Zoom, November 2020
Amanda Pefkou is a London based performing dance artist and maker. Her Cypriot, immigrant lineage and the amplification of hidden stories are the driving force of her artistry. Krump alongside contemporary and Hip Hop movement are her creative languages; spoken through intimate, poignant delivery. Her craft serves as a socio-political commentary in performance; from krump and Hip Hop theatre to battles, commercial stages and grassroots collaborations. She is passionate to redefine the 'performing womxn' in all its expressions and mobilise an intersectional understanding for the experience of displacement and the working class.
IA: Can you introduce yourself and describe what it is that you do?
AP: Well, we’ve had to introduce ourselves so many times online during this time! [laughs] How can we do it in a different way? I am Amanda Pefkou. I always like to say that I am a human first, then I’m an artist. [pause] I’m a woman and in the world of the arts I like to ask myself what I’m co-responsible for at this time. My main language is krump, I’m a krump artist and I have several influences from contemporary and several other street styles. My home, where my heart lies, is the theatre, and within the krump world I’ve had the opportunity to experience battles and sessions. As a performer, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of other people’s work, from dance theatre to Hip Hop theatre, and as a maker, I am at a very young stage. I’d like to say being co-responsible for what krump theatre will look like or looks like. I’ve also dipped my feet in certain commercial realms and now I’m creating collaborations with grass roots organisations.
IA: We’re gonna get onto all of those things over the course of the interview.
IA: In terms of family…and I’m talking about the kinship in crews and people who are your dance family, the different groups you inhabit…could you talk about your relationship to family, to crews and some of those experiences you’ve encountered so far?
AP: Yeah. Wow, that’s such a big question. [laughs] I’ve been really blessed to say that I’ve connected with some amazing people for the few years that I’ve been part of the scene. [pause] In terms of collectives of people, organisations or crews, I have to give a big love to Artists 4 Artists for creating a space for us to make mistakes and vocalise as Hip Hop artists. That wasn’t there before, so it had to be created. Through their programmes, their intensives, I had the opportunity to show my work last year, through ‘Three Rounds of Amp’ which they produced at The Place. Artists 4 Artists, for me is…has been a huge support, knowing that somebody is there, having a space to be able to have one to one, informal, personal, real, honest conversations. Lee, Emily, Joseph…Joseph was one of the first people that ever met me in London when I was still studying. I also have to give my appreciation to him because his work really, I think, made me understand at the beginning of my journey how through a man’s eyes…the totality and the duality of how a body is embraced in movement. The beautiful, the ugly and in the traditional sense the krump and the contemporary, because that’s how it’s viewed. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with Theo within krump. He’s one of the people that I learnt the style from and he was one of the first people that I had contact with in the scene and also being part of his work…in theatre, and in commercial things. Honestly, there’s so many people to name. Kenrick, Boy Blue…Mikey as well. I’ve had some amazing experiences there, being part of their work. Just looking through the pool of their creativity and what they wanna give to the community…more recently, I’ve connected with individuals, more so peers of mine. People from the one generation above like Tali, who I’ve learned from through her intensives - ‘identity, ideas and industry’ who’s making huge waves in building a bridge between the underground scene and what is considered commercial…and Becky Namgauds, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with in a creative way…she was the first female choreographer I’ve ever worked with, which was a huge change…seeing how sisterhood can exist in a studio. Having been in a male environment that was a huge shift for me. More recently being facilitated by Rachel Kay, who’s the former Artistic Director of Creation Box as well. There’s so many peers that I admire, especially in this time, I feel like we’ve had the chance to really strengthen our relationships and be conscious with who we collaborate and who we engage with. The list is very long but, I’d say until now those have been…some of the people I’ve been lucky to build connections with.
IA: I’d like you to talk a little bit about lineage. Choreographic lineage, and then more specifically krump lineage, I’m interested in how that works.
AP: Define lineage. [laughs]
IA: It’s an expansion of the family question, so if you’re at the centre of a tree, you will have siblings, you will have parents, you will have children…so how is learning and lineage and knowledge passed through and between.
AP: Yes. Wow. Big questions today! [laughs] I mean, in terms of krump, that’s a huge part of what it is - the aspect of a fam, a family. Obviously, how krump started, in South Central LA…it was either krump or the streets, the creative expression was a spiritual escape, it was an expression of their reality and a huge part of that even being possible was the fam…usually you would have, in the traditional structure of a krump fam, it would be The Big, which would be the person that would see someone that is younger in either an experience or skill, that would take that person under their wing to teach them the culture and its movement vocabulary, but also hold space for them and support them on a personal level, to be able to share the journey creatively and personally. There’s ranks within the family. There’s the junior, the twin, the little…obviously the more gendered side - the lady, the girl, the baby girl, the princess, the boy. Obviously that’s changed over the years because the reality…particularly in different areas of the world, krump will express itself in different ways. In different parts of the world even though there’s that constant, for some people it’s brotherhood or sisterhood, more on a peer level. Sometimes it’s a pyramid but the core of that lineage of krump is to hold space, celebrate the culture…push the culture creatively but also in the spaces that it can exist. And just joy, we forget that it’s a huge part of having a space or a circle where you feel supported, where your movement is your story and your story is valid. It’s seen and heard within that family, within that unit, within that lineage. It also ensures that the culture evolves. [pause] Where was I going with this? You were asking me it in a family way and in the personal?
