What were your desires and questions when you started to work on your solo Jezebel? How does this project stand in relation to your work, as a performer and choreographer?
My starting points were my own experiences within the Dutch contemporary dance scene and the way in which the bodies of female performers were presented and related to. I guess an idealized representation on stage, the imposition of a physical ideal I couldn’t identify always with. I felt the need to reclaim the ways in which I use my body on stage. I grew up with MTV, and my references in terms of female representation are more on that side than what I saw in the contemporary dance scene. This combined with the hyper-sexualized representations of Black women’s bodies in visual culture and in the media, something which brought discomfort, contradictions, and questions, led to this solo. I do not believe in a generalization of the ‘Black woman’, because there are many ways and intersections of being and becoming. Each one of us is both one and many. In JEZEBEL I use the figure of the Video Vixen to explore a.o. how Black women are portrayed in our visual culture, and more specifically how particular narratives processes, and stereotypes frame the Black body. JEZEBEL was the first installment in a trilogy of which the second part – DARKMATTER – premiered in May of this year. In DARKMATTER, the Black body and blackness – and its associations – were again a starting point. Together with a second performer, Camilo Mejía Cortés, I wanted to bend further and disconnect my personal view of stories linked to the body and to blackness. Is there room to dream and rethink and redraw this body? Can this process be disconnected from historical and existing ways of thinking, or are these fertile seeds that I should take with me in my work process?
Would you share your view on popular culture in relation to contemporary dance with us? Also your interest in bringing them together and questioning one by the other?
I want to question the frame of reference we use within contemporary dance. Why has something become the standard? Popular and hip-hop culture are the building blocks I grew up with. When I entered the contemporary dance world, it felt like I was supposed to unlearn what I knew and liked. The references that kept coming back, what I saw around me, and what was considered the norm, were something I wanted to achieve but didn’t always recognize myself in. Over time, I realized that I could question that norm, that it was important to influence the frame of reference. I reached back to hip-hop clips from the 90s and 00s and let these influences seep into the contemporary dance milieu within which I move.
What is your idea and vision of femininity in relation to the black female body today? How can we get rid of still existing stereotypes? Do you have a wish regarding this for the future?
There is still a sensitivity regarding existing narratives around the Black female body (bodies). The question I ask myself is whether we should get rid of these stereotypes or train ourselves to stop seeing some of them as stereotypes. The Black woman is not the norm within the western context, how can her image be normalized instead of marginalized? When we see a Black body on stage / TV / in other media, certain aspects are magnified and/or ignored. My strategy is to find out where certain readings come from, and how archetypes are constructed. I then make these visible and look for a strategy to dismantle them. Trying to transcend stereotypes by employing them but also questioning, stretching, and alienating them onstage. As to the question about femininity and womanhood: both cover such a large spectrum, I am just a pixel within it. I don’t aspire to be the signpost of Black womanhood. There are so many different voices, and different bodies contributing to a wider social debate. If I have a desire, it is to hear more of these voices, to see these bodies on stage, so that a wider, more diverse group of people can share their stories.