Moving in November festival continued with empowering statements and a hopeful presence of diversity of communities that put their voice, and their dancing bodies, for just, collectively-supported and safe lives everyone deserves to live.
The wondrous explosion of teenage energy, bringing forward the beautiful universe of coming-of-age, still pulses and resonates days (and weeks-counting) after the festival’s finale. I come back to Venus and HORDE performances first, both dedicated to this fragile yet powerful age.
Venus performance by Janina Rajakangas tackles delicate issues of sexualization of young girls and their experiences of sexual harassment. Identifying as a woman that once was a teenage girl too, feels like an invitation itself. Soon with the first lines of “The Sound of Silence” acapella, the sparkling world of four young girls opens its doors for us, the spectators and allies, in the cozy embrace of a piece that promises magic to happen. Venus is magical in so many ways- for making the beauty, honesty and acceptance win over ugliness of harassment; for a marvelous transformation of these young girls into pioneers of freedom; for one hour spent together becoming an eternal longing for a safe and soft pillow to rest one’s body and soul on. Yet, the biggest beauty of Venus is in sincere and truthful voice it speaks to us and gives unconditional space for teenage girls themselves, supporting them to own their stories in their full glory. These greatly talented and brave teenage girls dance, spin, cuddle, take selfies, scream and shout, and rise over injustice and dark side of humanity, and we do with them, in our seated yet much moved presence.
HORDE by Ingri Fiskdal and Solveig Styve Holte continues giving stage to young people and spreading their contagious joyful being, this time intervening into semi- public space of Kiasma contemporary art museum.
HORDE is a collaboration between the artistic team and the local teenagers, and as such addresses many crucial aspects and thresholds of artistic work and professional artist’s life, that these young people are invited to explore and shake.
The colorful, voluminous costumes act like an urban camouflage and a special attire for an enchanting social event. The sound of fabrics in motion as a first step into an intrigue of the piece, is followed by subtle, almost levitating moves somewhere in between biomimicry and yet again, magic. The diverse forms of group organization existing in nature come to mind: a flock of birds, bees, fish; the rhythmic precision and synchronization of movement suggest efficiency, roles, strength of collective, but also a powerful entanglement and sense of interconnectedness. The way that HORDE expands the spectatorship, space and the dancing itself is hypnotizing and teleporting to some other realms, perhaps ones of non-human, fairy, otherworldly, somewhere where preconceptions of one/many, young/adult, et cetera, cease to exist.
In SCORES THAT SHAPED OUR FRIENDSHIP, Lucy Wilke and Paweł Duduś invite us to step into intimate, caring and curious space of their friendship. The very settings of the piece with free seating, and a possibility to change place, position, to enter and leave as desired, as well as to make sounds and reactions, communicates an intention to strip down restricting socially induced roles and enact being together in a deeply personal, meaningful and vulnerable way. The duo explores their own (also-real life) friendship and relationship, beyond frames and dictations of romantic partnership as an exclusive space for intimacy. They gently dive through depths of (dis)ability, agency and difference. Through a sequence of seven well-structured “scores”, held by seductive live beats by Kim Ramona Ranalter, Lucy and Paweł test and twist many possible embodiments of desire, gaze, play and pleasure, learning together how to relate to another, bodily different, human being, with an ultimate care, compassion, and love.
SCORES THAT SHAPED OUR FRIENDSHIP emphasize the transparency, a breaking of taboos or hindering, controlling and dismissive social formulas as also pushed forward by, among others, plays such as Venus and Submission Submission. Openly un-packing issues of sexuality among groups that are often trapped into roles of victims, passive objects of desire or asexual beings, these performances advocate for a radical, vibrant and liberating attitude and a space for a self-expression.
On that note, the dance piece Submission Submission by Bryana Fritz performs the historical biography scripts of four female saints through her fun and sharp take on hagiography- a Medieval literary genre of writing of saints’ lives. Portraying female saints through dynamic sequences of dance, storytelling, and a digital performative writing, she moves us through intense states of madness, holiness, pleasure, miracle and fantasy. Intervening into commodifying narratives of women-saints offered by historical religious structures, the performer gives back her chosen characters deprived identities of sentient and sensual beings. Performative instances of “being possessed” provoke the long-maintained ideas of female as passive and submissive, and kick back in an unexpected and untamed manner.
The projected computer screen with magnified real-time text abandons its “background” quality and performs-with the dancer in a hybrid performance space. This might also give a reference to contemporary context that Medieval histories are transferred to by embodied act of (re-)writing, with a limitless capacity to carry the corporeal, the alive. The similar quality is granted to saints reenacted in the piece: instead of being figurines at mercy of the god or the devil, or represented as nearly disembodied portals-messengers, in Submission Submission these women fully possess the divinity of their female bodies. For this edition of Moving in November, the portraits of Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Christina of Bolsena, and Joan of Arc have been presented.
The final piece, DARKMATTER by Cherish Menzo, pushes further the issues of perception and representation of identities, working around common, yet shallow, discourses of blackness. With a dark stage, black, a liquid-muddy matter that co-acts with virtuous black bodies, the piece is sourcing inspiration from yet unexplored cosmic matter. For its not-fully-known, fluid and ever-transforming quality, the dark matter holds a capacity to be anything, and everything. Can identity act in the same way?
The performance collaboration with a dancer Camilo Mejía Cortés develops in direction of dystopian posthumanism and Afro-futurism, seeking in future time for the experiences of blackness with a possibility to diffract and open up for new readings. This speculative moment comes as a leap in time from 2000-nostalgia in JEZEBEL, a Menzo’s piece performed at Moving in November last year. Also, while JEZEBEL looks into the imagery of female black women in hiphop and pop currents, DARKMATTER leans towards rap as a music form, but also, more importantly, as means of self-expression and community belonging. In this regard, Cherish worked with a group of local participants identifying as African diaspora in “Distorted rap choir”, a workshop-format preceding the performance. The created “rap anthem” was then incorporated into existing soundscape, dialoguing with already collected vocal contributions. In that way, the echoes of black community get on stage and take part in poetic negotiations between the spectator and the performers, where both undergo a self-reflection that keeps rejecting ready-made positions. Through a distorted, multilayered stage vocabulary, Cherish and Camilo explore and expand the inspirative imaginary of what blackness is and can be, confidently returning and disobeying the impoverishing gaze.
Once again, they stand, together with other pieces from this text, and in festival in general, for a fundamental right, a liberating power and an irresistible urge to set the terms of one’s own being and acting in the world.
In a growing culture of oppression and harmful othering as a threat to freedom and autonomous difference, spaces of possibility for a radical and fearless collective being are a necessity and prerequisite for just and promising futures. This year’s Moving in November selection suggested a hopeful direction to move towards, led by sincere love, pleasure, protest, tears and laugh, madness, (add more)- everything that keeps us alive.
Nina Vurdelja is a performance researcher and cultural worker active across disciplines and geographies, based in Finland. Her interests reside around more-than-human sensuous encounters and ecologies of being together. She is a Phd Candidate at Doctoral school for Communication, Media and Performing Arts at Tampere University, dwelling in meeting spaces between culture, art, and philosophy.
Cover photo: Kerstin Schroth
Pictures in the text:
Janina Rajakangas: Venus. Photo: Tani Simberg
Ingri Fiksdal & Solveig Styve Holte: HORDE. Photo: Petri Summanen
Lucy Wilke & Paweł Duduś: SCORES THAT SHAPED OUR FRIENDSHIP. Photo: Jean-Marc Turmes
Bryana Fritz: Submission Submission. Photo: Michiel Devijver
DARKMATTER. Photo: Bas de Brouwer