Zoom, November 2020
A multidisciplinary artist and Associate Director of House Of Absolute. Born and raised in Wales, welsh speaking woman of mixed heritage, graduate of London Contemporary Dance School and California Institute of the Arts. Ffion works collaboratively and as solo artist with voice, text, poetry, visual and digital art. From contemporary, Hip Hop and krump to indigenous expressions of femininity and deity embodiment, with influences of holistic therapy and martial arts. Working with music and film production, experimental art and exhibitionism. Exploring humanitarian politics, psychoanalysis, body language and spirituality, within the contexts of race, gender, culture & identity. Creating through ritual, expressing aspects of the human experience, bridging spaces of ancestral empowerment locally and internationally.
IA: Could you introduce yourself and describe what it is that you do?
FCD: My name’s Ffion and I am a performance artist. I work with different disciplines in my creative process and in my performance work. I use dance, and within dance I stem from my training in contemporary but also in Hip Hop styles, researching and exploring the intersectionality with waacking, Hip Hop forms and krump language, and where that sits within my contemporary training experience as well, in the body and in movement language. I also work with voice and text, spoken word, poetry and singing, and I produce my music scores for live works and also for digital work. I’m using film more recently to create dance work and conceptual visual work. [pause] I guess the umbrella of the work that I do in these different disciplines, a lot of it is through storytelling and about redefining and reconstructing my understanding of my place in the world and how I understand and intellectualise different politics around race and gender, sexism and societal structures and beliefs. How I use the art that I create to redefine those spaces or open out spaces for different perceptions that we don’t already address.
IA: The idea of crews and kinships is prevalent in Hip Hop. With your relationships in House of Absolute, could you talk about the kinship and the idea of a family that you choose?
FCD: Hmm. A lot of my understanding in the relationships that I’ve built with artists has come from the circles and the networks and the spaces that I’ve navigated through. The long-term relationships that I’ve established have come from a series of different…experiences in training and community exchanges…the predominant connection that I have with House of Absolute is through Julia Cheng. She was a key person in my development when I first moved to London. We both had an understanding of institutional training, but what really magnetised our relationship was actually the underground scene. I would see her regularly on weekends in clubs…it was really the clubbing scene in which we started to exchange culturally. Madame Jojo’s was a key venue that used to be open for a really long time, there were a few other venues as well that have also shut down…there were a few specific events that were always held in these clubs that brought a lot of different dancers together – breakers, poppers, lockers, waackers, house dancers. The DJs would play different music from these different dance styles and different cultures and it was a space where I could connect with a lot of different artists and learn from different cultural archives of different dance styles and with Julia we established a friendship and a bond through continually meeting up and exchanging, freestyling, labbing and exploring concepts through movement. We also understood the institutional side of training and were looking at how we could bridge the space between the underground dance world, the dance industry and the performative world. How we could create opportunities for developing work further…so we started to brainstorm concept work for studio spaces and for theatre spaces. It was a very long and slow process, because we were also working with lots of different artists and different people, but through time…we arrived at a place about five, or six years ago, where we agreed to regularly meet up at the Southbank Centre and various other places that used to be open like Trocadero and Charing Cross. There would be public spaces where dancers could just jam and train and we would meet there and we would train each other and we would exchange concepts and that’s where we really started to look at our ethos in the work that we wanted to create; through doing that and holding those spaces, we magnetized other artists towards us and we started a small collective. Then it got more serious and we thought ‘We wanna do showcases and we want to have a company and we wanna give it a name and we want to be able to bring our work to stages and receive funding to do all of this. That’s where House of Absolute then founded itself between us. From that point onwards, small shifts were happening in terms of, who are the right people to really resonate with this company? Because I think there’s always that transition of bridging from just a dance group that wants to train together or just wants to practice, to performative works that wanna be in gallery spaces, that wanna be in theatre spaces, that want the process of having an R&D and developing to different spheres with different audiences. The artists themselves need to align with those visions. So we refined the members in the company and for the last four years we’ve had a solid collective of people that we’ve worked with, bringing the work that we do outside of club spaces and outside of the community spaces, but also taking works to the V&A and Shoreditch Town Hall and looking at how we continue to integrate our practice with Hip Hop styles…and with the culture, the social culture that we get from training in the underground scene, but how can we also bring that in our work that is taken to places that are disconnected from that cultural side and reimagine the work that we create in completely different spaces, outdoor spaces and site specific spaces.
IA: I’m interested in the idea of generational hierarchy and choreographic lineage within your practices in Hip Hop and other dance forms. Could you talk a bit about your choreographic lineages?
FCD: I haven’t had this kind of question before and I haven’t talked about this stuff before, so it’s really interesting for me. The way that I do see it is that there is a lot of weight in the intergenerational and generational presence in the cultures that we embody, the spaces that we embody and the hierarchies that are there, that are present. Depending on where you are in that position, in that scale, how you approach creating work and how you approach choreography and the platform, you are supported to have…in what you can and what you feel supported to choreograph. So for me personally, I feel that there’s a lot of respect and censorship around how we rephrase or reframe language…dance language for different spaces and in different contexts. Because we’re looking specifically at the Hip Hop lineage, and the way that knowledge is passed down from elders, from pioneers and teachers, there’s a very particular current and direction in how we receive that information and how we process that and then how we embody it. But then, the process that happens in terms of…innovation and how we choreograph and change and rewrite language comes a lot of the time from the other direction of the youth and it’s a really interesting exchange…I think that’s what’s really important about having an integrated generational community that communicates transparently because then cultural values and the significant value of certain styles can still be honoured, and there can still be a hybrid, or an innovation of futuristic methods and techniques of developing work, whilst maintaining foundations. But it’s also difficult in the way we operate now in the world where anything is possible, from any position that you occupy, how you can extract and manipulate and shift and change language and disciplines of dance…things get lost in translation so I think there’s also a responsibility when, wherever you are in that spectrum of the generational lineage and hierarchy, to know where the privilege is. If you are in a position where you hold the platform, or you are a pioneer, how do you provide space for different ways of learning, as well as fundamentals and foundations that change constructs and break away traditions, but at the same time still honour them. If you’re on the other spectrum and you’re learning a lot and you don’t necessarily have an establishment supporting you in your own methodology that it’s about being really careful about how you embody a language if you’re not fully aware of the history that it comes from. I feel that I am personally very much in the centre. I feel like a doorway in that sense, that I am open to providing and holding a space for new ways of creating and perceiving these traditions and these languages, but at the same time I must also hold the frame of that doorway and honour that there have been structures that have developed through history in the past that also, it’s really important that they are still maintained, to understand the language because I think that’s what we sometimes lose, the understanding of the power of the language because certain principles are extracted away from the form. For example, when you have a culture that holds a dance language and you take away the culture, it loses the power of what that language is or the variety of what it can communicate and the history that it specifically communicates from. I personally feel very much in the centre of that, of those directional spectrums. In terms of hierarchy, I think sometimes that word can be really challenging and provocative, because it can be considered an oppressive concept…but bringing it back to community and indigenous cultural principles and values, it’s really about eldership and youth, and the different positions of authority and power and wisdom that people hold in their levels of experience. I think that that’s something really important to recognise. When we take the concepts of development and learning and training into the industry, that’s where hierarchy holds itself and that becomes a different conversation because it’s also about funding, it’s also about spaces of authority and spaces of ownership. It’s also about decision-making, who makes decisions about what is shared and what isn’t and [laughs] that’s…I think that becomes very political and it becomes a totally different conversation…but it still very much underpins how we experience Hip Hop, how we experience choreography, how we experience opportunities for training, learning and creating.
