Chess Dillon-Reams and Cristina MacKerron are a Brighton-based comedic dance duo known as The Hiccup Project – and it’s a project worth investing in. Lovely Girls is a piece about imagining and creating a world where women can be – and do – whatever they want. It’s about cracking through a reductive myth which presumes ‘lovely girls’ is a desirable moniker for young women – it’s not!
Zoo Southside’s main space has a very big stage and, as they excitedly point out, they’re on it! There’s a coat rack piled with girls’ stuff and a microphone. Dolled up in white knickers and vests the ladies make a charismatic first impression with friendly intros, flashy dance, and an imaginary smoke machine. Aren’t they lovely! And strong and so much MORE as they demonstrate running back and forth from said coat stand to don feathers, flip flops, handbags, striking endless poses.
They give us a breathlessly hilarious commentary of how to be Sexy, Intelligent Chilled, Assertive and MORE; Glamorous, Adventurous, Healthy and MORE; Organised, Empathetic and MORE. They are domestic goddesses who can manage a jerk-off in one hand with a broom in the other. Impressive! When this cliché is exhausted, we’re left with a sweaty image of Cristina wearing a sanitary pad on her head like an easter bonnet. Lovely.
The Hiccup Project have chemistry! They’re like new wave Ab Fab feministas – go get yourselves a TV show ladies! They’re making business out of being women – and why not? We’re 50% of the pie, let’s see a show about us. Indeed – despite the fact a male promoter told them, ‘nice idea but how can I relate to something I’ve never experienced’. (Yeah mate, that’s how we feel about Moby Dick.) Meanwhile, a friend of mine said her boyfriend learnt more about how it feels to be a woman from watching this show than he’d ever realised. Evidently we need equal programming, especially in dance.
The Lovely Girls are lovable, assertive and badass. They can say no. They pursue dreams without asking permission. They’re ‘two women on stage, naturally’. Beyoncé would be proud. Their show is a timely reminder to be on the alert for gender shackles everywhere, especially when they turn up in your own life.
Coupled with their astute comedic sketches – including a useful lesson in female sexual stimulation via the cleaning of a flute – Chess and Cristina dance a cracking playlist of choreographies that underline their politics, technical training, and most importantly reveal they can dance like nobody’s watching.
During the last part of the show I welcome the emotional gear change as they drop sketches to share personal stories, transforming the space with embodied, confident voices which embrace the heart of their material.
Chess always wanted to learn to play drums, but instead of a a drum kit she was given a flute. Tonight she plays an air drum rendition of ‘One Way or Another’ that rocks Zoo stadium, and would inspire Blondie to shed her shades. It’s a portrait of the artist as a powerful young woman, cracking her own high-hat.
Cristina shares a story of her solo adventure to heal a broken heart. It’s a beautiful, intimate moment as she brings herself to life, dancing with abandon, for herself and for the thrill of it, accompanied by an evocative Tracy Chapman singing ‘Stand By Me’. I’m moved to shed a few tears, and think of my teenage daughter sitting beside me who’s about to leave school and embark on her own life adventure.
When the two come together for their last dance it’s a joy to watch them celebrating friendship. Some of us are handed glasses of wine and we raise a toast to the spirit of The Hiccup Project and their wonderful and totally essential reinvention of what it means to be ‘lovely girls’.
Go get ‘em gals.
Featured image (Top): The Hiccup Project: Lovely Girls. Photo by Molly Hawkins