15 June 2015

SWAGGA: our residency begins

I have butterflies in my belly today and it's been hard to get off to sleep recently because my mind is full of dancing and things I need to remember. Tonight I will go over to The Yard Theatre for the technical rehearsal and tomorrow we'll have a dress rehearsal and opening night for our week's residency. This is what the work we've done so far has been building up to.

The show has changed since the previews and sharing sessions. We've been doing some publicity for it and the question always comes up: what is it about? This is an impossible question to answer. I used to think I knew, but it's different for everyone involved and its meanings shift in each performance. There isn't a meaning, it's loaded with meaning. I'm coming to understand how dance is something that people interpret, it creates a feeling, it's co-created with whoever's watching. The short answer is that SWAGGA is about us and about what it's like to claim space on a stage and be looked at. Sort of. But there are layers of emotion and experience in there that can't really be said, hence we dance it and invite people to have a look and see what they make of it. Perhaps it's a provocation, as my love described it last night.

Here are some of places where we've talked about SWAGGA:

Out in South London

Hackney Gazette Yard Theatre’s SWAGGA hopes to prove any age, shape or size can pull off a dance show

The Most Cake TMC interview the team behind SWAGGA, a dance piece for anyone who’s been "pushed aside, spoken over, ignored, mis-recognised and snubbed"

London Dance SWAGGA - disrupting conventions in dance aesthetics


Dotun Adebayo at 1:45-ish.

Friend of Marilyn Episode 140, available via iTunes

The Voice Project O: The dance industry is racist too

Exeunt SWAGGA: Dance, Dissent, Diversity

I feel embarrassed to admit that the reason I have butterflies is because I've pushed aside the idea that we have been working towards performances. I've been all about the work and the process as being SWAGGA, and it is, but – guess what? – there's also showtime. It's a bit strange thinking of myself as a performer. I think of them as people who are always On, who are gagging to get on a stage at any time, who live to perform, who need the validation of an audience. That is not me, though I'm a bit of a show-off sometimes. So I've been thinking about why I perform and what I hope this run will bring. Mostly I want to have fun, but it's also about sharing things with people, letting them into our SWAGGA world, hoping that this is something people can build on.

This week I was reading a 20 year old interview with Mick Jagger. The man is repulsive, let me get that clear from the start. But he said something that resonated about performance and humiliation. This has been my experience of performing on many occasions. It risks humiliation and it is humiliating. If you are fat, your life is full of humiliations too, it's part of the everyday. Dancing on a stage in a body like mine, and maybe in other bodies too, usually has some layer of shame and humiliation about it and moving in spite of all that, or with it, is part of the work of dance. Anyway, Mick Jagger said that it feels great to make a fool of yourself in front of people, even if it's a small group. As long as no one's throwing rotten tomatoes at you, you're onto something. You have to keep going, learn to ride the humiliation and enjoy the surprise in people's faces. It feels great! Fancy that!

Ok, so now it begins again.

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