IA: In terms of your networks and your orbit, who are the three people who nourish, support and feed you? It’s important that it is only three.
FCD: OK. Ooh. [pause] Wow, I think that’s really hard. [pause] I feel…before I specifically name three people, I do feel that I’ve been carried in a web…and, I don’t often know how I’m being supported or who is supporting me because I think many people are involved in holding space for opportunities and how opportunities are made. It’s not always one person, but I think in terms of the interpersonal and the consistency of my development…I would say…the two primary people that have really taught me a lot and really nourished me have been two of the core members in House of Absolute. Julia Cheng being one of them because she’s really seen the span of my journey and my development as a dancer from graduation or…my beginning of training, then graduating…and then working in the industry as a dancer for other choreographers and projects and then transitioning into becoming my own artist and galvanising my own visions for what work I wanna create. Also being a part of the company, a lot of the processes that we’ve undergone within the company have really held me and supported me in understanding how to occupy my space, how to use my voice, how to make decisions about how I wanna be represented and what kind of work I wanna create, but also she’s held a space within the company work for me to really…direct how I would like to create in the process with her and that’s been very transformational, and grounding in identifying who I am within myself. But also on the level of communication, understanding communication to a deeper level and how we communicate in the industry as artists, how we communicate with non-artists, how we communicate as human beings. How we understand the complexities of performance work with mental health, with business, all these elements that overlap in the process of being an artist and she’s really shown me a lot of things about how to navigate that space…and create those spaces for myself. Saskia Horton is another artist who’s in the company…she’s taught me a lot of things from a very different perspective because she’s younger than me and she has a totally different way of galvanising, from very committed and driven and passionate place of…constantly wanting justice and equality and empowerment and protection and safety, these kind of delicacies and vulnerabilities that sometimes we experience when we’re young, growing up and being exposed to so many different things…being around her and the way that she works…not only within the company but also with, we’ve had processes where it’s just me and her and we’ve worked on duet work or I’ve been involved in her R&Ds…the intricacies that she has in the way that she processes information, knowledge, politics, cultural information, and body choreographic devices, it’s always really inspiring…and it also allows me to really check myself as well because I feel like there are certain people who can hold up a mirror, and it doesn’t disrupt the relationship or the intimacy that you have with that person, but you can also address very detailed and personal things that can only happen when someone really understands you in that way. Those two women in particular are people who have been connected with me through a variation of different contexts - not just training underground, not just performing onstage, but with family and interpersonal things, with business and artistic development and with real life things that we have to deal with as human beings. The third person…oh…it’s so hard cause there’s quite a few people but… [pause] [laughs] Who do I pick? I guess…I guess, I would have to say my mother actually, because she’s a trained dancer…both my parents are trained dancers. But with my mother, the understanding she had from when I was very young, was very specific to instilling values in, being able to commit to something that I really wanna do, but with the information that that may be challenged and questioned and that I might have to fight to really hold on to my beliefs. That was really instilled from a really young age and that has really provided a grounding for me to continue…doing what I’m doing, because I have found being an artist extremely challenging and I know that a lot of artists we find it extremely challenging…I think that it’s so much harder if you come from a family that don’t understand that challenge, that don’t understand the intricacies and the levels of what you have to do internally just to persevere…sometimes the violence of the external world towards not understanding or supporting those things that artists have to do just to sustain themselves. Having a parent who has lived through that, who is living through that, who understands that and also a parent who has connections to their ancestry…you know she wasn’t directly connected to Hip Hop culture, but she was very much connected to the diaspora languages that are branched across Hip Hop, there were ways in which she expressed herself that she didn’t know was part of a Hip Hop lineage or language that came naturally to her in her ways of exploring and expressing herself. She talks to me about the days when she used to go clubbing and she loved house music, she’d freestyle and she’d do these things, and I’d be like ‘Mum, that’s house dance, you were doing house dance’. And she’d be like ‘What’s house dance?’ I feel like there’s already things that she’s lived through that are already connected to these lineages that we’re talking about…but also working in the industry and also as a Black woman working in the industry, she’s already had to navigate a particular array of obstacles…coming through the eighties into the nineties and being a contemporary dancer as well and understanding the institutional conservatoires and understanding theatre work and dance work…there was a distinct relationship that I had with her growing up that…even though I didn’t know as a child I wanted to be a dancer, I was actually somewhat resistant towards it because it was already there. But…the non-verbal realms in which we did communicate really provided space for me to embody myself. For example, she would take me to the classes that she would be teaching, and I would just be there, but I’m there as a child, just playing with my toys…but I didn’t realise already that context is already fuelling me and plugging into me my understanding of occupying space and movement and language…throughout my development I’ve always felt her support. Her understanding of that need for resilience and that understanding of integrity to the languages that really do nourish us, the cultures that do nourish us, and that’s important to be connecting continuously with people in those communities. So, even when I was training…even when I was auditioning to go to…figure out which school I was gonna train dance in, she was coming with me to the auditions, sometimes when I’d create shows or when I was creating work, she would come to see the work. Having that presence, even though maybe she wouldn’t talk with me about the work or maybe, she didn’t have much to say but her just being there…was everything. Because it affirms and validates where I am on my path and that what I’m doing…is enough, is good enough. I think as artists, we don’t get that support, we do everything on our own and I know definitely for people who don’t have parents who are artists, it’s incredibly difficult to know if you’re in the right trajectory with the work you’re creating, and it’s even harder if the people you have grown up from are against what you’re doing, but the thing that you’re doing feels so right to you. It’s such a difficult thing to persevere in. That that has definitely been one of my strongest backbones for my artistic career.
IA: Can you talk about your routes in, through and current relationship with Wales?
