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Gravity Fatigue:Review

November 5, 2015

Many fashion designers have been involved in the arts and quite a few have costumed for dance – Chanel famously did the Ballet Russe in the 1920s. But Gravity Fatigue is the other way around – fashion designer Hussein Chalayan had some clothes in mind, and choreographer Damien Jalet along with the dancers themselves designed some dance sequences around them.

Gravity Fatigue:Review

The result is more like an innovative fashion show or perhaps a cabaret night than a cohesive dance experience. In Gravity Fatigue, thirteen cast members perform eighteen separate scenarios, crammed into seventy-five minutes and accompanied by a thumpingly loud soundtrack. The results are sometimes striking, sometimes impressive, sometimes funny, and quite often WTF.


The clothes themselves in Gravity Fatigue are like a parade of Hussein Chalayan’s Greatest Hits. We have a couple of burkas, we have clothes that transform into different clothes, we have the airplane dress, the covered heads, the independently animated outfits, and even some mundane sportswear.


The performance opens with two performers trapped together in a huge white stretchy bag over which a projection intermittently flashes. The outline boils and lunges with the ghostly dancers within. Have you ever watched baby spiders in an egg sac hatching? This looks a bit like that, but with added projections and shrieking music.

Cut from this unsettling vision to two joggers, stripping off their sportswear and texting each other before bed.

Some amazing nightmare

Then the Gravity Fatigue dance sequence goes straight  into a further nightmare (and, I think, the set piece of the evening; possibly the clothes that Chalayan had in mind when he decided he needed dancers to animate his clothing rather than models). One performer wears an outfit in scarlet or white. A huge, stretchy extension to the garment houses a second performer, who is helplessly attached to the first. They struggle together; sometimes the outfit wearer is in control, pulling the other towards them, and sometimes the other, twisting to get away and dragging the first dancer with them.


It seemed to me like a fly caught in a spider’s web, if spider’s webs were an extension of their own body; my companion described it as the struggles a couple face: the push/pull of a relationship. Yet another person thought it seemed like the grotesque contortions of muscle and sinew inside the human body.


After that there were the whirling dervishes, which can only be described as “pretty dolls turn their jackets inside out to become sequinned dervishes who cannot stop spinning.” Yeah.

Gravity Fatigue – Energetic Wardrobe Malfunctions

And the rest. There was a ball pool where burka-ed performers dived in happily alongside their western-clad friends. There was a scene where a voiceover ironically described the catwalk outfits of a group of “models” in nothing but high heels and sheets over their heads. (Chalayan’s I’m sick of my job moment?) The tribute to Edward Muybridge as multiple dancers made a human stop-motion animation, clad in black with trailing ribbons meant, I think, to represent the video cassette which was being wound back and forth, together with appropriate “noise of a cassette tape rewinding” sound track. And the performers suffering quite extreme wardrobe malfunctions as their clothes operated independently from themselves, which really seemed to vex them.

Nor in Gravity Fatigue was the stage itself predictable. By turns solid, bouncy and wet, it provided its own dimension to the show.


The performers themselves were brilliant, throwing (sometimes literally) their all into the show, which the program notes tell us they have been working on for a year and a half, contributing many of their own ideas. By the end of the spinning, jumping, dancing and stomping they seemed exhausted, suffering indeed from the Gravity Fatigue of the title.


Though it’s just on for a few days in London, Gravity Fatigue will be touring, and I really recommend that you try and catch a performance if you can.

Gravity Fatigue was at Sadlers Wells from Oct 28th – Oct 31st 2015.


Gravity Fatigue, image courtesy Sadler’s Wells.

Gravity Fatigue Review Fashion in spired dance sequences