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Performing Gender returns to Leeds

Thu 13 December 2018
Part of: Performing Gender: Dance Makes Differences | 2017-2018
Performing Gender sharing at Yorkshire Dance - 26 Oct 2018 © Sara Teresa

At the end of October, we embarked on the second leg of Yorkshire Dance’s 2-year European partnership project Performing Gender, in the form of a week-long professional development workshop for ten regional emerging dancers.

We were delighted to host Slovenian dance artist Nataša Živkovic. Nataša returned to Leeds to open up and pass on some of her extensive experience of the training residencies during year 1 of Performing Gender and the research she developed during this journey. The workshop week was supported by dance dramaturg Tanya Steinhauser.

Nataša’s research into the phenomenon of the sworn virgins of Montenegro, where in remote, strongly patriarchal villages, if the head of a household dies without a male heir, one of his daughters can choose to become a man, provided a fascinating starting point.

From there we considered our private, social, biological, dancing and empathic bodies in order to explore how we inhabit and express all of these in movement.

During the rich week of moving, discussing, creating responses to set tasks, exercises and improvisations, the wonderful group of ten strong dance artists – Stephanie Donohoe, Tora Hed, Charlotte Jones, Marie Koehl, Jemma Mae, Olivia Paddison, Maria Popova, Imogen Molly Reeve, Reynaldo Jr Santos & Emily Snow – generated an incredible amount of new and provoking materials.

We explored how do I perform gender everyday?

We considered attributes of male and female and the fluidity inbetween, looked closer at what we embody and what and when we disguise. We deliberated gender (in)equality, discussed the need for more open conversations between the genders and experimented with the equation of personal = political.

In the process of uncovering, digging and peeling away, both in conversation and during physical tasks, we allowed ourselves to question previously perceived beliefs we’ve held in order to further challenge our perspectives.

Sounds challenging and hard work? I can reassure you that working with Nataša generally means having fun practising feminism and feminist activism in motion!

Our early-career dance artists shared some of the impact the week had on them, both personally and for their artistic development.

They articulated that the workshop had challenged their perspectives in relation to gender, that they felt more empowered, ready to own a particular space they find themselves in, and that they had gained confidence to start tricky conversations with others about gender, feminism, (in)equality and how they feel.

The emerging dance artists shared that they encountered tasks and exercises during the development week, that will allow them to explore their physicality further, that they feel inspired by new ideas and methodologies, which will aid them in their own research processes and future projects. One powerful realisation of the week was that the consideration and close attention we pay to notions of ‘performing gender’ is a crucial and integral element in any dance work created and the artists felt that they would consider this as a vital part of any future work.

Performing Gender – Dance Makes Differences will culminate in a final public dissemination event in Bassano del Grappa in April 2019.

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