First introduced to the world at Brighton Festival in May 2022, Charlotte Spencer’s Written in the Body is a provocative performance touching upon the memories and experiences of being within the body, exploring this through the lens of touch and movement, This performance comes on a smaller scale than Spencer’s previous outdoor works such as “Walking Stories.” This is a duet between dancers Petra Soor and Louise Tanoto. Through a series of combinations of abrupt, slow and swift movements they create a gripping portrayal of their embodied experience. Spoken words along with movements, and the accompanying music enhance the experience and provoke audience interpretation.
Written In the Body is an intimate and interpersonal journey of Spencer’s relationship to touch, yet it is relatable to us all. It urges us to reconsider our bodies as not just the physical host for our state of being, but rather a site of empowerment, a tool for radical action and a sacred space which we should have complete control over. The performance explores the body in relation to a range of different experiences and emotions, striking and powerful ones being consent and relationships. The dancers portray the ever changing and shifting nature of consent in a manner that encourages audience introspection on the power of touch and how the physicality of our bodies is able to speak for us when we are unable to use words. This thought-provoking concept underpins various choreographic segments. Particularly the one in which the dancers are locked in what seems to be a loving and affectionate embrace at first, but as one dancer squirms away from the other, we see the ideas of shifting responses to touch and the voices of our bodies filtering through.
The piece conveys the joyous memories and experiences of the body through movements. Tender and soft movements are used in a scene which portrays the nerve wracking yet exhilarating feeling of holding a romantic interest’s hand for the first time. The audience feels this endearing moment through the slow, yet impactful words portrayed in movements.
The piece explores a dramatic mix of both harsh and soft light designed by Marty Langthorne to encourage and highlight change in emotions. Long drapes of soft fabric as part of the set design languidly move with the dancers and occasionally intertwine with the choreography, lending a layer of beauty and depth to the visual effect.
Charlotte Spencer’s Written in the Body is a profound experience that encourages us to think about the bodies in which we all inhabit, the impactful stories they tell through movements both subtle and powerful. In her own words Spencer describes the piece as “a space to process your own joy, sense of aliveness and collective healing in an increasingly divided, disembodied world.”
Reviewed by Lian Lakhope.
Lian is a MA Global Media and Communications student at SOAS and a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Lian has written for a number of different publications, mostly about music, culture and film and she is enthusiastic about expressing her passion for creating art and media.
Lian’s latest review Yellowman – Orange Tree Theatre, 5 Sept-8 Oct 22, Review (abundantart.net)
Photo credit: Rosie Powell
Charlotte Spencer’s work is motivated by interests to engage with important social and ecological questions and to find ways to express those enquiries through intimate live encounters with audiences. She often makes work for unusual spaces, inviting people to reencounter their bodies and their environments through action and participation. Making processes are deeply collaborative, involving long immersive residency periods which have included 3000 Km cycle rides and building camps in forests. Charlotte is perhaps best known for her performances through headphones: Is this a Waste Land? (2017), made for vast disused urban spaces; and Walking Stories (2013), a group audio walk for parks. She has made performance work with young people, older adults, community groups as well as professional artists. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally with a wide variety of partners, in lots of different kinds of spaces including Dance Umbrella (2015 & 2017), Brighton International Festival, Sadler’s Wells, Greenwich Dance, Tramway – Dance International Glasgow, Siobhan Davies Dance, South East Dance, Coastal Currents – Hastings, Turner Contemporary – Margate, Jerwood Gallery – Hastings, Salisbury International Festival, Festival DDD – Portugal, Deep Roots Tall Trees – Corby, Festival Plages Des Danse – France, Dance North, The Place, Welcome Collection. Charlotte was recipient of a Bonnie Bird Choreographic Development Award in 2020. She was a Sadler’s Wells Summer University artist 2015-18 and an Artist Activator for Greenwich Dance 2014-17. She trained at London Contemporary Dance School. Charlotte is a mother and has been building a house in Brighton for the past few years with her husband.