On feminism, with “Two contemporary women”

by Roxana Gramada


Two boyishly dressed girls circle the stage on bikes in a fury. Occasionally, one of them yells misogynistic street talk into the mike, the type that sent chills down my spine in high school. Ioana Marchidan’s immersion into contemporary feminism is arresting.


As they leave their bikes, I see the girls’ shoe laces are tied. It restricts their movement - even the childish rope jumping - to the lace radius and turns Ioana and her partner Flavia Giurgiu into automated puppets. The duo then morphs into a sexist Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Alice in Wonderland twins, whose cues are off limits body part touching and mutually imposed silence.


Full disclosure: I am a feminist. And much like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I think we should all be. The question is how. What Marchidan’s show does so well is review a list of rather tedious alternatives. Which perhaps is a heathy attempt to clear the space for smarter options.


But first, what is feminism a reaction to? In Marchidan’s show, hands come out through boxer flies to wave hello, shake other hands, mirror the owner’s vanity, clasp in Skanderberg or tighten in a show of machismo power. An ingenious impersonation of a dick driven world and, for this feminist, really funny. A battle ensues soon enough, as rage surfaces to crazy clubbing beats and strobe lights, the two bodies entangled in wrestling, scissoring, rolling into a beastly clash of the sexes. Only one is left standing, and the corpse is carried out.


And what does the world think of feminist women? We find out soon enough, in a traditionalist recital of feminism critique that rounds all the usual suspects: frigid, angry she’s not married, ugly, moustachioed, perhaps lesbian, and generally a pain in the behind. The two aproned chefs violently throwing dough in their respective basins go through all the media mantras on the subject, only to reach purpose and meaning in the end. It is a woman’s place to be of help to her man, suavely ennobled by knowledge, as in knowledge of where he left his keys, or when to change his shirt. Perhaps not coincidentally, the duo moves into empty eyed puppet like dancing.


In a debate of the deaf, ultra traditionalist orthodox sound bites alternate with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, positing hauntingly different realities, as Marchidan and Giurgiu line up man shirts on ballon attached hangars, a reference to recent Romanian governmental machismo. Chimamanda’s conclusion - “we must raise our daughters differently, and our sons” - is repeated ad nauseam, in a mixture of hope and desperation. In the meantime, women dancers put on manly shirts, hangars included, and break into dance. In a customary form of estrangement, women play with manly instruments.


The show’s last scene is flat out gripping, as two motor heads in spandex and heels proceed to the stage into a sexy android dance that ends in convulsion, not before peaking with Marchidan’s escape into the audience, blindly reaching for connection. As it all comes to resolution, two Alien heads permeate the audience space, breathing hectically into the darkness for seconds on end. When visors are raised, they reveal the sweat drenched bodies of two real women.


After the show, the audience is still under the influence. Oana Mureșan, a gymnast turned contemporary dancer from Cluj Napoca is all smiles and enthusiastic. “The show resonated with me entirely, the girls drove a few very good points home. It was very true. I loved the music, it took me in, the sets, which changed continuously, boosted my curiosity, the girls’ personalities, so different but so alike… I really liked Ioana Marchidan’s exit into the audience, it was very powerful. I would have loved it to last longer, to feel it longer.”


“To be really honest, it’s not my kind of show, but I enjoyed the girls’ performance. It brought some kind of discomfort, with all these stories,” says Raluca, newly turned 22, for whom the performance was a birthday gift from her boyfriend Anton. They came here on discovery mode, to get a taste of Bucharest contemporary dance. “I was a bit shocked, the screams were disturbing,” he says but then quickly adds it was “for a good purpose.” “The issue is very sensitive,” concludes for both the birthday girl.


To Marchidan, feminism should be simple. “We should see equality as normality, we’re just people. We complicate things, come from cliches. Men can be feminist. People are scared of this word, maybe of the radicalism around it. That’s why I wanted to bring humour to it.”


*Text written with the occasion of the Contemporary dance season CNDB - Bucharest in movement, 2017.


The Contemporary dance season CNDB - Bucharest in movement, 2017 cultural project is supported within the cultural program Bucharest participatory city, by the Bucharest Mayor's Office through the Bucharest Cultural Centre ARCUB.