FCD: Yeah. I grew up in Wales. My father’s from Wrexham and my parents met in London. My mum moved to Wales with my father and I grew up predominantly in Cardiff and visited my family in various parts of Wales, North Wales and Ponty, but mostly South Wales. I went to nursery school, primary school and high school in the Welsh language, so I learnt everything first hand in Welsh alongside the conventional forms of education that I also was going to, creative Sunday school dance and stage school kind of things. And I was lucky to…there was kind of opportunities to continue connecting through creativity. I think one of the key things that was very unique about Wales at the time, in the nineties, is that they would have a local carnival…over the decades it’s changed and different people have organised, led and directed it but from when I was four, up until I was fourteen, it was organised and run by a specific collective of people, who had various experiences in street art, backpack designs, carnival arts, circus, stilt work and percussion…it was very diverse in the resources that were available and the communities that were coming together to create these carnivals each year. They were very different to what people usually understand about carnival, like when we think of Notting Hill or think of carnivals in the Americas and the Caribbean…it was a very particular way of doing things in Wales that was unique to Wales and even though a lot of things were married from other cultures in terms of having live percussion groups and wearing costumes, a lot of the ideas and the way that things were brought into manifestation were from the people who were actually there, in that process, meeting up in those places and that’s what made it unique to Cardiff. That was incredible for me to connect to as a child, because it was extremely liberating. Not only did it give me a sense of self and confidence that I was connecting with a lot of different children from different backgrounds…I was developing my creative skills in craftship and designing costumes and building structures, but also percussion, music and playing drums…and of course dancing. My mum was leading on that. So, there was something very cathartic about going on a procession on public streets where in that moment, no one knows who you are because you become something else in what you create in that process. It was something that I learnt from very early on, that it’s very different to performing onstage. It’s very different to performance work because it’s durational and you go through transitions in that whole procession…you intrinsically embody different states and so it’s quite trance-like. I took that with me through all of my development, growing up in Wales and that was one of the core things that kept me centred, because there were a lot of things that I didn’t understand growing up in Wales. I didn’t understand how to…who I was supposed to be, because I think there is a cultural context in Wales that comes from the Welsh community and Welsh-speaking community of Welsh identity, and what that should be. Also looking at the history of Wales and their challenges and the discrimination that they’ve experienced historically about their language and their integrity as a group of people, there’s a very strong passion about maintaining and protecting that identity and, growing up in that, of course I didn’t meet those requirements or conditions, but I was still involved in that culture, and so I didn’t know how to process that, I didn’t know where to stand within that. I found myself standing on the outside of it, looking in and at the same time, I’m mixed race and I don’t have direct connections to my mother’s family’s lineage in the Caribbean. I’ve visited there a few times but…there was nothing in my personal sphere to ground me in terms of family members, representatives – I’m an only child. In terms of identity and understanding your position in culture…I didn’t know how to navigate that, so I felt very isolated because it affected how I communicated as I got older and I started to intellectualise and conceptualise and understand different kinds of politics, social behaviours and classism - all these different things. Because in Wales there’s also a class system of it’s own…it’s very different to in England, for example…all of those things took me into a place of isolation and I didn’t really know my place, I didn’t feel there was a space for me to be who I was in terms of all of my interests and ideas. I felt very different but alone in that difference. What that did is it really reinforced my connection with myself, because then all I did, all I had was my own beliefs and understandings of, ‘Well actually, this really does resonate with me. And, OK, no one else understands and no one else agrees…or no one else likes this, but I definitely know I like this.’ So then I wasn’t easily swayed into any sort of direction because there were no things that I could hide behind. I couldn’t hide and so that made me very distinct in my decisions and my ideas and how I presented and carried myself through when I’d meet people, when I’d enter spaces…when I moved to London, that’s where I started to realise that it had given me so much resource, growing up in Wales. It’s not only a very different pace of living and that the landscape is completely different, but there’s also an ancestry in Wales that’s so rooted and untapped most of the time. I feel personally that it’s untapped. By that I mean that I don’t think people realise how much of a resource there is to connect to Welsh ancestry and how deep it goes, because it is very deep. That just gives you completely different ground to stand on wherever you go in the world. There’s something about that language and for me, it’s about the fact that I can speak that language and I’m raised in the…I don’t wanna say binary but a predetermined narrative…I’m not raised in this predetermined narrative that says ‘This is what this is and that’s it’. So I have all those resources but I’m completely extracted and removed from that and that gives me the freedom to see things from a bird’s eye view and to cross-connect with many different cultures and people from different places and…have such a sense of empathy in understanding all the different layers that create culture, division and inclusion…all the aspects and elements from it, from the landscape, the language, the rituals, the practices that we do, the belief systems that we have…all of those elements…I just don’t think it’s the same when you’re growing up in England…I wouldn’t know personally because I’ve not grown up in England, but the cosmology and the belief system and the fact that it’s already so fragmented and diverse means that it doesn’t have the same…it has a different composition into how people grow up, culturally. I don’t know what that’s like, but I know what Wales has given me as a foundation.
IA: What was the first Hip Hop theatre work that you saw?
FCD: [pause] Ah actually…this was not live, this was a recorded piece of work, because it was done I think in the late eighties. It was a piece of work that Benji Reid had created. And truly…I believe that that was the first time I’d seen Hip Hop theatre, because I’d seen companies…I won’t say ‘companies’, but I’d seen groups and artists create work onstage using Hip Hop and creating Hip Hop theatre, but it didn’t provide the context of historical development that really underpins what Hip Hop theatre is. When I saw Benji Reid’s work in that film…I can’t remember the name of the work. I saw it…four or five years ago? When I watched that, I could see the tools and the methodology. I could see the Hip Hop language, but then I could also see the activism and the protest and all the themes that drive Hip Hop to be what it is…storytelling and liberation, fighting for justice and activism. Those themes that I personally feel underpin Hip Hop culture and the birthing of these different forms, but also then the disciplines and the tools that we use to create work in the theatre space to engage audience. It’s very different dancing in a crew, in a battle, or dancing in a club to dancing for an audience, there are constructions that have to be put in place in that creative work, that allow for the language to be understood from the Hip Hop history context, but also understood from the context of theatre work and how audiences have developed learning and understanding what they’re watching. It was incredibly intricate in the way that he had created this over-arching journey and the way that the work journeyed, but the way that he used the language and the tools to say different things that usually, removed from that context, would just be a really amazing freestyle or a move or animation or storytelling in real time. But then how do you take that and then say something political about your position in society? That’s where I started to go ‘Ah, I get it.’ For me, that’s what makes Hip Hop theatre, Hip Hop theatre – it’s the ways and the levels of what you can communicate through these forms.
IA: We’ll come to your work as an author next, but I want you to talk a little bit about some of your work with tyroneisaacstuart, with Isaac, with ‘Warrior Women’. Can you talk about you as a part of those systems and creations?