IA: Yeah, so you’ve articulated the system, and then where are you? What is your lineage?
AP: Gosh. Well…I’ve started developing my own character called ‘Siren’. She’s very much in her young stage. [laughs] And I hope to pass that on to a fam of my own. In the past I was part of Theo Godson’s collective as Lady Godson. Currently a few us (krumpers) from different fams are in the process of building a new crew called 'Outsyderz' Within that, I’m discovering what my own voice is in krump, I’m blessed to have that space with a newly formed crew and people like Jordan Douglas, Joshua Nash, Claire Hough, even though in the traditional krump sense, we’re not part of a pyramid, we have regular conversations about our culture, we challenge each other creatively and support each other, not just in our personal journeys. I’m still finding out what that means for me, at this stage, but I guess lineage comes with aspects of responsibility. You being the source of somebody else’s knowledge, so it’s important to mention…how we’re learning. I think our generation marry the two, rather than looking up to somebody within our krump journeys and either, idealising them to a point where we’re not able to have the honest conversations, or we don’t see ourselves as active contributors to something, so that we’re able to take, take, take from the culture and leave. Because unfortunately that, that does happen in several styles. That’s where I’m at with that word, with that concept. [laughs]
IA: You’ve mentioned co-responsibility a few times already. Can you explode it a little bit?
AP: Gosh. Co-responsibility…in 2020, that word is more important than ever. I’m happy to see how we’ve awakened to that, but I wish we were aware of that much earlier. I think the idea of co-responsibility is…more so has to do with how much of ourselves, and our craft, we’re able to share. Not in a sense of reciprocity, but sharing the weight on our shoulders when something goes a certain way. Either diverts from the path or walks into the path. I guess it has a degree of vulnerability, in that, as well. When you’re co-responsible for something, you should be able to accept responsibility, to accept the fact that you might be asked to be guided towards something. And you’re asked to speak for a collective that is greater than yourself, to speak for an experience that is greater than yourself, for a story that is greater than yourself. For example, wanting to make a change about something that is necessarily not a lived experience of yours, I think that’s worth mentioning. To be honest…in my personal experience, I was resistant to that. For example when I first started about four years ago in krump, I was still learning. I felt so uncomfortable with people asking me, telling me, ‘Oh, you’re a krumper, you’re a krumper,’ when I was three, four months in, because I valued the culture so much and I understood the weight, historically and culturally, that it carried, I was dodging it so much. I’ve come to understand that again, if we’re part of a scene we have to be part of a scene and we have to willingly, consciously pour love into it, pour energy, pour our opinions and create a space to make that space better. Within that…I’ve discovered how part of my identity and the messages that I carry inherently because of my own experience and my closest ancestors, I’ve understood how I’m co-responsible for transmuting and being a storyteller for those messages, of the working-class, of displacement. If we’re accepting and consciously engaging in our co-responsible selves, as artists and as human beings, we’ve got to marry the two, and understanding how what we do is political - not in the traditional sense, but something that carries weight on a societal level.
IA: How did you meet Hip Hop?
AP: Oh, gosh. I first met Hip Hop through music. I was born in Cyprus, and lived there until I was ten. My dad used to be a DJ in London in the seventies, so…everything that happened here, I heard it through music. Before I knew any Cypriot folklore music, anything traditional, I listened to James Brown, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Public Enemy, The Fugees, Eric B. and Rakim, it just goes on and on, so I was introduced to Hip Hop through the roots of the sound of the culture; particularly its samples, history and ethos. Even though I went through…I had all of my technical training in ballet and contemporary, I always felt like that part of me…that degree of cultural understanding, it was left at the back of my head, it was always there. I always allowed myself to dig into that, but it was seen as something that couldn’t be part of my creative journey for some reason, maybe the timing wasn’t right. I’m just gonna say that to myself! [laughs] I wish I had learnt how to…that I had met the people, the movement vocabulary earlier but…when I did, it was through classes here in London, a few years ago. I’d taken Body Politic’s foundation course. I used to just get the bus from Bristol, come here, train on the weekend…at first I took different choreography-based classes, and then I started going to Kenrick’s class and, eventually I was lucky enough to train with Boy Blue and working with Joseph as well, but I got to dig into how Hip Hop can exist as an essence in a hybrid form of movement. It’s been a bit of a weird journey but, we’ve actually been having a lot of conversations about when is a work Hip Hop and when it’s not. Especially if, for example, someone like me, we have the guest privilege. It’s not my lived experience but…it’s still a very conflicting subject, I think, within the purists and the people that are more open to different experiences. Hip Hop is an expression Black history. Is Hip Hop…cause it is political, it’s a revolution…Hip Hop was always a revolution, that’s how it was born…how does it sit politically in other experiences? I’m still tryna navigate that…how I can contribute to that from my standpoint. Hip Hop is a set of ideals, a cultural revolution, a catalyst for change. That’s how I see Hip Hop. And on a spiritual level, as well.
