Stripping off the layers of sexual stereotypes

Julia Croft explores the female body in pop culture in If There's Not Dancing At The Revolution, I'm Not Coming.
Julia Croft explores the female body in pop culture in If There's Not Dancing At The Revolution, I'm Not Coming.PHOTO: JOSH GRIGGS

REVIEW / THEATRE

IF THERE'S NOT DANCING AT THE REVOLUTION, I'M NOT COMING (M18)

Julia Croft/ M1 Singapore Fringe Festival/ Esplanade Annexe Studio/Thursday

In If There's Not Dancing At The Revolution, I'm Not Coming, New Zealander Julia Croft performs a striptease and dissects the objectification of the female body in pop culture.

There are light-hearted moments at the start of the 55-minute show as she divests herself of layer after layer of costume, reappearing in outfits suited to the sketch of the moment.

She wears a dressing gown for the scene from the 1997 movie, Titanic, in which Jack sketches Rose nude. She dons a tutu to perform to music from Swan Lake and appears in a prim dress for the scene from Notting Hill (1999), in which Julia Roberts begs Hugh Grant to love her. Props stashed about her person pop out comically, including a cut onion - to induce tears - and a burger and fries, while she gyrates in cut-offs to a song with sexually explicit lyrics.

If There's Not Dancing At The Revolution does not preach. It puts forward what people already know, that Western - mostly American - pop culture is marketed and consumed around the world.

  • BOOK IT / IF THERE'S NOT DANCING AT THE REVOLUTION, I'M NOT COMING (M18) 

  • WHERE: Esplanade Annexe Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive 

    WHEN: Today, 8pm 

    ADMISSION: $27 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg), free seating, tickets selling fast, rated M18 for mature content and nudity

Similarly, the unhealthy way women are depicted in this media - cut up, assaulted, sexualised for heterosexual male pleasure - is taken in and assimilated in the general body of people.

This year's Fringe Festival has programmed works as responses or as art related to Singaporean artist Amanda Heng's 1999 performance, Let's Walk, which looked at beauty standards women are held to.

Discussion of how female bodies are considered is familiar territory for artists and may have become overwhelming for some amid the #metoo movement against sexual exploitation in the workplace.

But if little changes in the world, the theme will continue to repeat itself.

Last year, Singaporean women drew hashtags on their bodies and posed in public places such as along Orchard Road, daring viewers to see beyond stereotypes.

Last year, the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival tried and failed to bring in Canadian artist Thea Fitz-James, who would have delivered a naked lecture on how women's bodies are celebrated and dismissed in art, politics and pornography. Naked Ladies went too far for the authorities here because Fitz-James would have performed a sexual act on herself at one point.

Croft stops at stripping to the skin and outlining her breasts, buttocks and pelvic region with a marker. She dares the audience to focus on only those parts - as often happens in the media and censor board discussions - while her face is obscured by a giant head-dress.

She takes curtain calls naked, confident in her skin and in the audience.

How lovely it would be if one day any woman, clothed, could be similarly confident in a crowd of strangers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2018, with the headline 'Stripping off the layers of sexual stereotypes'. Print Edition | Subscribe