FCD: Yeah. The process that I had with Tyrone…it was a great opportunity to connect with him and understand his ways of working as a multi-disciplinary artist. That was the first time I’d connected with another artist who had so many different branches to his artistry that I could resonate with in parallel to the way that I work. Using voice, using text, using dramaturgy and dance, but also contemporary as well as Hip Hop, and instrumentation and music producing. It was actually quite difficult because, even though someone shares very similar cultures and values and practices in how they create work, it’s also about what drives a person and what drives an artist and what are the things that they want to create and what are the things that they wanna speak about. That’s when it brings it back to the identity and we have very distinct identities, we’re very different in that sense, and that difference and that polarisation is what made the work really unique, but it’s also what made the process quite challenging. We had different communication styles and we had different needs for how we access approaching work. All of that was being understood and learnt in real time, through the rehearsal rather than already knowing somebody and already knowing those things. We didn’t already know those things so it took a while to really figure out our strengths in compatibility. Once certain things started to shift in terms of understanding what we needed in place for us to really exchange and progress in our concept of what we wanted the work to be, then it was very fluid. But before that point, we really struggled to understand what we wanted. [laughs] Because there was so many options, so many possibilities and we didn’t have a direction to begin with, we just had each other to figure out ‘Well, I like doing this and I like doing this and I like doing this and I like doing this,’ and it was like ‘Wow, OK. But what do we do?’ At the same time we have very different lived experiences, I think…you know the aspects that we experience as human beings sometimes are determined by our faculties…whether you’re tall person or you’re short person, whether you’re a man, whether you’re a woman, how dark is your skin? How light is your skin? All of these things really do shape how we communicate, how we understand, what our lived experiences are, what our traumas are…what our dislikes are and all of that was really interesting for me because I’m very much interested in the psychology of the spaces that we occupy as people, how we exchange and communicate, and how we synchronise, or why we don’t synchronise sometimes or what’s that to do with? I as a woman, was very much aware of the things that were coming up for me, working with him, realising ‘Oh, OK, this is actually how I like to work, and these are the themes that I really like to focus on, but it’s very much to do with my lived experience as a woman of colour,’ and you know…if you’re working with someone who doesn’t know what that means because they’re not a woman, one, and two, they don’t come from Wales and speak the Welsh language, so they don’t have the same relationship with their identity or blackness…how do you rephrase that or communicate that for it to be part of the creative process to then create work from? How do you share that space where someone else’s political values and your political values can bridge to say something that you couldn’t comprehend that you were gonna say, that in the end becomes the work and drives the work and becomes really pivotal. I think it was also about not knowing what we’re capable of together, which made it really hard to figure out how to start creating together. There was certain things that happened where we structured…once we understood, we got to the bottom of what we did want and what we didn’t want, and we found a structure to create, an infrastructure to then say ‘OK, you lead on this section, and I’ll lead on this, and then you know we’ll…we’ll have a session where I just focus on this and you just focus on that and then we’ll come together and look at this, da-da-da.’ So then we had a little infrastructure and it just…allowed so much freedom for us to then play and realise that the piece was already happening before our eyes and then, we had the piece. ‘Oh right, OK, this is it!’ It was fascinating to be in the process but constantly step out of yourself to see what’s actually going on and learning from that. I found it very empowering working with Tyrone. With Isaac…I have found such beautiful synergy with him, in his understanding of empathy and sensory and cultural intelligence, the way that he holds space…but also is very aware of what happens in space, different spaces, and how to communicate on different levels, according to what is happening in space and, for me that’s been something really integral…to know people who can see and hold space like that because I think I’ve grown up being so accustomed to the discrimination of not necessarily being supported in that way, which is a very different way of supporting people. Just being present and holding space and acknowledging the different capacities and the different kinds of neurodiversities that people have and the ways that they need to express themselves or the different access points that they require to be engaged in something. Isaac’s someone who’s very much aware of all of those fears. Being creative in that space with him is very supportive and feels very organic…especially recently, making sound design scapes for him on his R&D for ‘The Oreo Complex’ during Choreodrome, it was very fluid, rich and fulfilling as a process. The communication was really transparent and he really knows…on the spectrum of different things that we’re looking at culturally, ancestrally and within the context of futurism and how we pollinate artistically nowadays, the ways that he articulated the things that he wanted to explore, and how he wanted that audibly, and through sound, it was very clear and I found it very refreshing to work in that way.
IA: Your stage work, your authorings, works like ‘Violently Silent’ and ‘Womb Paves Way’…can you talk about them with some distance to them now?
FCD: Yeah. Absolutely with some distance. I think it’s allowed me to really put them on the cloud, essentially. And just…process where that was coming from and why that was needed at the time…and then also look at how that was created…to see what methodology is there that I can then share and continue practicing to…for greater levels of communication through performance work. I think sometimes when I’m creating work, there’s an immediacy there to need to express something…but it’s not coming from a place of privilege, I’m just really interested in something and I’m…I just have a passion for the way that…I don’t know, my fascination on something. It’s coming from a place of survival and that if I don’t communicate this, I will drown or that feeling of drowning as an artist, that I won’t no longer be able to be an artist if I can’t communicate this, because this is something that’s holding me back. This is something that’s hurting me and the only way that I can move forward is to be an artist. But then if I don’t have the opportunity to be an artist, to relieve myself from that thing, then I remain held in this place where I can’t express myself, and I can’t then be an artist. There’s a really strange…discord in that process…of survival. And from a distance, now I recognise that, I can see that and go ‘Oh that’s really interesting. I’ve learnt from that and that’s really helped me and I’ve grown from that, but do I wanna keep doing that? Hmm. I don’t know, maybe not. Would I like the opportunity to create work just because it’s something that I’m really interested in and I just wanna explore something? Yes. OK cool I’ve never thought about just researching something because it’s interesting to me.’ It’s always come from a place of survival, so I think specifically with those two works…that was definitely the context from them and I think that, especially with ‘Womb Paves Way’, a lot of it was also about really unravelling and deconstructing things that I felt I had to address in a theatre space, at The Place…that has significance to me because I trained there, but that was also somewhere that I’d also often felt…held back in that training. I’d felt restrained and muted, so coming to that building and presenting that work was almost a way of unravelling the things I’d held onto and letting them go, but also allowing myself to really be seen and be bare and be heard with the audience. [pause] A lot of it was also about really specifically…questioning…if it was possible to communicate through Hip Hop, through contemporary and through movement and language from the African diaspora, from my perspective as a mixed race, light skinned woman, and ask, ‘Is this valid? Is it valuable?’ I think when we’re training as dancers we become very divided in styles and categories and the politics of ‘Well you can’t do this…but you can do this but you can’t cross over here or…you know, this is wrong or you need to do it like this,’ and all of that becomes very oppressive. And so I really looked at how could I…bring this to a piece of work and make it valid, make it important, but also make it resonate with all of those different histories and how do they relate to me in my history and my ancestry…so the work is really looking at archetypes, the female archetypes in my lineage that I feel that I have with trauma and with embodiment of cultural stories. So a retelling of those stories and rewriting those stories using those different dance languages. Then with ‘Violently Silent’, that was a very different…a completely different process that I had, where I really wanted to…understand what it would feel like to take a journey in performance, through the lens of ritual. Not necessarily ritual as we know it, in terms of setting out space…really redefining the physical space to align with the spiritual space and bringing in different energies and entities to…shift paradigms. In some degree, I wanted to shift paradigms but I actually wanted to take a different state of mind, that’s what I mean when I say ‘ritual’. It’s that I wanted to journey through different states of the mental through performance and that be the performance…because sometimes, when we look at the history of performance the conventions are based around…having a character or having a story and then stepping into that, almost like it’s a suit or a costume. Embodying it, playing it, and then stepping out of it. But I really wanted to look at…coming into the space…wherever I am in that mental space, transparently and authentically and honestly in that moment, and choreographing an arch, but within that arch, I’m actually going to go somewhere, but I don’t know where. Allowing that to be anywhere that I might need myself and go, the key tool that I used to allow me to find that was that I would have my eyes closed throughout the work, and it was only at the very end that I would open my eyes. I think in some ways that is very risky…and obviously, I had things in place to safeguard me if…if I do sense that I might not be going in the right place onstage, I can slightly open my eyes. But that was really for me to completely disassociate…not disassociate in a negative way but transition and transform away from the box, the black box theatre space and see it as actually a transient space, with audience present…the themes that were underpinning it were really about sitting with sexual violence, the themes of those traumas that…how they get left in the body and sitting with that and journeying through that, but through that movement there’s a story being told. I may not know what that story is because I’m going wherever I am in my state of mind. But, however it’s perceived from the audience is however it's perceived. There were two different things for me that I wanted to happen, that I would have my experience onstage, but the audience would see something very different to what I’m internally experiencing. That was a very interesting piece of work because I look back at and I watch it now, on footage, and I’m just like, oh I don’t know what the hell that was about…it’s just like, ‘What am I doing?’ But it’s not a work that you look at aesthetically on video and go ‘Oh, that’s a really interesting piece of work’ because you will literally go ‘I don’t know what she’s doing.’ But I think that the audience in real time…really felt me. I think that’s more what was being communicated, the non-verbal relationship and communication happening between the performer and audience.
