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16 Oct 2023

Image Credit: Sanaa Abstrakt

What inspired you to create a solo performance?

In my undergraduate studies at LCDS, I began to notice the specific ways that my solo choreographic work and my body were being perceived and became interested in understanding how race was read within performance. My final dissertation focused on this, and then that research built through into my post-graduate studies at NSCD.

Alongside this, I was creating a separate improvised solo, that mostly looked at personal narratives and how trauma is held in the body. But I started to see an overlap between them and wondered how they could co-exist. This also began to highlight the importance of gender within what I was exploring and that is where Inscribed in “Me” came from. So in short, the work is inspired by both personal and professional experiences and it also touches on wider issues around how feminine blackness is read within society. The idea of authorship, specifically self-authorship, is a central part of this work and that is why it being a solo felt important.

How would you describe your growth as an artist in developing this work?

This is my first full-length work, so it’s definitely been a significant point of growth for me. This process allowed me to develop my method of making, understand how theory and practice can be integrated, begin to trust my artistic instincts and understand what it’s like to perform in and tour my own work. I feel this has carried through into other choreographic works I have made since.

Also, solo works aren’t easy for any maker. There is a lot of time in the studio working alone, and this was especially challenging because of the personal nature of the work. Due to this, I definitely learnt the importance of having a supportive team around me and how that can impact my ability to make the work I envision. So this is something I have definitely taken away from this.

This work is personal to you and your journey, but also universal.. how would you like the audience to connect to the piece?

Yes, as mentioned before it is very personal to me. Though I hope it connects with other black women and non-binary individuals, I can’t pretend to, nor do I want to speak of every experience. For me, feminine blackness exists as a spectrum and I hope the piece honours that, and in turn, it will speak to who it needs to. In a more universal sense, the work at its core deals with the idea of self-actualisation and untangling what has been imposed onto you and inscribed into you, in order to exist in the world in your full potential, multiplicity and truth. So, though I don’t want to be descriptive of how the audience may feel or what they may think, I somehow hope this central idea is one that anyone can connect to whatever their racial or gender identity.

You are performing as part of SPILL festival, would you describe your work as performance art?

I find this question really interesting. In some ways it could be considered performance art and in other ways no. My early academic research and choreographic work focused on performance art, and I feel some of that is still embedded in this work.

I see the work as a piece but also a practice. I describe the work as a playground to practice navigation, reimagining, and decolonisation. Though it is highly physical, contains complex choreographic sequences and utilises the spectacle of theatrics through the lighting and costumes, I see those elements as materials for me to utilise and aid me in practising self-authoring. Connected to this, I also consider the audience as witnesses rather than audiences in a traditional sense. Those are the elements that might position the work closer to performance art but it’s a dance performance at its heart.

Although this performance is a solo piece, how has collaboration been a part of the process of developing the piece?

As I mentioned, having a supportive team has been a central part of developing the work. Both in allowing me to feel safe to explore but also because each element of the work was essential in allowing me to practise this idea of self-authoring.

I worked really closely with the composers (Akeim Toussaint Buck and Mikel Ameen) in developing the music and lighting designer (Ali Hunter) in building the world of the piece. I now work with my technical stage manager, Stacey Nurse to bring that world to each venue. Other elements such as the dress (by Elena Milani), the hair mask (by Jose Rodriguez ) the box (T.Davis, Re-Claimed) were also key to the piece.  I have also been lucky enough to have had Sadé Alleyne and now Joanne Bernard as rehearsal directors, and their inputs have been crucial to me in shaping the physicality but also dramaturgical elements of the work. The REcreate Agency (Reece McMahon and Emily Beecher) have also really supported by producing work. So yes, It’s a solo performance but it’s definitely not something I have done alone.

Don’t miss Alethia Antonia’s performance Inscribed in “Me” on Friday 20 October! Find out more and book your tickets here.