2018 Next Stage Festival Review: That “F” Word (SaMel Tanz)

Photo of Melissa Hart and Samantha Schleese

There is an unsurprisingly apt description of feminism in SaMel Tanz’s That “F” Word playing at the Factory Theatre Mainspace as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival. A series of expertly choreographed dances informed by questions of femininity, society, race, body image, and gender roles uses words sparingly, preferring the twist of bodies to try and examine that insurmountable word: feminism.

While hitting the mark technically, with wonderful sequences, it’s the show’s on-the-nose interpretation of the issue it seeks to explore that might be its biggest weakness or biggest strength.

I’ll be honest, as much as I love the show, content-wise you aren’t going to find any more than the most cursory examination of issues. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more meat to what these dancers were expressing.

For example, in one of the funniest bits, the dancers don garbage bags for an elaborate dance with razors, purposefully recalling those insufferable advertisements. It captures the heart of the show but I couldn’t help but think it was low-hanging fruit.

The change in title from the original Fringe production, The “F” Word, was part of a revamping of the original. In the press release, SalMel Tanz stated the alteration meant “to bring clearer attention” to feminism.

There are a lot of cursory nods to the issues faced by women. In its attempt to really dig into feminism, That “F” Word only manages to nod its head in acknowledgement as it moves along to the next sequence.

And it moves along at a shockingly quick pace. Most likely because the dancing is amazing. I dare anyone not to find themselves caught up in the careful and mesmerizing choreography. Yes, the content is a little one-note, but cheeky hip hop dances done to recorded speech and interpretive dances that echo the past and the present (or, hopefully, the future) make me feel like a grump for complaining at all.

If you love dance, you can’t go wrong here. And even if you don’t, you’ll still get to see something amazing.

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Photo of Melissa Hart and Samantha Schleese by Lisa Koh

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