We spoke to Imogen Knight, Movement Director for Measure for Measure, about her choreography for the production and her experiences learning and teaching lap-dancing.
Could you tell us a bit about your role in Measure for Measure?
The production isn’t set in the same time as it was written. Mike (Director, Michael Attenborough) didn’t want the period to be defined, so it’s a mixed period across the second half of the twentieth century. Sex is a major theme of Measure for Measure and as women have been selling their bodies for eons, Mike wanted to open with something recognisably sexual, that people could relate to from all ages. I ended up taking the movements from a mixture of 1980s, 1990s and 2000s lap-dancing.
How did you teach the actors to lap-dance?
We had 2 half-day sessions a week. As Victoria (Lloyd) and Jessica (Tomchak) aren’t dancers, they had to train different mental muscles and think as dancers rather than actors. Initially it was about making them comfortable with themselves. They had very private lessons to begin with to build their confidence and started with very simple moves.
I researched the moves with real lap-dancers in Leeds. They were brilliant and showed me there’s a real art to it – not everyone can do it. It’s all about where you want a customer to look and how much you want to show. It’s all about titillation and being extremely sexual without being embarrassed.
The lap-dancers were very generous and opened the club during the day. I had a private lap-dance lesson twice a day which was quite hard work and I got to pole dance a bit and as well. It was brilliant when they gave me a lap-dance because they were such good actors that I believed they fancied me – of course they didn’t, and it was funny at the time – but they were so good that they convinced me. They weren’t thinking about me, or sex or a man; they were thinking about their dinner. They taught me you need to compartmentalise your personality – you need to cut yourself off to be able to dance with that much confidence. That’s what I hopefully got across to the actors.
How did the dance develop?
The dance itself changed a lot when it got to the tech rehearsal. We had to cut a few bits and working properly with the music for the first time altered it – the actors really had to roll with the punches. The final product is interesting as we only rehearsed with a really slow, really dirty track (Superman by Eminem). I knew the music would end up being a house track (Let There Be Light by Justice) but if they rehearsed to that, their dancing would correspond to the faster rhythm and they’d end up looking like Ibiza club dancers! Rehearsing with the lyrics of dirty and degrading music helped them slow down and get in the right frame of mind! It really hits the nail on the head – it’s derogatory and extremely sexual. That was a tip from the dancers in Leeds!
I’m really proud of Victoria and Jessica; they’re brilliant and have done so well. Their costumes look fantastic too – it looks like they’re wearing nothing but they’re wearing a body stocking so that they’re comfortable doing the moves.