Emerging from a sacred Red Tent, Erin Fowler enters our world as an innocent. From then on, she is bombarded by messages of what she, as a woman, should be. Of how she should act. Of how she will be identified. Over the course of the work, voices of women and men, girls and boys, repeat those messages as they have heard them in their own lives.
In this theatrical dance work, Fowler convincingly performs a series of characters. Each is a clashing caricature of how women are expected to present themselves in this world. She transitions from Disney Princess to catwalk model to BDSM submissive to blushing bride to corporate ladder climber. Role by role, she stumbles in oversized heels, struts down the catwalk, and seduces the audience.
The soundtrack is a major feature, with banging tunes interspersed with recordings of people revealing their own experiences of gender conditioning. These interviews deliver some of the most powerful messages. Fowler stands to attention, inviting the audience to really listen. Another cutting moment comes when she binds herself with rope, from her ankles to a gag. Fowler doesn't need to speak – her face speaks volumes. She relies heavily on costume changes within the Red Tent though. While effective at conveying the male gaze on each role, they are too time consuming. Fowler's creation and charisma are powerful enough without those extra layers.
FEMME is a semi-autobiographical work, with Fowler bringing her experience as a dancer, business owner and former model to the stage. Fowler created the piece because of those experiences – because she wants to be a boss, not a "boss lady", and to enjoy her sensuality without being defined by it. The show is also designed to raise questions beyond individual experience. Its focus is on the search for self among social conditioning – particularly on gender roles and the patriarchy.
FEMME is about carving your own path and your own identity, regardless of what the world tells you. It’s as relatable as it is provocative.