“Wildlife and the woman are both endangered species”, begins Clarissa Pinkola Estés in her iconic Women Who Run With The Wolves. This book, and others, along with my organic discoveries both professionally and personally over the past two years, have led me to a belief in the urgent need for women to re-wild themselves in the context of self healing and feminist progress as well as a parallel need for society as a whole to cultivate appreciation of the wild feminine. In Wild Power, Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer assert that many of the worlds problems are masculinity ‘run amok’, a view affirmed by, among others, Grayson Perry in The Descent of Man. Pope and Wurlitzer offer an invitation to connect to feminine power as a cyclical rhythm, to nurture rather than master. To be clear this is not to blame or demonise men or to emphasise a gender binary or heteronormative roles. Far from it, if we see masculine and feminine as energies rather than genders, we can more effectively claim both those forces within ourselves and choose behaviours that serve us and our environment, or the task at hand, rather than be driven by externally imposed norms. From an eco-feminist perspective, to embrace a more feminine way of life would be to reject capitalism and patriarchy and instead nurture and protect our ailing planet. Valuing life over profit, personal growth over career development, community over individualism and nature over technology is the only thing that will save us now.
What I found so inspiring about Women Who Run With Wolves was its combination of story telling, poetry, psychology and politics. Estés beautifully compares women to wolves, describing how we suppress our wild nature in order to fit in or survive in society, but how in doing so we limit creativity and self-actualisation. She draws on fairy tales from various cultures to illustrate our ancient symbolism for life’s processes. This powerful imagery and sense of magic lends itself to movement discovery. In the process of this research I have spent time outside walking, climbing, with nature as well as used my studio time to research the movement of animals and practice embodying various qualities. What is wonderful about improvisation is that is is a practice of tapping into instinct, so the challenge in performance is to be with an honest expression of where I am and what I need, whilst also honouring the score and dramaturgy of what I have made. I don’t pretend to have answers for any of my questions, only to be asking them in various ways and in the act of performing. What I have found though, is that this practice has helped me to shed self consciousness and embrace my own nature, to lose a couple of layers of ‘shoulds’ and go into a place of truth. “Does the wolf know how beautiful she is when she leaps? …Learning from them, we just act in our own true way and do not draw back from, or hide our natural beauty. Like the creatures we just are, and it is right.” (Estés, 1992) The hard part is trusting that the ugly truth is beautiful, and that embracing vulnerability can be a strength.
Image by Grace Gelder