angel-monster at Supercell: Festival of Contemporary Dance
angel-monster is a contemporary dance installation created by Nerida Matthaei and Phluxus2 Dance Collective.
As a vehicle for confession and protest, the work reveals experiences of what it is to be female in the face of juxtaposing campaigns such as the #idontneedfeminismbecause and #metoo. Derived from personal narratives, angel-monster is a contribution to the important social commentary around gender equality and the growing public stand against predators.
Carly spoke with Choreographer Nerida Matthaei about her upcoming work, which will open in Canberra this week before heading to Queensland for Supercell: Festival of Contemporary Dance. Read the full interview below:
For our readers less familiar with how a piece of contemporary dance comes to be, can you talk us through the process from the conception of the idea through to performance. Do you start with the movement and build the story, or start with a message to discuss through the movements of dance? How many hours of dance and rehearsal goes into the creation of a body of work as detailed as angel-monster.
Firstly, for me an idea itself will initiate the starting creative process, which could be either conceptual or processual - it really depends on the work. For angel-monster the work was initiated in a slightly different model. I began doing a Doctorate of Creative Industries at Queensland University of Technology in 2013 with an aim to investigate recontextualising my choreographic process. So the initial period focussed on exploring process and creative experimentation. A few years into that research, in 2015, I then became exploring the new processes I had developed in the creation of a new work and angel-monster was conceived. I have always been inspired to explore socio-political issues that I see as important to discuss and hopefully initiate and contribute to change. At this time I felt the need to investigate what is it to be female. The process was then fairly in-depth and lengthy due to the research side of the works development in conjunction with the doctorate. A recent factor that lengthened the timelines for the final creative stage was lack of funding. As an independent company we are self-producing. The first stages of the work were self funded on a very small budget and it took sometime to gather the support required for this final process and get the work ready for performance. The development of angel-monster has been a journey, but one that has been important for my own process as a maker. It feels like a timely environment to share our stories and contribute to the important discussion around equality, feminism and empowerment.
This work is about gender identity and the role of the woman in a world faced with #idontneedfeminismbecause and #metoo movements. What important discussion to you hope to evoke from your newest work angel-monster? Are there new messages that you believe audiences need to see or is the work of this discussion in the fact that we need the same message repeated to really make a change?
The work is a collage of personal experiences and perspectives on what is to be female today. We have explored stereotypes, expectations, constructs and statistics that remain prevalent and need to shift. These include sayings like ‘don’t be such a girl’, ‘he does it because he likes you’, ‘don’t be a pussy’, the princess stepford wife ideology, inequalities in pay and horrifying statistics around physical and sexual abuse. These issues are not new, we acknowledge the past, we share our experiences with the present and aim to assist in shifting the future. I have found in creating this work that there is a sense of stepping back from what might be deemed as confronting, when actually we share real world experiences, collectively I believe we need to take a step towards being open, honest and change making. My only hope would be that this work contributes to important discussions that can see a more empowered, safe and equal future - the personal takeaway in regards to this may be different for everyone who comes to see the work.
Dance is often considered to be a language of its own – but a universal language that we can all appreciate. As a dancer, how do you interpret the meaning behind these great movements of feminism and gender equality and translate them into physical movement? How does angel-monster track the progression of the gender discussion? Is the work broken into different moments or sections or is it a fluid piece throughout.
For me the work represents my stories and experiences and those of the collaborative artists. The only way I can acknowledge and hopefully contribute to the conversations around feminism and equality is by offering my views and understandings. The work is a contemporary dance installation presented as a layered collage of movement and voice sections. There are many layers and ideas present in the work - there really is a lot to talk about. The content with its diversity was explored in many differing processes resulting in diverse movement qualities. In terms of tracking the gender discussion, I acknowledge that is it a small part in a much broader conversation to do with equality, not only for women. I have considered and tried to craft carefully acknowledging what has been before, our stance today and hoping to contribute to something that can change-make in the future. The work is segmented, but each segment in related, the boundaries are blurred and the issues coincide.
You are taking angel-monster on tour through Australia. What do you hope people walk away from this performance discussing? What do you believe is the number one take away from this piece?
Something that I have taken away from the work personally is coming to terms with some experiences of my own. During the process I had memories come back to me that I had either forgotten or blocked out. I decided it was important to share this in a hope that through my own stories I can help others who may be the same. I hope people walk away empowered by our honesty, have discussions and debates in their own circles and contribute in their own way to a stronger future. This work is my stance, my stories, my experiences. I cant speak to what others will take away - yet, I hope, it can be a vehicle for individual and collective strength.
Finally, why did you choose contemporary dance as the style to express this story? What do you believe the style offers?
Contemporary dance theatre and performance is my passion and area of knowledge. Contemporary art of any form, including dance, is continually looking to invent and break habituality - I thrive on challenge and to do that artistically and physically is exciting. That being said this story can and should be told in any medium - all mediums. I think the work has something important to say and the way in which we say it is artistically important, but overall important in any context.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
Recently, Hot Brown Honeys, Bitch on Heat by Leah Shelton and Free Admission by Ursula Martinez
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Home or Iceland
Dream show to dance in?
Anything by Pina Bausch
Plays, musicals, ballets or other forms of dance?
Yes, all of the above.
A hobby you have beyond dance?
Reading - I'm currently reading Marina Abramovic’s autobiography
What’s next for you after this show?
I am taking a week of to spend with my family. Rest and recovery is in mind.
angel-monster opens for a Canberra season on March 22 2019 before heading to Queensland as part of Supercell: Festival of Contemporary Dance. Get your tickets for the Canberra run here, and the Supercell Festival here.