J’ai un Bleu by WomanEwer

We originally reviewed WomanEwer’s work back in 2021 where it was performed in a sharing format at Academy Mews Dance Studios in London. The work emerged out of WomanEwer’s founder Laura Kenyon’s year-long residency with dancers Sara Maurizi and Vivian Luk, and visual artist Melanie Kenyon.

Three years on the work has continued to grow, with a larger creative cast including original dancers plus Anliya Abdou Issa, Virginia Poli and Hannah Thomas. The work which now has a new title J’ai un Bleu, very much continues in the same swing of the sharing we saw a few years ago. Designed to “create little lights in the heads of women all over the world, empowering the harmed and shaping once mute spaces”, J’ai un Bleu explores the weighty and traumatic subjects of violence against women, and the ways that the trauma of assault manifests itself in and throughout the body.

A woman faces the audience, wearing a white/multi-colour raggy/distressed costume designed by Emma Lyth. She looks piercingly through the fourth wall into the audience. She begins to make noises; first deep murmurings then an echoing laugh, to gut-wrenching screams and bellows. These tonal shifts are unpredictable and, at times, uncomfortable; moving between tension, relief and pain. This remains for much of J’ai un Bleu. You’re on the edge of the seat as you watch and listen, an awkward bystander to such dreadful pain.

Dancers then start to wander ghost-like onstage. Wearing the same multi-colour rags, they move gently onstage in a trance, doing the smallest of movements in repetitive motions.

The movements build and start to gradually get larger, their breathwork which started so measured, becomes more despairing and guttural. Writhing on the floor, forced to the ground, the body is pushed to its physical limits as they grapple with the demons who haunt them.

The dancers move and push through this taxing process. What stands out is the powerful presence of support, collectivity and togetherness in J’ai un Bleu and how these things are so necessary when processing and confronting trauma. This is shown through the dancers lifting and physically holding up each other. At the end of J’ai un Bleu the dancers come together, embracing one other ardently. Individuals have found strength as and in a collective.

Photo by Sophia Nasif.

Laura Kenyon and the creative team have approached this difficult subject matter with such care and consideration. For many women silenced by their terrible experiences, J’ai un Bleu provides an opportunity for these voices to be heard and amplified. It’s impossible not to be moved by J’ai un Bleu.

I also love the use of the word ‘Ewer’ in the title of Laura’s company. Women are strong carriers of precious things that are essential for life but can also be vulnerable and breakable…

Header image by Stephen Foote.