Performance - Process - Practice
I am a multi-disciplinary performance maker. My practice is rooted in improvisation and collaboration. Whether it’s moving from altered body states, using disguise and camouflage, or becoming personae, I am shapeshifting. I use voice to connect to my misfit, trickster, and crooner. My performance work is sensory and tactile, with visceral materials, textures, and costumes. I create fractured visual compositions, arranging images and sequences to find belonging in not-belonging, and I play with excess, obscurity, awkwardness, disorientation and surprise. I have an affinity for pop trash and made-up jingles.
My process has always included invitations to other artists to join my research. Inquiries stem from political and philosophical starting points such as failure, elitism, consumerism, presence and absence in the digital age, and collectively embodied trauma. I have led group research labs as a method of feeding into a growing performance work; I also work in duet or trio collaborations. These research processes have led to developing workshop and co-teaching material, spin-off performance projects, and longstanding collaborative relationships.
FAILURE lab is one such research lab; it’s become an umbrella under which I teach improvisation and performance, alongside sharing my current interests, creative questions and obsessions through practice. Beyond teaching, I share practice through curation and facilitation of artist exchanges, and I also give individual Somatic Experiencing sessions.
The most resonant and influential context for my work has been Ponderosa Dance, an international meeting place for experimental dance and improvisation in Germany. I attended the first P.O.R.C.H. performance module 2010 and since then have returned every year to this artistic home in some capacity, to train, perform, teach, or host programmes.
I am currently making work that prioritise liveness and adaptability.
Touring is forever changed due to economic and ecological shifts - long before COVID rushed in. Anthropo+Screen by-products and How to Be Afraid? are both ongoing collaborations that produce multiple, evolving public iterations.
In a transatlantic collaboration since 2017, with the fact of limited possibilities for being together, mayfield brooks and I craft affecting work quickly, as improvisers. We pick up How to Be Afraid? each time in changing political moments, spanning the Trump and Brexit years, Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter protests. Our dancing relationship is ignited by improvisation and an accumulation of difficult conversations about race, trauma and family histories.
Garment designer Alena Kudera and I refer to the outputs of our collaboration as by-products. Usually the term refers to ‘a secondary product made in the manufacture of something else’. We use it to shift emphasis away from product to the performance research process. Each episode of the project produces hybrid fashion and dance by-products: new collections and eco-print ‘look books’, videos, and site-specific immersive performance installations.
I am fascinated by collaboration as a complex and coordinated practice in survival.
I cut my teeth in a ‘horizontal collaboration', a trio of friends called Fool’s Proof Theatre. Britt Jurgensen, Ben Phillips and I shared co-artistic direction without fixed or designated roles to devise a trilogy of experimental theatre shows (The Eagle Has Landed, Je Suis Dead and It’s Uniformation Day! 2006-11).
Collaboration is a teacher of hard lessons on interpersonal relating! And, a creative process can feel threatening on a deeply instinctual level. Differing communication styles, behaviours, and emotional habits can pull focus away from the work being created and into a spiral of relational dynamics made by the specific cocktail of collaborators’ temperaments. Seen through the lens of nonviolent communication, it can be said that underneath every conflict something essential and indisputable is being protected. For artists, this is the source of our power, voice, and sense-making – our creativity.
My fascination with collaboration began with lessons learnt with Fool’s Proof Theatre, such as:
Create tricks to subvert individual ownership, to detonate clashes of egos, confound ourselves into a sense of safety. Make a solo and teach it to everyone. Create a duet for the others. Perform simultaneous solos.
Find strategies to stop conversations from defaulting into bargaining.
Draw a map of the piece you think we’re making; perform it for the group. See how different it is inside the minds of the others!
Assume that collective understanding diverges in multiple directions from the words that mark its place. Use words to report back from wordless experience.
The imprint of this is evident in REMIX residency.
I like to design frames as much as their contents.
My favourite part of making work is ‘Research and Development’. It is where the process is most open and exploratory, and more possibilities arise rather than close down. When I went solo, I began experimenting with formats for collaboration within the creation of solo work.
Questions that have driven research labs:
Is theatre more interested in failure than dance? What happens to my sense of humour, power and agency when I call myself a dancer? What permissions do costume, personae and voice give me that are difficult to access through dance? How can I prevent the relentless perfectionism absorbed from classical training from strangling my aesthetic and sensibility for the weird, outrageous, pathetic, comic, cringeworthy, grotesque, and messy? (FAILURE Lab)
Could I find a mythical wildness in my body, underneath the layers of training, learned forms and coded movement? Is this potentially more problematic than the quest for ephemeral beauty I want to exorcise? How to set up and play with audience expectations and create unusual preparations for the body? (Wildness Lab and Wild Trio)
Questioning my habitual approach to collaborative research -- how can I avoid becoming preoccupied with managing the many opinions, energy levels, and desires of a group? How to get to know collaborators more specifically as artists? What are their interests, taste in film and music, and particular aesthetics? What drives them? What if I invite them one at a time? What if I don’t lead the process? Could I create a solo from several alternate identities, part homage, part identity theft? (FoMOs research weeks)
In my practice, the designing of frames to create spaces to explore can be scaled up or scaled down.
Whether I am making an improvisation score or an exercise for teaching, planning a performance making process, or curating a multi-disciplinary artist residency, I set the conditions from which I hope a particular experience can grow. I think about this in terms of awakening sensitivities: it could be towards a certain body part or a costume, a concept, or a way of relating with others. After awakening different combinations of sensitivities, it is interesting to watch the results. The outcome is a mystery that can never be known in advance. I can only predict which sensitivities to include in combination, to nourish and to cultivate.