By Toni Leago Valle
Women have always been conditioned to obsess on their bodies and sex.
CRACKED, the evening-length dance/theatre concert by Toni Leago Valle, demonstrates how women still fight “the perfect size 6” and “Pretty Woman” ideals. It is a painful but tender exploration of nakedness, self-image, sex and surrender.
Valle grew up in the post-60’s era where women were supposedly given the freedom to control and choose their bodies, lifestyle and sexual behavior. 50 years later, women are still bombarded with dictates on proper behavior, sexual etiquette, and appropriate body image through parents, community, media and politics. Valle states, “I first presented Cracked in 2006. I find that 10 years later, its still the same – I am frustrated that women are conditioned from birth by outside forces to be something they are not. I have never been satisfied while looking in the mirror and every female I have ever met has felt this way, regardless of age.”
CRACKED is a fusion of writing, dance, aerial work, acting, and raw video footage. Valle reveals, "I created characters with something to say. These characters needed more than one medium to portray their stories – dance was no longer sufficient. I specifically chose both mature and young performers who can internalize the stories as well work in a variety of dance styles, including aerial and hip hop, as well as modern.” 6 Degrees company members include veteren performers Teresa Chapman, Priscilla Nathan-Murphy, and Rebecca Valls, and newcomers Gabriela Luna, Tyler Scarberry, and Bianca Torres-Aponte.
CRACKED gives multiple experiences through one central character in order to broaden people’s awareness of their environment, in this case, women’s survival skills and the perception of self in our current society. Often, these experiences are comical, like "My Botticelli Belly” – Valle’s tongue-in-cheek conversation with her stomach – from food to bathing suits to childbearing, how her belly has served and sabotaged her, and “Why Buy the Cow When You Can Get the Milk for Free,” a video projection of the overt, ridiculous messages girls receive about sex. The ironic “Interview for a Date,” is a close-up video of Valle being critiqued for her dating experience, motherhood skills, and social expectations. When asked what she excels in, she blurts, “Sex! I’m really good at sex!”
Other moments are hauntingly familiar, filled with shame and loneliness, like Valle critiquing her body in front of the mirror. “In the Closet,” is a battle fought within the shame that often accompanies sex promiscuity. “I Can’t Let Go,” is a woman’s unending grief over an aborted child – grief she is forced to carry alone due to its social stigma.
However, CRACKED has a positive message: Valle’s honest, silly, and often hard-to-watch experiences reveal that its time to shed these outdated restrictions and ideals, even if its one woman at a time. “I want to share how I found my own voice – not a declaration to the world that I am breaking free - but a quiet whisper from within to embrace my Body, my Past and a Sense of Living.”
CRACKED premieres May 19-21, 2016, 8:00PM, at Jose Quintero Lab Theatre, UH Central Campus, 3351 Cullen, Houston, TX 77204. For tickets, visti www.6degreesdance.org. for more inforamtion, call 713/409-2838 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.