05 May 2014

SWAGGA has begun

photo by Katarzyna Perlak

SWAGGA is now underway. Alex and Jamila and Kay and I have met and we have danced. It is happening. Katarzyna Perlak has taken some photographs of us. Tickets for our first performance are available on the Rich Mix site, buy some and tell your friends. It is real. (By the way, Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small are talking about their work this week in Benz Punany: A Lecture. Please come along if you are in London, it's free).

This is what happens: we take off our shoes and warm up. Sometimes this is stretching, sometimes arsing around, sometimes shaking, sometimes a mixture. I'm not really sure what being warmed up should feel like, so sometimes I go through the motions, eventually I start to feel warm, maybe that's what it's about! Alex, usually, sets some parameters for movement, for example showing some pictures, picking evocative words, interacting with an object, using certain kinds of movement in particular spaces. We will have a go at this and see what happens, improvising all the time. Some bits will be stronger than others and we pick the best bits and develop them further. We'll do this a few times. Eventually we find ourselves with a sequence of moves that has a beginning, middle and end, and that makes sense to us. Often these include what Alex calls 'the spaces inbetween' where we are real, maybe showing tiredness. Sometimes there's music but not always. That's kind of it.

People have been asking me what SWAGGA is about and I find it hard to say because when I'm dancing I'm in this strange state of high concentration and play that feels quite loopy. I've been joking that dancing is almost psychotic, it has its own reality and logic that exists beyond the normal world. As I'm moving I'm keeping in mind what this enigmatic term SWAGGA means to me, and channelling that as far as I can into my body and out through movements and gestures that are, I guess, dancing. I draw on punk, being female and also somewhat masculine, a feeling of defiance, ersatz street dance, aggression, SM, animal moves, a feeling of wildness, and fat fat fat, always my fat body at the heart of it. Maybe this will change, no doubt the others see and feel different things, but this is sort of what's there for me at the moment.

My transformation from un-dancer to dancer has not been seamless. I still have doubts about my body. Sometimes I ache, sweat, get out of puff, eventually get tired. It appears that I am a human being after all. My arthritis flared up after the first two sessions and I got scared, but I have been pacing myself since then, I'm learning about my limits. I also think that, for me, some pain is acceptable if the payoff is an extraordinary movement or moment. Kay and I get nervous before each session. What our dancing is remains unknown. We are getting to know our choreographers but we are still relatively new to each other. I am taking tentative steps, but I do so trustingly; I have seen them dance and I trust them, I trust their aesthetic, skill and vision.

I feel very powerful after each session. This is to do with spending several hours at a time in an enclosed space with three other powerful people all of whom are encouraging each other to Go There. We Go There each time. You can't predict what the There will be, it emerges as the session goes on, and it is always intensely sublime and all about our bodies. It is amazing to be watched with delight as these moments unfold – a dance of a double chin, a wiggy titty dance, a dance of muscles and fists. We are profoundly un-pretty, we move in ways that were never mandated or imagined for middle-aged fat dykes – I live for this! I can't wait to share it with audiences! I'm so proud of what we are doing!

We rehearse in spaces like these

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