IA: What was the first Hip Hop theatre work that you saw?
AP: Ooh…what was the first Hip Hop theatre…let me rewind. [pause] It’s definitely Boy Blue. [pause] The reason why I am pausing here, is because there’s a real divide between when is it Hip Hop theatre and when is it Hip Hop dance theatre? For some people it’s a grey area. If I would say Hip Hop dance theatre, it was a Boy Blue youth show in Kingston in 2015…that was the first place I experienced it and was instantly taken by it. [long pause] I have to go through like a whole folder in my head now. [pause] It’s difficult to say why… [laughs]
IA: You mentioned krump theatre earlier on. What is krump theatre?
AP: Ha! Krump theatre…krump in theatre. Krump in a…krump in its theatre form. I guess. [pause] That’s another challenging question for many, especially because krump as a language has been used by so, so many within Hip Hop theatre. It’s a favoured tendency in posture and in language. But also it’s been appropriated by [laughs] people who have never learnt krump. It’s important to distinguish how it’s not just krump in the theatre. Let me break that down. When people think ‘Ah, krump theatre - I will see a krump session, a krump battle onstage,’ because that’s how it started, that’s the roots of krump, that’s krump. If we put movement vocabulary on the Sadler’s Wells stage, that’s not krump any more, because there’s a fourth wall, and in battles and sessions there is no fourth wall…the audience is a participant in whatever is happening in a session. To me, krump theatre is a space where the formula of krump, the characters, the vocabulary, the intention, the culture can be explored in a deeper way with theatrical tools. The fact that krump is so theatrical - theatrics is a big part of krump - it almost seems inevitable to me for krump to live there. We build our worlds through characters. The rawness, the emotive and aggressive nature, but mostly honest nature of krump…I think that allows for it to really be seen in a more fully realised, creative, way, in certain people’s minds. You’re able to create a character and embody a character through the costume, through the lighting, through staging, through set and creative choices and step into that character’s story and their world. Krump theatre is an avenue for the culture to evolve. There’s been so much challenge from purists in the culture to how krump theatre’s not krump. But I think when we do marry the two…the battle, the session world, the underground - when we marry that to the theatre, I think that’s when we’re able to really push the culture as one. The fact that krump theatre’s being slowly recognised by the community is huge. Right now one of the biggest krumpers and one of my favourites called Grichka from France. He’s Monsta NY and he’s touring a krump piece right now. We’ve had a lot of conversations saying that, ‘OK, but there’s a fertile ground in the UK, because of the existence of Hip Hop theatre, for krump theatre to come in as the brother or sister of it, but also part of the same circle. That is definitely something that is powerful for our culture to be able to have that shared space, it’s also important to understand how other countries are doing it, they are doing it greatly and they are being daring within that. Krump theatre is more than krump in theatre, but it’s also that. [laughs]
IA: Who is Siren?
AP: Wow. Well…she is a being that is very much under construction. Siren is a character, but I don’t always like to say that about a full-fledged being. She’s a creature that I created in my imagination, based on my experiences and my creative stimulations within krump. I’m very much a lover of nature, I’m an island girl. [laughs] I love being surrounded by water and I’ve always been intrigued by its mystery and how many messages it carries, how much history it carries and how much pain it carries…that’s where she started being born. I’ve always had a fascination with mermaids. When I started looking into different mythological creatures, different folklore stories of women that were ostracised from society, I started making links in my head. She’s very much a result of different things that I’ve read…there’s a myth called ‘Skeleton Woman’ about a woman that was thrown into the sea. She reconstructed her own bones and came to the surface and created a lot of damage. Siren was definitely inspired by people like that but, to me, she’s a creature that was female, that was ancient and had a similar story to that - she was ousted into the sea, she lost her children, and she expresses pain and truth and the ancient histories that she carries. She’s there to represent for her people that had a similar destiny. Siren is my love letter to the archetype of the 'othered' womxn; the witch, the enchantress, the revolutionary; a reminder of our ability to transmute ancestral and conditioned pain into power. She’s able to shape-shift into the earth, and back to transmute messages and to embrace the ugliness and the beauty within female nature, within female experience and, from a krump perspective, she’s also there to challenge the norm of what krump on a female body looks like. To me, Siren happened organically because of my historical connections to my own lineage…and that revolutionary spirit…it’s a melting pot of that all…she’s there to challenge, to create waves and to embrace the vulnerability within krump. And how the female body is a carrier of all the aspects of krump, how that already exists within us, even though that it was created on a male body. I think spirit in krump is genderless. In my character, I use my hips a lot, I use my chest, I use my head and the arms in krump…it’s the last thing, it’s the decoration…I aim to create that character more and more, to challenge the expectation of that.
IA: Thank you.
AP: Thank you for listening. [laughs]
IA: As a performer in other people’s work…you mentioned Becky and Theo…can you articulate some of those experiences where you’re not the author, you’re not the originator of things, your time in those worlds?