IA: What do you want to dismantle in Hip Hop?
FCD: Ahh. I guess, firstly I’d like to highlight the gender/agenda that really drives a lot of communication within Hip Hop language, which is masculine and male dominated, to highlight it so that there’s space to be aware of what is possible if it’s not always driven in that way. I think that a lot of people are very, very attached and accustomed to the safety that it brings and the familiarity of knowing ‘This is how we do Hip Hop and this is how we exchange and this is how we dominate space and this is how we communicate through dance styles,’ and that being very fundamental. But then what that does is it doesn’t give room for other possibilities of, coming from the very different perspective of, ‘Well, what if you had an event that was…where all of the decision makers were women.’ How does that change…one, that’s gonna change the energy in the room but how does that change how people communicate? How does that change the choice of music, how does that change the language that then is accepted, because I think, sometimes that there is a certain language or way of communicating that is rejected because it makes the majority uncomfortable. But if the majority is masculine, and they’re attached to masculine fundamentals and they’re not used to different kinds of communication in the dance styles, then of course it’s gonna make the majority uncomfortable, but if there’s support in the diversity of who’s in that space and who’s got different experience and who’s open to interpretation, as well as people who are very traditional, then there’s room for those people who will feel uncomfortable to still be held and supported in knowing, this is still Hip Hop, and this is still OK, and it’s still valid, even though it’s different - it looks different or it feels different or the atmosphere is different or the way that we’re hyping is different, but it doesn’t mean it’s less than Hip Hop, or less important, or less originated…if anything it’s not less originated, it’s more inclusively originated from the origins of how Hip Hop was created. I think in that sense, deconstructing the things that we’re familiar with and asking why we still hold on to that…because Hip Hop is surviving and it’s thriving. We don’t have to worry about the death of certain things, because there are a lot of people who are adamant about holding onto the traditions. There are still a lot of people who are also doing new things with these cultures and these languages. But I think it’s about spaces of learning and spaces of training that allow for more authenticity in how people discover themselves in these languages and in these styles…especially as a British diaspora. I would say we’ve learnt to understand a lot of things through imitation…it’s quite different to the Americas where their learning is about survival and communication and community, it’s actually about ‘What do you need to say? Well, this is what I need to say. How can we have a conversation together from like, who you are and where you come from and with who I am and where I come from?’ That’s how those languages develop, or that’s how those traditions get reinforced in the styles, in the techniques because people create their own signatures. But then in the UK we’ve seen that and then we’ve imitated that and used that as a foundation, the imitation of that process…without understanding that we can also have our own process to create our communication through these different styles. But it means opening up that space to allow for those differences. [pause] I think this…I think a lot of people aren’t even aware of that or they’re not aware that they are attached heavily to a one-way perspective of, ‘This is Hip Hop, and if it’s not like this, it’s not Hip Hop.’ I don’t think those people are even aware that that’s not the full truth.
IA: Do you want to dismantle anything else?
FCD: [laughs] Yeah. The segregation within Hip Hop culture. I think it’s so clear how languages and styles and culture cross over and how the ownership is really shared. But…especially…I think it happens everywhere but…within certain styles there’s still so much fear and segregation of validation, recognition and respect. You know, if I don’t stay like this or stay in this circle, or stay with this style then I won’t have the validation or I won’t be supported. If I then start exploring this style as well and be seen to be crossing those styles together, when actually you can still have purist forms and you can still…it’s all about the intention behind training. If you’re intention behind training is to really refine technique, the technique will be refined, but you can still pollinate and create beautiful connections with the fact that popping foundations can be found in a unique way in waacking. Or the way in which some of the floorwork and footwork seen in breaking can really empower the floorwork and the footwork that we see in locking and house. Of course they come from different origins in terms of the region and the communities and the music language that birthed that style, but essentially a lot of those different styles are all coming from the African diaspora as well. I think if people had more…of an empowerment in knowing that that’s a valid perspective to hold, an important perspective to hold, then a lot of people would be a lot more willing to share spaces and interact across all the different styles, in the way that it used to be when these styles originated. I think that’s what really empowers a community and really empowers the legacy that Hip Hop brings.
IA: I’d like you to talk a bit now about you in the battle scene. There’s one battle, the OV battle – you vs. Viki – that was really interesting. Could you talk about that and how you are in those types of spaces.
FCD: Hmm. Yeah. That particular battle was probably one of the most outrageous battles I’ve ever done. I felt like I took a lot of risks in terms of really going against what people are used to, intentionally and purposefully wanting to shift that space…just by doing what I was doing. Before the battle happened I had already set that intention, I took that opportunity to think about…how can I…how can I share something that will change the way I express myself? Because I think that the intentions we go into when we think about battles, it’s about strategy, it’s about musicality, it’s about your power moves, it’s about looking at the opponent and recognising the way that they like to move and thinking ‘OK, what have I got against that person?’ or ‘What have I got?’ Not against…’What have I got that will surpass the things that they’re bringing?’ [pause] At the end of the day it’s about winning over your opponent and getting in a…it becomes very competitive and it’s also about reputation, representation and the best…the best representation of that category. And I went completely against that…completely opposite that. I thought ‘OK, I’m gonna…first of all, my intention is actually about me going to war with myself. How can I really use this space to really confront myself and push myself to do things that I would usually run away from?’ Going to battles, already is one of the things that I’d run away from. I was never someone that was like ‘Yeah, yeah, go to one battle and the next, just keep going to battles and…’ I was very the opposite. I’d only go to very specific battles if I was invited or that I was doing a two vs. two with someone that I really wanted to jam with. On top of that, it was also about…looking at martial arts and the mindset that comes with martial arts…application and martial arts as a performance. When martial artists perform and demonstrate their sequences, they go to competitions as well, but it’s a very different way of competing. You look at the…integrity of the application, but you also look at the way that the artist embodies the application, how realistic it feels, and the warriorship intention behind the way that they approach that sequence, so that was something that I brought into that space. I wanted to change the timing of that space because battles have a certain pace and a certain dynamic…a rate of like ‘OK, I’m gonna do a power move here and then I’m gonna go this way and then it’s like bam, bam, bam, and then I’m gonna get to this point and then at that point I’m gonna go to the floor, and then…’ you know? So it’s a very quick and charged space, and I thought ‘What would happen if I slow time down? What would happen if I brought stillness and intensity, but through stillness created tension through myself and the people watching?’ That would shift the atmosphere and…because krump especially, you know that space…it wasn’t a krump-dominated event, but a lot of krump artists were there and a lot of krump artists were competing. That space is often about hype, and really encouraging the people who are watching you around to hype you. And what I did, in effect, was the complete opposite. Everyone became extremely quiet, they were extremely…I suppose waiting on suspense as to what am I gonna do next, because it was not possible to foresee where I was taking it. The other thing that was very specific was the music that I chose. I wanted there to be that energy of…the kind of rawness and the weightedness that we get from these textures in krump music, but I wanted it to have the space to really tell a story, and to take a journey which sometimes…depending on what category or style of music, it has a very set journey and timeline of what story can be told. I wanted it to really open up the possibilities of ‘I don’t know what story is gonna be told, but I know that it can go anywhere, and I can really travel with this track’. So it was a remix of Ghost in the Shell…from that animation, from that film sound score. Just that alone, it being a sound score from a film already says it’s gonna allow that space and that capacity to take a different journey. Then the way that I used musicality was really to signify…the symbology that I was working with in my movement freestyle. I think a lot of the times we work with concepts, especially in krump and in a lot of different styles, we create concepts and in those concepts we can sort of open doors…have objects, compartmentalise and shift space through the gestures and the things that we do. But often I see that used in ways that are everyday, imagined, lived experiences of opening doors or…opening cupboards and there’s something in that cupboard and then you eat something and then it transforms you into a different person and then that person ends up stepping on some clouds and…it’s incredibly imaginative and I thought ‘How can I use that way of communicating to tell a story that connects with my interpersonal journey with spirituality and transcending and navigating the different portals that are in the body? How we change in our archetypes and from going from being in a fight to being a warrior to turning into this god force that’s creating a storm, but then you suddenly you’re in the centre of the storm. You know, how can I tell all of that, but in a totally different way that still uses the principles within the tools that we create through Hip Hop, but in a different way?’ I feel like that whole battle was about really exploring for me what is possible in changing the way we approach battles. Then in general, I think in the past when I have approached battles, it brings me back to this thing that I was talking about in my childhood with carnival and street performance and going to different states and durational performance. Every time I do a battle, that’s the part of me that I’m tapping into, that is going back to that childhood, knowing this is where I can go and this is where I can calibrate in my mental states for expression and performance. Because it’s all in the now, it’s all a freestyle, it’s all a kind of letting go of any sort of pre-knowing or decision making, it’s just allowing yourself to go into flow state. That for me is very, very close to…ritual work and going into trance. I know that not a lot of dancers see it that way, not a lot of dancers approach battling in that way at all…a lot of dancers approach it in a very strategic, cognitive way like ‘I wanna do this and then I wanna get to this point and then I want it to be at this level,’ and it’s very thought-through, whereas I’m very much like ‘I don’t know what’s gonna happen and I’m OK with that because I’m gonna trust and allow my body to express what it needs to express’. Because it’s never, for me it’s never been about winning the battles, it’s about the process for me. Battles provide an opportunity for a very distinct process that you go on with yourself, but it needs an opponent for you to be pushed into that state of mind.
IA: Can you talk about Instagram and your digital and conceptual art…particularly around the kaleidoscopic, multiplying the self creations. You’ve been using #krumpfemme #krumpessence and some of them are rooted in the krump vocabulary. Could you talk about and describe them?
FCD: Hmm. I think in terms of the language…I feel like I’m on a very long journey of understanding why certain aspects of krump really resonate with me and what is it about that…that I need to express. Why is it that I need to…shift that in my own body so that it’s pollinating with other qualities that are not considered krump at all? Why do I need to put them together? I think it’s about…it’s almost…it gives me a way of validating the different parts of myself, that I don’t feel like I’m allowed to share. There’s something about…training in waacking, you know there was a time where I was going through that process and I used to find it really cathartic to waack when I was angry, but it was something that socially, in a social context, it made people uncomfortable and scared, because waacking is supposed to be joyous and celebratory and you’re supposed to engage with other people when you’re waacking and make eye contact and if you’re angry, that’s not inviting. [laughs] You know it’s just a…you look dangerous because you’re spreading your hands…technically you could accidentally scratch someone and you’re throwing your arms around…it potentially looks like you wanna fight someone. But why was that so liberating for me? It was definitely something that I touched on and thought ‘There’s something here that needs to be delved into further’. It was when I started to connect with Saskia…she was coming from a heavily krump-dominated training, I was coming from a heavily waacking training and we were from very different sides and we merged in our time together, training, and then came apart again…almost being different parts of each other. So she had influences in waacking and krump and I had influences in waacking and krump, together in our own bodies communicating krump and waacking languages, but we were also expressing that very differently from each other as well. Gradually what started to happen over time is that my waacking started to dissolve because I was going through an internal transformation with my own understanding of identity and sexualisation. I realised that I used to use waacking heavily to sexualise myself in the movement, in language. And the transition that I’d arrived at was ‘I no longer feel I need to sexualise myself in that way,’ and waacking no longer holds that same purpose for me. I think that I will return to that language for a different purpose when it comes back. But where I’ve gradually arrived to is almost like a bleeding between the residue of femininity and fragility with the ferocity and the grounding that krump gave me when I started to tap into it. That left me in a displaced space because I knew that I couldn’t yet fully occupy a krump environment, because it’s so heavily male-dominated, and the forms are really drawing from the masculine body…that’s something that I’ve struggled with for a while because I don’t have the same capacity to execute that power. It’s definitely something that I know with training I can imitate that level of power, but where is it coming from internally? Where is that ancestral, masculine energy coming from? I think that’s something that I’m still working out; but where I have arrived at is the need to enquire with my vulnerability and the vulnerability that comes out in my movement language, with the aggression and the dominance and the ugliness that I also need to express in my movement language. That’s where this…distinction of how I’m moving has arisen and using the digital platforms like social media…like Instagram, using different apps to edit and re-colour and re-pixelate and shift the framing and kaleidoscopic features in the imagery…has been another process completely. I think…going to that side of things, it’s very much about heightening the visceral feeling of whatever’s going on internally. Because the core of what I’m really researching in my movement is texture, I haven’t even arrived at concepts yet. I haven’t even figured out what I want my concepts to be or how I wanna communicate concepts yet. I’m still in that early stage of ‘What textures are possible? What are the different kinds of transitions of texture that I can create from really harsh to really soft…from really bold and…constrained and resistant to really fluid? That already takes a lot of processing for me as I’m exploring it, so with the visual and digital explorations, it seems to branch off of that desire to really share the visceral and emotional palette that comes with the body. Some things have been very much looking at vision and polarised vision…lucid vision and how certain effects create this quality which I find fascinating because I often have a lot of experiences where I do travel out of my physical embodiment and the physical sensory into etheric sensory experiences. To me, that’s where I relate to those visual effects. It makes me feel…I resonate with that because that’s how I sometimes experience out-of-body experiences, or how I sometimes see things as I’m waking or coming out of sleep…or going into a different state. Then other things are also about imagined possibilities in dimension, with the kaleidoscopic stuff, it’s about imaging what else…what other kinds of dimensions exist beyond our capacity to see the physical in this dimension. It just fascinates me when I start to see different geometric patterns…when I start to see different resemblances of faces or bodies or just through the objects that are in the space when you put them in…intersectionality with each other they create different patterns and shapes, and then those things come to life and it represents and symbolises other things…I find that…it’s a whole different thing, visually it becomes more about visual art…digital visual art and how do we create different landscapes through manipulation and augmentation.
IA: Thank you. Could you talk a little bit about the idea of craft and practice within Hip Hop?
