimate space.
Bourneallows both men to be each other’s support rather than using one of the men asa support for the other like you would find in more traditional pas de deuxpieces performed by a male dancer and female dancer. The fact Bourne canillustrate, through his choreography, the complex relationship men share impliesthat he is more than capable of breaking the mould; Bourne is able to tell aconvincing love story through gentle, soft, clear interactions whilst stillshowcasing the raw power and strength both men dancing the parts have.Matthew Bourne’s works will challenge the audience’sperception of masculinity, the definition of dance and sexuality if heshowcased in the exhibit. His works show a clear breaking of the mould by hisdirect, open approach to blurring low art and high art, as seen in both DorianGrey and Swan Lake specifically.The other practitioner I believe perfectly showcases beingable to ‘break the mould’ is Sarah Kane, a late playwright who used manypost-modern techniques to impact the audience. Raised by EvangelicalChristian parents, Kane was a devout follower of her religion until hermid-teens, when she first began to question her sexuality.Naturally, this caused a lot of pressure on Kane, both as a follower of herreligion and as a homosexual.
Ultimately, however, Kane rejected herbeliefs and instead moved to Bristol, where she studied Drama and consequentlywas awarded an MA in Playwriting when she went on to do further studying at theUniversity of Birmingham. Despite her academic success, Kane suffered withsevere depression for most of her life until, at the age of 28, she committedsuicide. Whilst her sexuality plays a role in her breaking the mould, itis also clear that the religious oppression she lived under also had quite a lotto do with her works and how she tackled certain issues within her plays.
Kane’s first professionally recognised play, Blasted, brokethe mould and started a type of performance known as ‘in-yer-face’; it did initiallyreceive scathing reviews by critics, but is now renowned for ‘revealing thetrue human condition’ (Seirz, 2017). This, along with the gruesomely darkthemes portrayed in the play, allows Kane to break the mould; she intended touse shock as a tool to change the way an audience viewed theatre that wasavailable to the public eye. There are elements of Artaud’s theatre ofcruelty in Kane’s work, she shocks the audience through her work by puttingfocus on rape, torture, cannibalism and gore; which led to a lot of backlash atthe start of her career. Kane’s unyielding approach towards taboo subjectmatters is one of the ways she has been able to break the mould and changepeople’s views. The character of Ian in Blasted is thepersonification of humanity’s selfishness and desperation, whereas Cate becomesthe juxtaposition to this. They sustain one another through times that aregruelling; both sacrificing something to survive. The audience would perhapslearn about how people connect the sacrifices that are available for thoseconnections to occur. The everyday circumstance is changed in the play bywar.
An unspecified, spontaneous war that previously was ignored by both characters.The characterisation of Ian and Cate breaks the mould by forcing sympathy onwhat the audience would have previously thought so have been stereotypicalcharacters using dangerous times. The simulated sexual assault of both a manand a woman on the stage directly tackles the social idea that audience mayhave that men are the abusers whilst women are the abused.Kane tells the audience that this line of thinking it incorrect in the mostblatant of ways, which certainly does break the mould in both of terms of whatis acceptable to be put on view for the public and in the sense of what makessomebody a sympathetic, realistic character.4.48 Psychosis’ writing style is also extremely uniqueand breaks the mould in terms of what the public would be expecting.
She mixes in nonsensical repetition, ‘flash, flicker, burn, slash, flicker,burn, flash’ (Kane, 1999 p. 36) with verses from the bible ‘Thoushall not kill’ (Kane, 1999 p.15), and the random placement of numberswith no words attached to them. This strange mixture is a post-modernapproach to confronting mental illness and religion, both themes being issuesthat Kane has dealt with on a personal level.
She breaks the mould by,instead of focusing on just one type of mental illness or just one part ofreligion, creating an open-ended script with room to be interpreted in anywaythe audience, actors and director can. She has no set rules in her universe; itsnon-naturalistic style causes it to take on its own existence that is unique tothe individual. Even though her work demands attention and usesshock value, Kane’s mould-breaking writing style for 4.48 psychosis leavesthe interpretations that the audience leaves with their own thoughts andvalues, not just Kane’s values explicitly. Kane has stated before that ‘there’s no help out there… forthe ones who don’t understand’ (De Vos,2011). 4.48Psychosis can be read as a guide to understanding; even though there nostructure to the play and it indeed does not openly give advice, it does allowinsight into how a person with a mental illness may view the world.
She gives an oppressed voice total control, which breaks the mould in that theaudience is given an inside view. Kane merges the world within 4.48Psychosis with the world that the audience is familiar with; using strangenon-naturalistic monologues that seem to rant about ‘gassing the Jews’ (Kane, 1999 p. 42). Thisunsettling use of the post-modern technique of intertextuality merges our worldwith the fictional, harrowing world that the script creates; Kane forces theaudience to accept the vile imagery created by the text as part of daily life,as part of reality. Her straight-forward use of this technique breaksthe mould because it causes the audience to embrace unpleasant imagery, whichis something the usual audience member would not expect to do.
Kane is an ideal practitioner to consider for theexploration of works that break the mould. She demands that theaudience think about her work; the sheer openness of her works only furthershow much her writing style and her tackling of societies issues break the mouldcompares to other writer’s issues. Whilst Brecht uses distancing techniques tomake his audience think about issues within society, Kane uses the audience aspart of the story, enabling her work to be interpreted in any way. Both practitioners have broken the mould in their chosenfields and have clearly bought light of issues not usually bought to light inthe world of theatre and dance, especially in terms of classic entertainment.Kane’s powerful and dark theatre will help the audience explore their socialbeliefs and their judgements on mental health. Bourne’s works have thepower to help change the general audience’s expectations of what dance is andhow men in dance numbers are portrayed.
They both offer unique concepts and usedifferent techniques to break the mould; which would make both practitionersperfect candidates for the local authority’s exhibition of works that ‘breakthe mould’.