AP: I always say that when you invite me in a room, you’re not just getting me, you’re getting my ancestors behind me, you’re getting my tribe, those who support me and the causes that I fight for so…as a performer that’s always been the case. Even though it took…as we evolve as human beings, we begin to understand how that transpires into our creativity. I’ve been fortunate to be invited to be part of people’s work that didn’t want, didn’t expect me to be somebody else, other than myself. Even when doing ‘Macbeth’, being Lady Macbeth in Theo’s Krump Macbeth…it was a completely new story to me and she was a character that I had to get to know. I carry my experiences through the character and I feel through that world, rather than being just a puppet. Particularly in Becky’s work, because it was a solo, it was definitely a collaboration, how we bounced off of movement, off of each other, but Becky being the energy organiser and creator of the piece, she was able to see parts of me, and amplify certain qualities while I was learning her movement. Recently doing the Rita Ora tour, and learning choreography from Tali from Robia…learning and being able to understand other people’s vision and really learn how to execute that, but maintain my authenticity is something that I always have to remind myself. As artists we always have to remind ourselves of this, rather than being trained to become machines. I hope that when people either watch me perform somebody else’s work or my work, they’re able to see the choreographer’s vision, but also…see my authenticity within that, without either being compromised.
IA: You as an author, as an originator - ‘Stranger at Home’, ‘Safer Here’, you say that you’re very early in your journey, but you are making work. There is a deep sense of womanhood, heritage and belonging that’s manifesting in each of those works. Can you talk a little bit about the works you’re making?
AP: Like you said, I’m very much in the beginnings…I’d avoided that for so long. I was just appreciating so deeply the world of Hip Hop theatre and krump and krump theatre. I think that was part of the fact that, ‘Gosh, can I be…do I have the capability to be co-responsible for something as big as that?’ But I also understand, in the same breath that once you make something it can’t be erased. Once you share a story, once you amplify a story, it’s there and it’s reached and it’s accessed somebody else’s ears. I guess, in those humble beginnings, I’m going step by step and understanding that and really owning up to being a maker. I do feel it’s slightly different from being a choreographer. Particularly with ‘Stranger at Home’, it was an exploration of the belonging and the otherness within, that inner conflict within somebody identifying with home, and home rejecting you. The way it evolved into ‘Safer Here', it shows a difference from a year ago, because I did finally understand that yes, I am a maker. Yes, I have to own to this and I’m co-responsible to this, but part of that journey was also me understanding what I represent. The passing of my grandmother who was Jewish and working-class, lost her family in the Holocaust, somehow ended up in Cyprus…that was what triggered that work, because I started connecting all the dots and the commonalities of experiences of both sides of my family. Family being important as a second generation immigrant that has to represent for their family and can’t do anything wrong, and has to be perfect and study and da-da-da-da. Looking into that experience of that conflict between strength and vulnerability in being a working-class person, being a woman, being part of a displaced community. That for me, really opened a space to create that. It really became important to me to share how it’s important to vocalise the face behind the numbers and our headlines. The real humans, the real stories, particularly with what’s happening with refugees. About two hours from here, between Calais and Britain…that became a melting pot and an earthquake. How my grandmother’s story can represent one generation, but is also able to, hopefully create a space where stories like hers can exist. Particularly as we have that caricature of the immigrant woman that speaks broken English, is a cleaner, is very stern, strong…rude and very hard lined. You know, she’s in an apron, she’s a protector of the family and walks around wearing armour. To me that is dehumanising - merely looking at a human being through their exterior, through their survival mechanisms, because that’s what they have to do. I have the privilege to no longer need that survival mechanism because I have the freedom of choice and…as a maker, as a storyteller, I know that I have to take that, all that is accumulated in stories like hers, especially within the current climate to be able to transmute that creatively, within this collective shift that is happening…during the pandemic, we’ve all had different experiences but I’m blessed to have connected with people and organisations that want to support these amplifications, and want to encourage makers to make…to see themselves as political beings, to see themselves as people who can challenge and move and shift perceptions. We know we’re not gonna change the world by sitting in the theatre. If I’m an audience member and I’ve just watched something, ‘OK, that was nice but…’ You know? When you watch something that is challenging your reality, especially as a privileged person, you can at least, what I hope to do is put a brick in the house to change how women are perceived. Of that working-class background, but also women as a whole. And womanhood and femininity existing not just in a female body, but in a male body and just embracing femininity as a whole…at least, scratching the surface of some people’s consciousness. The next time you’re gonna see somebody like that, I’m giving you the option to be perhaps more kind, more respectful, more compassionate to people that are different than you, period.
IA: What do you want to dismantle within Hip Hop?
