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Virgin Territory Film Installation: Thought Provoking and Clever

By Ruth-Anne Walbank

SCAN Lancaster University Student Union, 16 October 2018

The best events are the ones where the reviews right themselves. This is not usually because they’ve been full of glitz and glamour, or because they impressed their audience with special effects. Instead, it’s because you come away from the event with new ideas about the art you just saw and yourself, that it becomes difficult to sum up your reaction in 500 words. In other words, the best events are the ones that are thought-provoking, not in a pretentious philosophical manner but in a way which makes you see the same things from a slightly different perspective; and Virgin Territory achieved this with phenomenal success. 

This visual film installation by The Vincent Dance Theatre in the Peter Scott Gallery cleverly incorporated dance with cinema, nonfictional accounts and interactive art. It reflected on our hyper-sexualised digital culture, and the impact it’s having on future generations. The design for the main set up for the screening was in the style of a girl’s changing room at a dance school, with props from the film such as dance shoes, pink dresses and wigs placed on the benches to link the physical space with the digital portrayal of events. It was both comically done and scarily insightful, with the sequences beautifully moving between bursts of energy in the dancers fighting for their territory amongst themselves, and softer reflections of emotional sensitivity in solo sequences to create an intimate space. 

I found the set up of the screens themselves to be particularly impressive, in the way it utilised standard choreographic devices across a new medium. The use of mirroring, for example, across the six opposite and adjacent screens created this sense of parallels and reflections. The dancers would collide with one another across the screens into the empty space between them, or juxtapose their movements with one another so that they transgressed their area within their screen as though they were reaching out past their limits. There was a beautiful symbolism in this because just as the dancers mirrored their own movements between opposing screens, the four adult dancers had their own actions reflected by the four younger dancers, each still at school. Emphasis was then placed on the connections between generations, that the younger will mirror the older. There is something powerful in the image of a middle-aged man placing a 13-year-old girls head to one side and her staying there like a doll, as she wears an oversized pink dress that you could then see in front of you in the changing room setup. The emphasis in this piece was on sex education, role models and communication between generations. 

Another excellent aspect of the piece was in the omnipresence of the phone. In every scene, a phone appeared in some manner, and the recurring appearance of a grid format on the screen almost mocked our modern obsession with Instagram. In other sequences, this was mocked further with the use of balloons to comically show how much-exaggerated importance we place on certain aspects of our bodies. In the age of the social media selfie, how can you tell what is real and what is fake?

The set up of this installation alone was thought-provoking, with your eyes settling on one place only to second guess yourself and realise that the whole piece could be watched again from a different angle or perspective. It reminded me of older dance pieces such as De Keersmaeker’s Rosas Danst Rosas only now, in this time, it is the mundane that we sexualise and to a ridiculously extreme degree.