Citizen, a contemporary dance piece choreographed by Chrissie Ardill, addresses the dark underpinnings of self and society driven identity. The performance art showcases dance from Katie Armstrong, Kirsty Pollock, Robyn Byrne, and Ailish Maher, as well as composition produced live by Mariam Rezaei.
The show opens with layered humming by the dancers, which eventually culminates into a single shared sentiment: I’m going home. The subsequent 50 minutes follow the dancers’ futile attempts to incorporate themselves into new homes, communities, and greater societies.
Throughout the performance, the dancers prove themselves to be skilled actresses expressing emotions through their bodies and facial expressions. While the individual and full ensemble dance sequences are well performed, the sombre duets stand out as the emotional backbone of Citizen.
The physical contact is partnered with dances that make the audience feel less alone in a play that is otherwise isolating. In another instance, the dancers run back and forth, the searching for “home”, only to give up and freeze in a line facing the audience. The fear and uncertainty portrayed across each dancer’s face is utterly compelling, and it is this moment that sets the tone for the remainder of the performance.
Amidst the dancing, each performer gives an anecdotal soliloquy in the form of a letter home. The parallel structure of each testimonial – “Hi mum, I’m doing great!”- emphasises the struggles that every person experiences when moving away from their childhood home. Putting on a brave face and attempting to rewrite personal experiences in a positive light is something that the entire audience can connect with, which makes Citizen extremely effective.
Once again, each dancer proves herself as at least a double threat; since, while the audience laughs along to stories about obnoxious singing room-mates, striking vocal inflections and facial expressions bring a gravity to their words. Each letter is darker and more disparate than the last. The letters tell the progression of entering society, finding oneself, a home for oneself, one’s place in a community, and finally adapting to greater society.
Powerful political messages are also sprinkled throughout the show, and highlight our ambivalent desensitised reactions to violence on the news. The show also attacks not only the notion of corrupt politicians but, also, our consent to leaders who make dangerous promises to the public.
Although the faux election bid that takes place on stage is humorous at times, it reflects a deep criticism of current politics. This scene is drawn out and overdone, but its message is crystal clear. The dancers perform with both grace and reckless abandon, but credit must also be given to the music. Mariam Rezaei’s composition contains everything from animal sounds to live beatboxing. While unconventional, and downright bizarre at times, Rezaei’s combination of sounds creates a perfect accompaniment to the rest of the performance.
Citizen is not your average dance performance; rather it is a thought-provoking experience from start to finish, forcing us to identify with these recognisable aspects of society that everyone sees.
Photo courtesy of Traverse Theatre