AP: Ha! Wooo! What do I want to dismantle in Hip Hop? [long pause] OK, I’ll try and make a list first in my head, because everything is flowing in my head right now! [laughs] I would say…appropriation. [long pause] Hmm. Certain hierarchies, that we impose on ourselves. And maybe even a lack of…I’m not gonna say ‘lack of’ - I don’t like speaking from a place of lack, but maybe the need to challenge and support each other, wholeheartedly. That needs to be nurtured. Appropriation is pretty obvious. Just making sure that…even for me being labelled as Hip Hop is by some people is an honour but…just making sure that whoever is around in the scene has genuine intentions for the scene, for the culture. In terms of hierarchies, there’s micro systems that trickle down from wider systems in society, from personal relationships. Within any working environment, any culture, any social environment there are still the expectations…the perceptions of women in Hip Hop is ridiculous. [laughs] I’m gonna say that it’s ridiculous. I mean the powerhouses that we have in Hip Hop, the female powerhouses that we have, speak for themselves. It’s a male-dominated culture, we know this, but there needs to be an effort from all of us to dismantle the stereotypes that we have when a woman…a female performer or maker comes into a process or is programmed. ‘Oh, is the work feminist because she’s a woman?’ These kind of questions in terms of physicality, the expectations, in terms of the capacity to convey emotions…we have makers that are really opening up the space for male vulnerability to be celebrated. I think that there are huge steps that are being made. Coming out of Artists 4 Artists’ Womxn in Hip Hop programme, I was massively empowered by my peers and the facilitators understanding what we have to do as women, to be able to really step up and be our whole selves in every space that we step into when we’re able to speak aloud for what we represent and who we are. There’s hierarchies in terms of how we rep…how we’re perceived by institutions, by theatres. ’There is not technicality and intellectuality in Hip Hop’. The culture has been hugely commercialised, and we can’t escape how that can infiltrate into people’s perspectives but in terms of that, we have to dismantle that within ourselves. Particularly people who are guests within the culture. In terms of belief, my other point is the accumulation of all of that. Again it comes back to co-responsibility, being co-responsible for each other within the community. Not praising each other just because you made work. I want to challenge your work, I want our culture to evolve, I want you to evolve, I want your skills to evolve, I want your creative skills to evolve. Dismantling the idea that support means sugar-coating. [laughs] Being welcome to criticism within ourselves, so dismantling the set of ideas within ourselves, and our industry and not to be in dreamland, but to strive to create what we wanna see and to be what we wanna see. I could go on for hours, these are huge questions.
IA: Are you biting your tongue on anything?
AP: Am I biting my tongue? [pause] My mind at this point is going into wider issues trickling down. Particularly where my mind’s at in 2020, how so many things have been shed light but…again, co-responsibility for each other, particularly seeing in male-dominated environments where women haven’t been respected, physically, especially with all the allegations that have been coming out this year. Making sure that we create space for honest conversation and for challenge, and that can’t happen if we can’t dismantle the expectations of ourselves, of each other. The idea that we have to reach for institutions to accept us, but to look around us to water the seed and create that safe, honest space of celebration and growth and revolution that Hip Hop is at the end of the day.
IA: Thank you. Who are the three people, in your network, who nourish, support and feed you? Who do you go to? It’s about giving props to those people.
AP: Hmm. [pause] Three only?
IA: Only three.
AP: Honestly, you know what it is, I feel like a lot of people inspire me and they have no clue. [laughs] They don’t know me, I don’t know them, but either through their work or through what they represent, they inspire me. They nourish me creatively, and they nourish me in the sense of me walking into whatever space I’m walking in with my full self and what I stand for. In terms of people nourish…people that nourish and support me, that was the question, right? Peers…or?
IA: It’s just three people.
AP: [laughs] What like my mum?
IA: It could be.
AP: [laughs, then long pause] You know what, I’m taking my time cause these questions are really important. And when I read the transcript, I’m gonna read back and just make sure I question myself too. [laughs] One of them has to be Joseph. We don’t have that, traditional relationship of, ‘Oh, he’s my mentor, de-de-de-de,’ but there’s space there that I know that he’ll open up a conversation that will nourish me, and push me to evolve, which I really appreciate. Oh, difficult questions. [pause] I really, really have to give love, for this particular question to the A4A team alongside Joseph as well. You know, it’s particularly the women in my life. Whether that be family or peers, or women that I look up to. But ultimately my mother has always been my biggest source of inspiration and strength.
IA: I want two more names.
AP: Two more names! [laughs] Rachel Kay. I’ve been working with her…I mean she’s been facilitating me through the Womxn in Hip Hop bursaries…she really pushes authenticity within artists and her method, ‘Flight Mode Method’ has been huge in me really marrying my personal self and my creative self…I’m just really understanding that.
IA: Last one.
AP: Iona Brie has been a massive support for me, in and out of the studio. As a friend, as a peer…and it’s a friendship and a sisterhood that I highly value. Sisterhood is everything to me. Either experiencing that or seeing that, you know, sisterhood in motherhood, for example, and I’m hugely inspired by these two women, and the A4A team…because people who nourish and support me, allow me to be my whole self. And hopefully, I hope I create the space for that too. [laughs]
IA: I’d like you to talk about craft and craft in krump. That idea of constant iteration of training, of developing the muscle. How does it manifest in your body and in your mind?
