La Femme aux Deux Sourires

Performer: Samantha Mitchell
Choreography: Elise May (in collaboration with Samantha Mitchell)

Costume: Libby McDonnell

Inspired by the french term or phrase “La Femme aux Deux Sourires”, meaning: “The Woman with Two Smiles”, this short solo is a choreographic enquiry into the the dichotomy that is the female psyche and the many extremes that affect our thought, behaviour and personalities as women. The female is so full of contradiction – she can be demure or verbose, alluring yet awkward, reserved but impulsive, pleasing yet profane, or angelic but wild…

This solo forms part of an ongoing investigation by the choreographer into the audience/ performer relationship. The idea of the audience as observer, witness or even voyeur (another french word), gives invitation for the audience to become eyewitness to the private world of the solo performer.

La Femme aux Deux Sourires is a playful and slightly mischievous essay on the complex world of womanhood.

In this solo work I was interested in the female form and its relationship with an audience. Is it a pleasure or a curse to be female? Are we elegant and sophisticated or impulsive and wild? These are the ideas at the basis of my investigation. I am interested in the idea of the audience as observer or voyeur, in the sense that the performance space is a very private world for the performer, and that through fascination, excitement or even discomfort, the audience may be drawn into that world. I was given the wonderful opportunity to choreograph a solo work for Samantha Mitchell. I was excited to collaborate with Samantha, who is such an interesting and talented dancer and artist. Samantha brought a lot of herself to the process and I feel that together we have found new ways to embody these concepts. In the past most of my choreographic solo work has been self-devised, so it was great to “step out” of the choreography and bring a new sense of collaboration and possibility to the work.

When Samantha and I began work in the studio, we started playing with some movement tasks relating to my themes and ideas for the piece. We also spoke about the conceptual framework of the piece. I think its really important for the choreographer to be very clear and articulate about what they are trying to achieve. That way the dancer is able to bring their own experiences and ideas into the creative process. I am interested in collaboration as a process driving the creation of content because I believe that it expands the possibilities of the choreographic language (or movement vocabulary) and also expands the stylistic and thematic possibilities.  

Once we created a body of movement material, I began to shape the piece by making a spacial arrangement of the movement. I was looking for a modular spacial pattern, in both staging of the choreography and also in the way the lighting would help to define specific areas of the space. I also spoke with the costume designer Libby McDonnald about the possibility using a red dress to suggest a sense of feminine mystery & glamour. She showed me an excerpt of a book called “The Red Dress” by Valerie Steele about the power of red in our culture and in the history of fashion. All of the ideas and conversations with the designers and the performer have helped to shape the outcome of the piece. In the movement, the design and in the presentation I have been very careful to consider my objective or intention with the piece – to show the duality and contrasting nature of the feminine form. I wanted every movement and element to connect or relate back to that main idea so that I was making a very clear, concise statement from beginning to end.

The Woman With Two Smiles was created for EDC Expressions Dance Company:

View further examples of choregraphic work by Elise May here