• Zosia Jo

Fabulous Animal- intro

Next week I begin a new wave of research, building on my masters studies and moving towards the next stage of my performance practice. I will be in residence and National Dance Company Wales, then Cardiff MADE in the coming weeks and at Torch Theatre in August. I am asking some big questions of myself. I plan to blog along the way to reflect on and share the process. Below is my proposal for the residency.

This project is a questioning of my approach to movement making through a Feminist lens… I propose that through a study of human anatomical reality, developmental / evolutionary fact and theory, and the physical features and movement patterns of both real and mythological (or imagined) animals, I can create a score or methodology for performance making that can be free of gendered expectation and imposed identity… That by embracing animalistic qualities and (re)discovering practical and fantastical movement vocabulary through somatic research, I can work towards a truly feminist movement language.

I have recently emerged from a year of MA study at Independent Dance / TrinityLaban where I had the privilege to have my practice deepened, deconstructed and investigated both physically and intellectually. Key influences during this time include Siobhan Davies, Matthias Sperling, Gaby Agis, Miranda Tufnell and Kirsty Alexander. At the end of the year I also worked for a week with Deborah Hay. The focus of my research was a score developed from a solo performance and accompanying community dance project with 130 women in Cairo (arguably the sexual harrassment capital of the world) entitled Dancing The Self . I took the core principles of the work in Egypt and investigated them through embodied research, arriving at a score designed to empower the mover that can also be performed as a dance action in public space. I plan to offer that score to many more women in the future through workshops and community outreach, potentially resulting in further iterations of the performance. However, there is one aspect of the score which I feel has massive performative potential. The other stages of the score could be preparatory work, a shaking off, a process of embodying and finding boundaries. The final section I call ‘Animal’, we use the commonly used somatic image of a tail and then add other imagined features to inspire mo

vement. It evolved over a series of events and I want to continue evolving it… Firstly, I used the concept of an ‘animal self’ during the Cairo workshops to encourage women to find individuality in their movements. Secondly, in a Skinner Releasing class with Gaby Agis during my studies I had a very real sensation of a tail which grew from my intimate core and burrowed and spiralled down into the earth. This might sound ‘way out there’ to anyone who hasn’t experienced Skinner, but it actually has very real and technical implications for movement! Thirdly, during a module with Siobhan Davies I came across a filing cabinet of images at the Warburg Institute labelled ‘Fabulous Animals’, it struck me as a marvellous title and I began experimenting with this mythological woman/animal hybrid. Fourthly, later in the year in a workshop, Deborah Hay asked us to come up with a sentence that might describe a solo for ourselves. I wrote “something so utterly unrefined and unfiltered that it is so ugly it is beautiful”, she asked for something it would have. I said “teeth”.

As an artist with an eclectic portfolio career and often many jobs on the go at any given time, I often find it difficult to balance artistic satisfaction and my desire for research with the reality of needing to ‘wear many hats’. I work with dance students, children and young people, older adults and in care homes as well as making performance work and producing/programming. So I have made a commitment to myself that going forward I will give myself a focus for my creative exploration and I will apply it in whatever context I am working in. I feel that this idea has massive potential to be an enquiry I can take with me into different contexts. I intend to spend this summer reading, writing and moving around these ideas, and then apply them to my teaching from the Autumn. Ultimately, I envisage this as a group performance that has perhaps both an adult version and a children’s version, as well as participatory elements. There is potential for exciting collaborations perhaps using costume or animation, but also potential for conversations sparked with audiences and participants around identity and sexuality. Perhaps a great way to deal with these issues with young people, promoting the idea of being whoever one wants to be? But that feels like it is at least a year’s worth of research away.

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