9 July – Loved Up (dress rehearsal) – Watch This Space, NT

I am an old fart uncle who finds joy in embarassing my teenage neices with, amongst other things, my rubbish disco dancing. They talk in alien tongues and wear clothes I consider too skimpy. This is the way things should be. Its the generation gap, an old gap not to be bridged. And here’s the rub: youth culture, by definition, cannot belong to essentially middle-aged national institutions. Youth culture will not be subsidised.

On the up side, there’s a westside story under the westway feel to this show. Two girls and two boys face down each other, swapping flirtatious looks and floating partners in a playground battle of the sexes. The technical highlight of the show is the use of ariel dancing. On bungees the performers float mid-air in a manner similar to the fight scenes in that crouching tiger movie. It works really very well and the dancers use it to dynamic effect, launching slow time into air, then a slow to fast return to earth. Sexual tension erupts as a girl flies legs akimbo straddling the boys. At this point all us aging men shuffle a foot and look down to find interest in our beer glasses (I’m rubbish at guessing the age of anyone under fifty but this girl looks about fourteen to me). Anyway, these kids can certainly strut their stuff. They break-dance, body-pop, robot-slide and ariel-dance with precision and dynamism. Its just that in these circumstances, to this audience emerging from the national, on this stage, under these lights…it ain’t fresh doh blood innit. Its a bit like an old fart reviewer inserting one line of jaundiced youth speak. It’s a bit like your uncle twat-face cocking a baseball cap sideways slurring “Blondie invented rap” as he falls piss drunk into the xmas tree. It is so far from the point.

I haven’t seen any ‘real’ kids actually body pop for twenty years or so. Two tunes in, this troupe body pop to Tom Jones. I ask yer. Even an old fart like me thinks Tom Jones an old fart. At one point a dancer actually moonwalks a few steps which, I understand, even Jacko no longer does. Repeatedly they do that ‘send a wobble down the line’ thing made popular in eighties pop videos. Once, a girl with a peanut sized arse, implausibly batters the boys with her undersized bogling. Even the show title is a decades old drug and sex reference. Who made these fine young dancers do all this stuff?

Upswing are running various workshops including “Ariel Dance for the over 50s”. I happened to be passing earlier today when Upswing were holding “bungee workshops for break dancers”. The participating kids were so young their idea of culture is probably teletubbies. The instructors (wiv baseball caps hanging sideways doh) put them through lame routines that would not trouble the most zealous health and safety officer in London. Meantime, metres along the South Bank, ‘real’ teenagers defiantly performed amazing, literally death-defying 360 degree somersaults over concrete that made my stomach jump under the weight of a four cheese pizza. The contrast was startling and the lesson clear.

The only thing I really know about youth culture is that it’s best to just let them get on with it. They don’t want us hijacking their business. That’s the whole raison de bloody etre my middle aged friends. So lets concentrate on floating our creaking bodies around the ballroom floor and let them get on with whatever it is they do.

Upswing perform outside the National this weekend. Last show 14:00 Sunday 12 July.

Upswing perform outside the National this weekend. Last show 14:00 Sunday 12 July.


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