On Saturday I performed for Jordan Massarella, a fellow NSCD graduate, in the first public outing of his new work 'Mansion', which actually happened to be at a platform hosted by NSCD at the Riley Theatre (the theatre in the Northern School of Contemporary Dance). Saturday's performance was a ten minute 'extract' of what will become a longer movement installation at East Street Arts (Leeds) in April.
The work is performed by three females, myself, Hayley Barker and Elisabeth Connor. It intends to explore the darker side of the media and was inspired by the Kate Nash lyric 'thinking is one of the hardest things I've ever come across'. Jordan's intention was to create an atmosphere rather than a dance piece, through the combination theatrical elements - lighting, costume, sound, props and movement.
All the women are independent, and have a different quality yet some how are connected. (In the questions and answers after the performance a few audience members had perceived the characters to be portraying different elements of one woman, a concept we all really liked and felt was fitting). My character, the girl in the cupboard as like to call her (this comes from when we shot the promotional picture, in a cupboard, and when I feel my character was born), spends her time caught between trying to be sexually alluring, wanting and desiring the audience's attention and angrily rejecting their objectifying gaze.
As a performer I found the music in this piece (Lykke Li and Kate Nash edited by Clive Wilkinson) very emotive, particularly one section, a kind of spoken word section taken from the beginning of Kate Nash's 'Mansion' song. Its lycrics are brutal and shocking and refer to the sexualisation of young women and the trauma this can cause. At this point the girl in the cupboard is at her most desperate, and consequently her most vulnerable.
During the performance on Saturday it was at this point someone laughed.
You can never predict an audience reaction, that one of the great things about art. But laughter was not something any of us expected to hear in response to this particular work. As I said the audience unpredictablity, for me, is really good thing as it means you are often shown things about your own work that you hadn't even seen. But it can also put you in a vulnerable place.
When I heard the man laugh I distinctly remember thinking two things 1. that's a bit sick. 2. He is laughing at me. At my desperation.
This split second experience really highlighted what a personal thing performance is, I mean thats always been my view but I've never had an experience like that to really drive it home. I thought about how closely intertwined the me and the she are... I'm not the girl in the cupboard. But I become her somehow, and I bring my own, real life, experiences to her. Because of the way I work as a performer and of how Jordan works as a choreographer it would be impossible for me to be comepletly seperate from the character I am embodying.
Or perhaps he was just laughing at the silk flower flopping around on my head. Or Hayley's manic smile. Who knows.