This Friday I shall give a GENDER AS PERFORMANCE workshop as part of the DIEP FESTIVAL in Utrecht:
Here’s the blurb and here’s the link: http://www.dieputrecht.nl/EN/program/performance-poetry/
In the Gender as a Performance workshop, hosted by Diane Torr, participants explore the origins of gender/identity and can create new transformation possibilities – developing a new body language. Some of the things that we investigate include: Who owns gesture? – performing the self – what does that mean? What is the primordial self? What is the acculturated self? How to develop the freedom to go beyond the boundaries of what a woman or a man can or can’t do. First of all in performance and then in real life. Participants are given a series of questions: What do you think is physically masculine/feminine about you? What about your intellectual thought do you attribute to “male” or “female”? or do you? Why? How can you transcend notions of masculinity and femininity? Not only in an intellectual understanding but also in your physical existence, in your daily life? Do you think biology is important in determining the behaviour of men and women? Participants are given some time to write their answers.Each person, in turn, tells the group what they think.
The first exploration is looking at the roots of identity. This exercise is about evolution and the primordial memory. It comes from my dance training in Release Technique, which is rooted in the work of Mabel Ellsworth Todd, who wrote the book called “The Thinking Body”. In this work, the process of recapitulating one’s physical ontology is based on primordial movement patterning. In Todd’s work, physically reiterating the stages of growth that we have all done as babies in evolving from the horizontal to the vertical is analogous to our 5 million year’s of evolution from amoeba to biped. Whether this is a metaphor, or is exactly analogous, is open for question. But the effect of the exercise is to create in the imagination of the participants, a time of “no gender”. It generates the possibility of the self as connected to an animal heritage, which is not defined by culture. I want to get across the concept that gender is defined by culture and as such, is a construct that can be learned or acquired through observation and practice. This exercise has a profound impact on participants in that they are challenged to think of the process of how we became human……what were we like as fish, as amphibians, as reptiles, as creatures with scales, as creatures with fur, etc. It is an inner enquiry that brings participants to a place of focus that is the starting point for this work of gender transformation. It is an exploration of our primordial origins. I give the students images that compel them to movement, imagining themselves as amoebae – single-celled, self-replicating herma-phrodites, floating in a watery environment. Then I guide them through the various stages of evolution, asking questions on the way.
The Gender as a Performance workshop is a combination of interior understanding and verbal iteration of individual discovery. Within this workshop there is the chance for both physical and verbal dialogue. It has the possibility to bring a group of people to a new understanding of gender and identity, one which is not defined by gender binaries.