FCD: Hmm. [pause] This is something that…I feel it’s been very challenging for me to ground in because I’ve spring boarded around different disciplines, but it’s something that I have to investigate in each discipline separately, and then also collectively. When I’m working with my voice, there’s a process and a personal practice that I’m developing that’s specifically to my voice. But then when it comes to using spoken word and Hip Hop theatre, the craft changes because it’s about integrating how we speak and communicate at the same time as continuing to hold weight in the authenticity of the Hip Hop language. Where do they…how do you find a process that creates a template for you to understand…every time you align certain words of meaning with the body language that you deconstructed from Hip Hop, to create correlations that’s going to strike a chord and that’s gonna communicate something? How do you create a practice where you can identify those things, so that every time you create, you’ve got something to draw from as a practice? I think that’s something that takes a long time to establish. There are a lot of things that I’ve discovered intuitively through observation and embodiment, through R&Ds and working with other artists and just being in the collaborative process or creating the work myself. But that hasn’t been from an ongoing personal practice, that’s been from the direct process of there’s a deadline and there’s a show and you need to create something that makes sense and…you quickly discover these things in that process. But in terms of long-term…there’s a constant flux with me about where I reside in my personal practice, and I’m looking at the sustainability at the moment…how do I keep sustaining myself through my personal practice, especially with Hip Hop, for example. During lockdown, that practice has looked like…sometimes twenty to forty to sixty-minute freestyles…that’s the practice. Holding that space for myself to freestyle and allow myself to discover things. But it’s very different when you’re training with people, I feel like…for Hip Hop to really have its infrastructure sustained, it needs community and you need to be training with different people, that’s how it holds itself, that’s how it preserves and sustains itself. So that’s what I have found challenging in lockdown, I don’t have the opportunity to meet up with so-and-so and then we jam and we lab and…because they’re things that come up in your body, through your movement language, that wouldn’t have come up if you weren’t in the space with that person. Just by being in direct correlation with that other person, they allow a doorway through you to be open so that you can access something that is shared between that space in that moment in that time. That’s how I see how it works a lot of the time…that becomes its own practice and that’s something that I’ve had with House of Absolute. During lockdown we’ve had Zoom sessions, but, it really…it’s definitely been necessary and beneficial, but it’s also nowhere near the same as being in a communal space where that culture is present and you’re emerged…you’re immersed in that environment where other people are doing the same. In terms of theatre work, they’re very different modes of training and research and methodology that really benefit…I’m constantly evolving as an artist. Especially things like looking at dramaturgy and dramaturgy is considered very broad. I didn’t realise until last year that you can have very different types of dramaturgists…dramaturgists who will approach that space very differently. Some people look at the script and writing…some people look at spatial design, body language, non-verbal and archetypes and things like that…I think that all of that is so important in Hip Hop because…especially when you’re bringing it out of the context of just jamming or going to a club and you’re actually creating work that communicates something, you have to go through a process of seeing how that movement language already exists within the universal language of body language. Then you can draw distinctions and that’s when you have pathways of communication, so you use certain movements to say and speak on behalf of something. But if you don’t have those reference points or that grounding, it takes a long time to…you end up creating things that don’t make sense or they don’t have coherence or you think that you’d like to communicate this but it’s not communicating that, people are not understanding that from what you’re creating. There are very specific methodologies that need to be studied and researched and reflected on, whilst looking at Hip Hop and language.
IA: I’ve got a few more questions, but is there anything that you want to talk about that has not been picked up so far that’s important and that you want putting down?
FCD: [long pause] I guess there’s one thing I will highlight but it’s not really…it’s not in relation to…it’s just bringing awareness to it in the sense that…there’s already a lot of awareness around it, but bringing more awareness to the actual embodied experience of navigating through Hip Hop cultures, is the violence and…that, inevitably, that is there from specific lineages of trauma…but also how that violence has been carried forwards to continue to inflict further violence in different ways. That is something that is really interesting that needs to continually be studied…and communicated. To also understand and recognise that the majority of people who are on the receiving end of that violence is often women. I know that these are things that have been talked about a lot, even just talking about music, and lyrics. But also the adverse…what’s the right word? [pause] It’s like there’s a very clear disregard of women. It’s very clear across the different evolutions within the Hip Hop culture, in the sense of…in order to address that, there has to be an active desire and interest to open up spaces for more integrity in including women’s voices and women’s styles of expressing. But because there is a perpetuated…this is my personal experience…there is a perpetuated disregard to acknowledge that, and to continue to keep pushing the dominance of the weight of that culture, in a particular direction…without actually taking the responsibility to change why is that still going in a particular direction? Why is there still an agreement, a collective agreement to disregard women’s voices and women’s embodiment within those spaces? I think that that continually needs to be talked about and explored. Also from the perspective of women coming to those spaces, to continue to talk about why it’s challenging, so that solutions can be implemented. Why is it intimidating? Why is it insulting at times? Why is it over sexualising? Why does it feel scary? Why does it feel rejective? These interpersonal emotions and psychological states that women experience coming into male-dominated spaces, competitions, events and for there to continually be a more transient exchange and communication regardless of gender, for spaces to have a different direction of inclusion. I think it’s about the positions of power as well, and the decision-making roles - who is occupying them? Who is not paying attention to the other spaces that need to be opened? That was one thing that I wanted to address.
IA: Thank you. I have a question that talks around that next around violence and erasure. Your body of work across multiple platforms is massive. The individual numbers of works across your YouTube channel, your Instagram and your live work is huge. I’m interested in the idea of archiving and documentation and legacy, could you talk about how you consider your archive, documentation and legacy?
