Dead Steps (1988)

Cast : Scott Ambler, Kaye Brown, Sarah Barron, Lindsey Butcher, Chantel Donaldson, Madeleine Ridgeway, David Waring

Musicians : Elizabeth Davis (percussion), Nicolas Ormrod (percussion), Mary Plumb (clarinet, saxophone), Stephanie Nunn (accordian, vocals), Clive Scrivener (percussion)

Costume and Lighting : Christina Ure

Commissioned for Extemporary Dance Theatre, Dead Steps (Die Totenschritte) was made specifically for the front apron of any stage. Using texts from Frank Wedekind, Gustav Hochstetter, Kurt Eisner and set to music, this work is a bleak, bizarre bridal dance that displays seven androgenous brides dressed in slate grey satin, who become a nightmare anarchic anti chorus line, stripping themselves physically and emotionally bare. The costume contributes to this idea as it is gradually ripped and shredded during the performance.

Premiere28th May 1988 Harlequin Theatre Redhil

‘Finally Pina Bausch meets Kate Westbrook in a fast and furious line of rythmic jerky unison; so many torturted souls compelled to conform’

Julia Pascal City Limits

‘Your response to the bitter, bizarre bridal dance ‘Dead Steps’ will depend on your tolerance for deliberately ugly cabaret pastiche with an S&M undercurrent. Alienation and humilation are Aggiss’ watchwords. Clad in metallic floor length gowns with kohl eyes, white faces and mouths like red scars, the dancers perform either in unison distortions or anti-erotic displays of the flesh. It’s a sometimes fascinating, ultimately dissatisfying work, and not nearly as powerful as Aggiss’s’ sole ‘ Grotesque Dancer’

Allen Roberston Time Out

References for Dead Steps
Aggiss, L. Cowie, B. Bramley, I (2006) ‘Anarchic Dance’ Routledge
Dougal, D (6 Nov 1988) Mixed Media as a mish mash The Sunday Times
Macaulay, A (3 Nov 1988) Extemporary Dance Theatre: Dance Umbrella. Financial Times
Mackrell, J. (5 Nov 1988) Defying gravity with Grace The Independent
Meisner, N (Winter 1988) Dance and Dancers
Parry, J (6 Nov 1988) Flying High Observer
Pascal, J. 17-24 Nov 1988 City Limits
Percival, J (5 Nov 1988) Its better to feel pain than the shame The Times
Robertson, A. (16-23 Nov 1988) Time Out No 952
Sorley Walker, K. (3 Nov 1988) For the high jump The Daily Telegraph

Extracts available of the live performance on DVD in the book ‘Anarchic Dance’ by Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie with Ian Bramley (Routledge).