AP: Oof! Well…in krump we always create. The mind is always in a state of creation. Always. It’s always in a state of stimulation, but most of all…craft is seen as very mental. But crafting krump, at least for me, character and feeling is number one. When somebody krumps and there’s no heart, there’s no feeling, you know…it completely defeats the point. It’s not krump…it has to be what it was created to be, right? We craft through our heart with a collaboration of our brain. Because you mentioned the body, for me I work a lot through my womb, through womanhood so that’s three points in my body that I craft and also the womb as the source of life, particularly for my character of Siren. In krump we always create things that are not there. We have these things that we call ‘invisible props’, and we create stories, the character and the feeling is the baseline, and as we craft these stories, the character reacts to the story. The character reacts, for example, to somebody that pushed them from their back, for example, and we accumulate stories, we accumulate gestures, we accumulate combinations, to also reach that higher spiritual state that we call ‘the get off’. What I love about the idea of crafting in krump is how ephemeral it is. It’s a moment, and because we’re in a circle and we’re sharing and there’s no fourth wall like in the theatre, we also interact with the crowd, we also control the crowd. It’s an energy organisation. I think we craft through all of that, through the vocabulary, through the external energy, but it also always, always comes from within. It’s an inward feeling expressed outwardly. In that sense, we’re able to express individual and collective stories, by crafting these realities of our characters, these scenarios that we act out, these theatrics. And in the theatre world, even though there’s elements of both freedom and more set movement…the feeling always carries, always carries and crafts the moment. It will craft how the movement is being expressed and executed, because it serves the story that is being shared in the moment. I think we also craft a safe space to express, most importantly. [laughs] We craft this space to liberate through escape, and to speak for things that are bigger than our experiences. Crafting through things that have come before us. I like the idea of filters, when I think about crafting and krump, but it’s a constant crafting. When you walk in the street, you look at the way people interact. You bring that into your round. I love people watching. I’ll see how they speak with their hands, I’ll see how they move their face, how they project through their face.
IA: I watched a few of your battles and sessions online…can you talk about the one versus Girl Braze? ‘#Siren’ was in there and there is a kind of the character in there. Can you talk about the sensation, mentally and physically when you are engaging battles and sessions?
AP: Hmm. [pause] The thing is with battles and sessions, you can plan however much you want. You can lab however much you want, you can train…labbing is like the creating, the crafting…it’s different from training in krump. Training, repetitions, drills…closes bracket! [laughs] But how you feel on the day, how you turn up on the day, what energy is in the room…affects and transpires into how you communicate. That can affect you negatively, but when you’re aware of it, in a battle and session perspective, you’re able to transmute whatever you’re being stimulated by, and craft it like I was saying earlier, into the present moment and bring that into reality. On that particular day, for example, I was quite open to whatever will happen. I think a lot of us when, if we’re battling or sessioning, we try and control the moment just a little bit. But I think, I’ve been finding that the times where I’ve really been able to connect on a very, very, kind of deeply spiritual level…beyond the usual [laughs] it’s been the moments that I’ve really been able to transmute that very consciously. A lot of people say ‘Krumpers are clumsy…don’t go around a krumper, they’re gonna push you accidentally,’ [laughs] But the idea of awareness…when I’ve been able to really tap into my awareness, and transmute whatever energy I’ve come into contact with. That’s when I’ve reached those moments. Is your question more about that?
IA: It’s about the state in battle and session preparation. How it does manifest?
AP: Yeah. Jordan Douglas, who’s a good friend and somebody that I really, really admire in krump. He said, ‘You don’t have enough hate in your heart to really battle.’ [laughs] I disagree. [laughs] I think that the thing with battles…some people will take it very personally in the idea that ‘This is my ego and I have to win this.’ But the idea of a battle is sharing, really sharing and challenging each other. Being playful, for example you mock someone or steal their moves as a joke and that sounds all hippy dippy but at the end of the day it’s just a physical representation of inner conflict. Whoever is in front of you, whoever it can be, yes you can use certain things in your skill set against their skill set and showcase your strengths in a different area than theirs and play it like that. But it’s also how you can battle someone…battle them in the sense of…they represent something that you are moving through, something that you are navigating in your life that is challenging. I think that’s the power of transmutation in battles, but also it’s different in a session and in a tournament. In a session, anything can happen. Anything is possible. In tournaments it’s much more codified, you have to have boxes you need to tick…like…travelling, combos, timing, musicality, character, material. But in the session I feel like there’s the power of transmutation, it’s much stronger. Because you’re not timed, there’s no limitations. Those are the ones that I prefer. The battle that you mentioned with Girl Blaze, I had been going through some challenging times and I had moments where I was able to transcend that. In times where I have been nervous it is because you fully expose yourself and there’s a lot of people seeing that. You know? You have the battles that are so-called ‘beefy’, it’s very personal, it can get very physical, and things need to happen like that in krump battles. That’s also part of krump nature but whether it’s session, whether it’s battle or a tournament battle - the power of being brave through conflict, being brave through your scars, being brave through your experience, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to do that. Let’s not forget to really showcase the hours and hours and hours and the tears that you’ve put into making sure that your technique is right. Particularly in tournament battles. Just making sure that what you’ve practiced, what you’ve crafted, what you’ve repeated time and time, you’re really able to execute it and deliver it against your opponent.
IA: I have some more questions but I want to offer a space…is there anything so far that you’ve not talked about that you want to put down…something that is important for you?
