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Virgin Territory: an uncompromising look at social media and sexualisation

By Maya Pindar

The Insanity in Dancing, 10 November 2016

Vincent Dance Theatre’s Virgin Territory: an uncompromising look at social media and sexualisation.

Our cool detachment from the “real world” and fixation with the online world is Vincent Dance Theatre’s guiding theme through issues of hyper sexualisation and adolescence.

Pink stiletto heels and large round balloons remind us of the voluptuous curves and overt sexualisation we see on our phones and televisions everyday. The dancers parade across an enormous rectangle of plastic grass. We laugh at a young boy who’s stuffed his shirt with balloons. He tenses his bulbous muscles and grunts, posing like a bodybuilder. Somehow he crosses the border between childlike playfulness and genuine adult obsession.

Artistic Director Charlotte Vincent casts young dancers on the cusp of pubescence, teetering on the knife-edge between childhood and adolescence. With adults and children dancing as equals, it’s assumed that Virgin Territory should feel askew.

But instead the pairings are incredibly exciting to watch. Vincent’s coupling of adult bodies and young bodies is extraordinary. The four children crash and slam their counterparts with uncompromising commitment.

With the dancers constant snapping of selfies and video recording, voyeurism is key in Virgin Territory. Vincent blurs the lines between innocence and perversion. While a young dancer poses in front of her smartphone, dancer Janusz Orlik whispers into a microphone. He watches her, he Likes her, he Follows her, he doesn’t want her to be afraid. The audience quietens as his observations continue to grow ever more sinister.

In between truly horrifying recounts of rape, and insights into the computer generated Sweetie, a supposedly 10-year-old Filipina girl, there are moments of charming lightheartedness. Virgin Territory dives into an amusing morris dancing scene. The troupe jig to Cecil Sharp’s Country Garden, waving knickers and bras beneath lines of bunting. And then, swinging back to the more chilling content, dancer Robert Clark explores the online “Sweetie” sting, which caught 1000 male predators trying to pay the avatar to perform sexual acts. Wearing an unsettling latex mask, Clark paces in circles, spreading his arms and reaching slowly. The sense of shame is thick enough to slice.

We all crave the (albeit empty) connection we find online. But with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, it is far easier for innocence to be met with deviance. There is lot to discuss within Virgin Territory, but what resonates the most is the importance of talking openly about these matters with our children and young people. It is only with frank, open discussion that we can tackle such irrefutably important issues.