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This is Forty

How did you dance as a child in your bedroom? Before any kind of training, or the fumbling awkwardness of adolescence, I mean? In a series of wild routines, Katherina Radeva captures the feeling of dancing from when we were kids, governed by little more than energy, instinct and unabashed, uninhibited joy. It is this evocative spirit that permeates through her beautiful show, “40/40,” interrogating the spaces that women in middle-age take up. Our bodies, often sidelined, dismissed or ignored for more youthful figures in society, are repositories of life, love, complex emotions and boundaries, and we can only move forward as with time, one foot in front of the other. Radeva is a fearless, free, yet wise presence.

Performance

Two Destination Language: “40/40”

Place

Presented at Manipulate Festival 2023, Tramway, Glasgow, UK,

Words

Lorna Irvine

Katherina Radeva's “40/40.” Photograph by Beth Chalmers

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Kat Radeva performs “40/40” at Media Factory, UCLan, Preston, part of Lancashire Fringe Festival. Photograph by Garry Cook

Why not, as the famous lyric from Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh's “Come From The Heart” impels, “dance like nobody's watchin‘”? Inside Radeva's raw, visceral narrative is every shape we threw, from The Beatles to Battles, Bowie to Bananarama, Björk to Bicep, for the simple joy of moving. None of those artists are featured here, but within her shapeshifting choreography, the years and dancefloors return to us in flashback, scrawled in blood and lipstick, skinned knees, tears, sweat and urgent kisses. It all makes you want to go out and lose yourself in a crowd, be a small part of something bigger, a heaving, bouncing collective of glistening bodies. Pina Bausch, no less, once said, “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.” Radeva's motto is, “Context is everything.”

There is a non-linear approach here. It seems spontaneous. Of course, Radeva is not merely improvising. It's a clever trick, to make it look like she may be, at times, so effortless and light is her touch. Her movements, overseen by Liz Aggiss, Lucy Suggate and Rachel Krische, are delicately fluttery, witty, and, when she really gets into it, raucous, recognisable from clubland dancefloors. There's the suggestion that she's no stranger to reaching for the lasers, or first up at family weddings. She furiously tears it up to Gnucci and Eurythmics, donning a diva's theatrical headpiece, head aloft, shaking her derriere and jumping like Tigger, until the tunes stop, and she's doubled over: sweaty, panting and grinning.

Katherina Radeva's “40/40.” Photograph by Beth Chalmers

But this funky hedonism is only part of the story, of her story. This is dance as revolution, dance to be seen, a reclaimed territory. She eyes everyone in the audience with pure mischief, dragging everyone in—thus, we are complicit—conspirators to her one woman party. Why should kids get all the fun? We women have earned our stripes, too. Her T-shirt is tied underneath her bust like a million school skirts hoisted up above the knee. It still feels like a radical act, and makes us wonder why it should be as such. Behold the middle-aged rebels!

Kat Radeva performs “40/40” years at Media Factory, UCLan, Preston, part of Lancashire Fringe Festival. Photograph by Garry Cook

Underneath the ticklish, one woman version of the hora, where Radeva shimmies with arms outstretched, shaking her hips, is the child who migrated from Eastern Europe to the UK; the girl who, heartbreakingly, was once told she was “the wrong size, too fat to compete” as a rhythmic gymnast, the woman who, taping stage lines to the floor, won't be reduced to boxes or labels. Beneath the willowy heathen in a white smock, swaying to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, drawing traces like fireworks in the air, lies the artist who is performance artist, dancer and scenographer, and won't be pinned down to just one of these things alone. This stage is her playground and we are children, after all, in adult skin, beaming with joy at her infectious, life-affirming dances—all remembering how it felt, the first time the music found us.

Lorna Irvine


Based in Glasgow, Lorna was delightfully corrupted by the work of Michael Clark in her early teens, and has never looked back. Passionate about dance, music, and theatre she writes regularly for the List, Across the Arts and Exeunt. She also wrote on dance, drama and whatever particular obsession she had that week for the Shimmy, the Skinny and TLG and has contributed to Mslexia, TYCI and the Vile Blog.

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