FCD: Hmm. That’s a big question. [laughs, then pauses] I had conversations a while ago when I started to be very open about how much and what I was sharing online and someone asked me what my process is when I share things…cause they said that they found it really challenging to do that, that they would go through a process where they weren’t sure if they were comfortable to share work, or if they should take it down once they had put it online, and that it was an uncomfortable process for them. I talked a little bit about my process of how I arrived at that point where I started to constantly put things out and I think…part of what initiated that fuelling and what still does today and what I still investigate in myself to figure out what aspects of that is toxic, what aspects of that is cathartic, is really about being seen and being heard. It was coming from a place where I suddenly had the opportunity to speak and say whatever I wanted to and people would actually be present with that content. I think that was when I started to realise how Instagram in particular was something that I could use to empower myself. Before I made that understanding, I wasn’t sharing work…at all. So as soon as that shift happened, it was like opening a bottle top and there was this flow of content that started to come out. Things from all different aspects of things that I was exploring artistically but then interpersonal things that I was challenged by, societal things or friendships and people things, themes about healing and identity or not understanding…who I am. How do I understand myself through the process of sharing myself? That became a lot of what was coming out through stuff I was sharing and then I transitioned to a place where I started to realise, even though all of those things are a part of me, as soon as I release them, they’re not…it’s not that they’re no longer a part of me, but they’re no longer defining me. I started to realise that the more things I shared, the less I felt defined, because I had a challenge about…I was challenged by feeling defined. The things that defined me, I started to really want to undefine that, or redefine that and the more that I started to redefine things, the more I realised there isn’t a definition, and that’s actually my…desire. To not be identifiable because there’s always a negative side to being identified, in my personal experience growing up. You know for example, Black people will…this is a generalisation but from my lived experiences…Black people will not define me as black because I’m light skinned, but that’s coming from a negative place, or a place of ‘You’re not involved, you’re not included’. And White people will of course always define me as Black, again from a place of ‘You’re not like us’. So these definitions and my association to definition…always became something that was uncomfortable and that made me feel restricted. So the more I started to share different things and redefine myself, and redefine my work, and use artistic explorations to redefine things, the more I started to feel that…feel that was no longer something that I needed to hold onto. Then it just became…it becomes something that occupies the ether. I guess when you think about it, the internet has a suspension…it doesn’t really go, unless you like literally delete it, like completely and permanently. But it also doesn’t…sit in the same plane as your current self, so you have this distance from it, I personally have this distance from all the things that I post once I’ve posted it, it’s like…that’s over there now so…whoever wants to think whatever about that, I don’t…I’m no longer concerned directly with it. I’ve already…the timeline and the processing through time with that process that by that point, I’m already moving onto something else. I’m already changing, I’m already a different person. Each day. So each post is no longer defining me in that present moment. I think in terms of legacy and archiving, it’s not really something that I’ve directly thought about. [long pause] It’s actually something that…I don’t know how I feel about it. It’s somewhat scary because it means that you end up having an experience through, over the collection of different and a myriad of different things you’ve done. You end up having a big collection of things that you’ve expressed, and sitting with that is potentially scary because then you think like, ‘Wow, what did I do with all of this?’ [laughs] Where does it go and…what place does it have anywhere? I think the thing that I do with archiving is that, even though it is all there, being sustained and held across the internet…it travels to different people. Different people reflect and reference and resonate with specific things at different points and that creates a timelessness. That’s what I do think is really powerful about anyone who archives their work, is that it’s shared and that gives nourishment to some degree, to anyone that comes in contact with that library. Libraries are a source of support and infrastructure and learning and guidance, so if there’s any of those things that I can provide through the things that I archive to others, then that’s empowering…I think that that’s important and I think that a lot of people should be archiving if that’s the way that they’re going and the direction that they’re going in.
IA: Coming back to your earlier point…the act of erasure of women in Hip Hop is an act of violence. Everything from how virtuosic male bodies are presented in promotional images through the people who are in power, through to systemic structures. Looking at some of the themes in your work of violence, of womb, of woman, it feels very close to you in that. Could you talk about the act of erasure of women as violence in Hip Hop?
FCD: Yeah. [pause] I guess the things that underpin a lot of my themes are resilience, because it requires resilience for you to continue engaging in the culture…whilst knowingly experiencing that violence and understanding that you’re not respected to the same degree. The opportunities are very different for women…it’s a thing that everyone knows and the majority of people are OK with that. That’s what becomes extremely violent. Part of my decision for the way that I choose to express that work that I create that does centralise womanness and the female identity, is about the fact that I do feel I have the privilege to do that and the opportunity and the spaces to be supported to do that. I think it’s one thing to want to create work about these themes, but if you don’t have the support to do it, it’s very detrimental because these are difficult themes to communicate and express, and it’s important to have that support. When it is something that is a living experience and an ongoing living experience - the way that that affects your mental health, your confidence and your ability to navigate the industry…it is very difficult if you don’t have that support. Knowing that I have that, and knowing that I have the spaces to create that work, for me it’s not even a question, I have to say these things and I have to keep exposing these areas, but also redefining the frame around it so that it’s also…you need these things, you need these principles that women bring and women provide and that it’s beneficial for everybody and it’s digressive to continue to erase those principles and those values. That’s one part of it. The other part of it is, is personally for my own sense of self…I couldn’t…I talked earlier a little bit about how it would be nice to create work around things I’m generally fascinated by and interested in, but the priority does go towards activism, for me…I can’t…I can’t just create work about stuff that I like for the sake of liking it whilst knowing and living certain injustices and not address them. Performance work and stage work is a place of power. It’s an opportunity for people to listen to you and it’s a place for you to shift the conversation and shift paradigms and shift powers. If I can do that, then that’s my priority over creating work and art for the sake of creating work and art. it needs to have that deeper purpose to support the shifts that I personally feel should be made.
IA: What does success look like to you?
FCD: Ahh. Hmm. [pause] For me personally, success is a mixture of different things that reflect my relationships with people, that reflect the freedom and support that I can establish, and that also reflects the external evidence or produce that reflects…the hard work that I’ve been putting in. Arriving at a place of success, or being successful isn’t one dimensional. I think it’s so important to be able to understand how to work cross-laterally, because we often work with the notion of hierarchy and climbing up the ladder, but if you go across you can reach a lot more people and hold a lot more power in how to support infrastructures and how to shift the collective. That starts with the relationships you have with people and how you can sustain that and how you can allow people to have space for their difference but also to be recognised, valued and empowered for what they contribute in that relationship. Ideally, that comes first for me in terms of success - really having a very strong grid of members that affiliate with my ethos, my values and my principles and who work towards the same desire to shift and support the way that we…mould our industry, our society and our communities. We’re all one piece of the whole thing, so it’s also about…success for me isn’t about arriving at a position or a title, but actually really honing in and mastering that role and that purpose, that you have in that particular position that’s a part of the whole picture. Then I guess, just generally, being really content and satisfied with the things that I have developed, the things that I have created and the things that I’ve experienced and learnt from, that I still have as a certain reference point to…share as a product. Like film work for example, I’m really interested in film work…I think that’s something that I’ve really recently started to think about in a different perspective and, long-term, my success with that would be to have a portfolio of film work that really speaks to a certain standard and quality and excellence and that crosses a lot of different genres and mediums of communication. That the work really speaks to a lot of different purposes and holds a lot of people together, because that’s what I find most beautiful and successful about creating work, is that not only the final product and what it speaks on and what it represents, but how do we also represent the people involved in that process? For them to go out and away from that process changed and advanced and fuller and feeling more complete from that process. If I can keep doing that, with every process that I have working with people, then evolve to a degree…I can only imagine for me that would be incredibly liberating and satisfying.
IA: What is your strongest memory of dance?
FCD: Wow. [laughs] This is like the epitome of all questions. [pause] Wow. Do you know what’s really interesting? It’s not a lived…or I don’t think it’s a lived experience…it’s not a memory that I’ve had in this life, but it’s from a dream, weirdly, and I was dancing. It was the most exhilarating and fulfilling and encapsulating experience I ever had, coming from that dream. I was in a carnival, I was in a procession. I don’t even remember what I was wearing but I remember the music seemed to be surrounding me, it was almost like it was swimming around me…to the point where, as I was coming out of the dream, that music seemed to continue to resonate and permeate through my whole being. In the dream there wasn’t really a sense of gravity and there wasn’t a sense of landscape or direction, it was a very central axis, omnipresent experience. I was heightened at a point of peak ferocity and passion…I don’t even know where I was in myself, but there was just ecstasy. That’s all I can say, it was just absolute ecstasy. I remember it being warm and there was a sun shining and…yeah, I woke up from that and was yearning to have that experience. [laughs] I don’t know if I should talk about an actual, real experience of my dancing. [laughs] Should I?
IA: No…if that’s your strongest memory of dance, that is what it is.
FCD: OK, great.
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