AP: [pause] I’m gonna go back to what has been brought up already…and it’s something that has definitely been in my regular thoughts. The idea of roots is very important to me. It’s a pretty big cliché. But there’s definitely a notion right now - not just within our scene but in the world - that you can be a leaf and you came out of nowhere, ‘Yeah, I learnt from this guy and I learnt from this guy and I learnt from this guy,’ this idea of being completely self-made and have blossomed out of nowhere. I think it’s really important to be genuine with our support and to give credit to people we have learned from. To root ourselves to our own truth wherever we go. Particularly how Hip Hop culture and how krump culture is perceived these days…we have to make sure we really root ourselves in our own truth and the people that we carry with us to be able to instigate change. It can be as a survival tactic for many to just see their journey as completely individual but this culture was created from a collective experience…and if we’re really about it…we have to learn from accurate sources. We need to share the sources with people, particularly of the younger generation. I mean, I’m twenty-five, but the people that are maybe for the first time coming into contact with anything that we do. In the meantime, making sure that we take care of ourselves, because I feel like with what we’re facing as a culture, and within today’s context, it’s so easy to, as an activist to forget that you have to nurture yourself, nurture those around you and make sure that those people around you are able to really hold space for you. We think if we don’t, we just keep on walking, keep on fighting, things will change but we need those spaces, we need to root the roots and water the roots. Within the context of the pandemic that’s what’s coming to the front of my mind, particularly for me learning more about my family history and understanding again that transmutation of energy, of conflict, of stories that we carry. Within that process it can get pretty heavy, particularly in things that we address in Hip Hop theatre. I mean, ‘Blak, Whyte, Gray’, those guys went through it. [laughs] I’ve not experienced anything like that before. But as an example in ‘Redd’ they had somebody there to support their mental health…just making sure that whatever, when we create and when we fight in the outside world and we’re being activists in our art in the outside world we’re able to always sustain the roots and water the roots.
IA: That’s a nice segue to mental health and self-care. It’s a thing that still isn’t very talked about within the community, I’m interested in the practices of self-care and mental health first aid that you do for yourself and for those in your networks.
AP: Yes…for me, I’m very much connected to nature. I will get as much sun as I can! [laughs] I read, I write, I’m in nature, as much as I can. I journal, I have conversations and vocalise with my people, we’re having spaces where it’s a pillow but it’s also a springboard. I feel like people have this, there’s such a stigmatisation that once you feel the thing you’ll just descend in a downward spiral but, you need to feel it to heal it, right? Especially if you’re tryna make work about everything that is wrong with the system! [laughs] For me, food is medicine, cooking. But also my own spiritual practices like meditation, mindfulness and movement. Movement is medicine. Within that, practicing mindful movement and combining that with krump has been a huge, huge shift. In krump there’s a lot that is demanded of our spirit. It’s emotionally demanding, physically demanding, so I spend time with spirit, I spend time with pen and paper and I spend time nurturing my body and nurturing the tribe that I got around me.
IA: What is Amanda’s food? What does she make to feel good?
AP: Oh my gosh. I’m such a foodie. I make a mean vegan stew. I know which one. Moroccan tagine. Amazing, amazing. It’s been my huge lockdown hug. [laughs] That has to be it. And some good dark chocolate. Always. [laughs]
IA: I’m interested to hear your thoughts on archiving, documentation and legacy. It’s an area which, as an individual artist or companies, I don’t think Hip Hop does very well. What are your approaches to your archive, your practice and your legacy? How do you preserve them?
AP: [pause] How do I preserve, how do I document and preserve my archives? [pause] Wow. [pause] I write a lot actually. For me, oral history is one of the most precious things that we can have, but, having those conversations and either recording them or writing them down. You know, whether it’s conversations with peers, conversations with family, that’s been a number one. That’s within our scene because it thrived, the fact that you know, it was personally shared with you. You go and learn from someone who has more experience than you and you find the source. Everybody can be the source I guess, but I have those simple rituals that I do, I have a thousand notebooks and when I take class, when I take workshops, when I’m in different programmes, I make sure I write everything down. Just yesterday I was going through notebooks because something clicked and that’s how we connect and bridge gaps between generations in knowledge and in experience. Archiving experience now through videos is, obviously, easy. Anybody can pay somebody to create that archive and make it look good. It is also important to archive the moment, what it meant for people. How certain events influenced the collective that was there. I feel like those moments are important for legacy. The most beautiful archived moments that I’ve heard are from word of mouth. Learning about how krumpers in Maryland used to battle, how things really used to be, the old school Boy Blue days, or you know, how Norm was created or just was happened in different spaces. When I think about it, it’s been through word of mouth so we do need to make it better…there are so many people that are archiving…there’s podcasts being made, there’s this! [laughs] I think it’s important that we share that within each other. Oral history’s being overtaken by the digital, I think the nature of Hip Hop culture and krump culture has to learn from that too…so we can have those credible sources, so we can write about it, maybe in ten years’ time, we’ll have the archive that we all want. We’ll be able to look at ’Aeroplane Man’…I can find it, it’s there. An A4A showcase, it’s all there and it’s a cultural map of what’s happened. I feel like it can show the evolution of how culture shifts, how our perceptions of the culture shift, and, how we make, how we think, how we view each other within the culture as well. How we are same but also, how we can be different from those that came before us, but at the same time you can’t gain respect for something that you’ve never been in contact with. Make sure that the source, is appreciated, whether it’s in oral or physical or digital form.
IA: If you were to save one moment from your Hip Hop archive…a memory, a moment, what is the one that you would save?
AP: Oh gosh! [long pause] One moment? [long pause] I’m smiling because I’m just grateful. [laughs, then pauses] Honestly, OK, if I had to choose one, it has to be… [long pause] This is difficult. This is very difficult. I’ve watched some amazing stuff. [laughs] I’ve had some amazing conversations but…and to me it’s the in between things, the post-show talks, the conversations, sometimes it’s not even the thing. But I would definitely…the one that has been the biggest shift for me would definitely have to be performing ‘Safer Here’ in February. [long pause] Gosh! There’s some good stuff in here! [laughs] In terms of career or just any experience?
IA: Within the Hip Hop folder, but it can be anything.
AP: Yeah. [long pause] Pfffft. [pause] Can I say more than one?
AP: [laughs] You’re killing me. [long pause] I’ll stay with what my intuition said, because as a creative that day a lot of the pieces of the puzzle fell, like I understood, I really understood my co-responsibility when I was making that. For the first time, I wasn’t pressured by it. Especially as female choreographers in Hip Hop, we do feel that pressure to, you know…that perception of ‘I have to be perfect because I represent this,’ and there’s so few of us but…things just fell into place with me and I understood that…you’ve gotta make, you gotta represent, and you’re creating your own legacy and you’re also part of a legacy of our scene here, whether that be krump theatre or a wider scene within Hip Hop. That was a moment where my past, my blood and my present went like this.
IA: What does success and happiness look like for you?
AP: [pause] It’s shifting a lot, especially in 2020. I’m not winning if the person next to me isn’t. I was brought up with that notion of, our value is about what we give. Now I’m adding my own, it’s valuing who we are. Really valuing and understanding who we are, at our core, at our essence. Success is really reaching that, really, really embracing that value and being at a place to give back to the community that I value and love. Being able to support my family. Success…if you’re happy, you’re successful. If you genuinely love what you do, if you love your life in spite of and because of the challenges, if you see your community evolve and provide for themselves…that’s success. In dreamland…success is to really see art being valued…be valued as in a real tool for change. As cheesy as it sounds…to really see art being incorporated in people’s well-being practices, who are not necessarily professional artists. For people that have nothing to do with art or theatre or Hip Hop or krump, to be able to want to come to and watch and talk about it, and bring those ideas into their homes and discuss that, to me, that’s a state of success. It’s personal and collective intertwined, being able to be healthy, being able to see the world, being able to travel [laughs] and live a life that is authentic, to me you’ve won. If you’re able to unlearn, you’ve won. If you’re able to remember yourself, you’ve won. [laughs]
IA: You mentioned before we started you were surprised at the invitation to be part of this.
IA: Why is that?
AP: [laughs] I mean I kinda touched on it because, I haven’t been here for ten years! [laughs] You know? There’s people that I really look up to in the scene and I was surprised but then again I had to look at my co-responsibility again. It’s just that imposter syndrome, right? Especially as a lot of creatives, particularly female creatives, we have that idea of…I don’t wanna put the blame on the circumstances of society making us feel insufficient, it’s that thing of ‘Oh but, you know…’ I really had to sit back and say ‘OK, you know, maybe your humble little opinion is of value.’ [laughs] And can hopefully reach somebody’s ears and contribute to our community and legacy of it. It is was it is, but I’m very grateful and I thank you for this. I really do. [laughs]
IA: What is your strongest memory connected to dance?
AP: [pause] Pfft. [long pause] God, you’re killing me! [laughs] Strongest memory [pause] You know what, the things that I should say are, I’d be name dropping and listing amazing experiences on stage like… [laughs] Who cares about the O2? Who cares about Sadler’s like…? That’s not it for me. It has to be when I first, first started, when I would just, I would be a kid dancing in the living room. [pause] And being able to… [long pause] Like, it really stays with me like when I’m having difficulty like creating, or I’m doubting myself, I always have to bring it back to the joy. That’s the joy that I feel like a lot of us forget. That moment is something that I cherish, but… [exhales audibly] I can’t pick one. I can’t. I can’t pick one.
IA: Is it back into childhood? Is it a single moment or a period of time where that repeatedly happened?
AP: It’s a period of time. OK, one thing…one strong memory…it’s not favourite or anything but it is…really in my memory, it was when I was battling in Maryland and I reached the most…high, spiritual state that I’ve ever, ever reached. I really felt held by those that were there in the krump community, I really felt like there was a space there for me. I was crafting the space to get there, spiritually in my round but, I really felt held by those who were there. I think that was last year, the year before that? Yeah. 2018, it was a session battle with Lil Badhype. Yeah. I think that’s my strongest memory. It was a very physical…physical and spiritual memory.