As a multidisciplinary circus and performance artist, I have a lot of props and skills to upkeep. So, my residency time was focused on developing a few of those skills; high heel roller skating, hula hooping, and voguing. I use these skills in other people's shows, but my time at The Place was specifically spent on developing my show, UTOPIAN (t&c’s apply). A queer live art and circus show where I discuss the abuse of power roles, cults, and the underground party culture. These themes weren’t chosen out of fascination, they’re related to experiences in my life that immensely changed me enough to want to talk about them. For the thematic relevance, I recreated the studio space into a meditative sanctuary and club-like space. To create in an environment that reflected the content I was creating helped keep my creative juices flowing throughout my residency. Incense, a blacked out studio with fluorescent lights, and voguing music helped my imagination while choreographing and envisioning the world of UTOPIAN.
How I make work reflects how I entered into the performance industry; organically, with instinct, and mostly solo. I trained in an untraditional format, without a degree. I entered into the performance world via clubs and underground events. When I became more serious about it, I had various mentors and teachers to teach me skills, but ultimately I am self taught. I love to figure things out on my own and create new combinations of skills, like roller skating combined with hula hooping.
I would describe the way I make work as a balance of both meditative and hectic. In the studio this month, I had my vital props; high heel roller skates, normal skates, yoga mat, 10 hula hoops, a carefully selected playlist, a camera, and a lot of paper for note taking. I had occasional visits from my two collaborators, Louisa Robbin (Live Artist and Dramaturg) and Yami Löfvenberg (from Hot Brown Honeys) who - at a safe distance - supported dramaturgic and movement direction. When I was alone, I spent my time directing and devising myself, asking myself questions repeatedly until I found an answer I felt settled with for the time being. This is how I love to make work; asking questions, movement work, and writing, over and over again. It took me about four years of my solo career to feel as confident as I am now entering a studio alone for an extended period. I’ve realised training yourself and making art alone requires a certain amount of self-awareness and assurance that I believe I both have and am learning to have.
My days were mostly spent focused on UTOPIAN with this repetitive routine of asking and moving, but occasionally I spent time developing my skills. I also spent my time secretly training for two Guinness World Records which I'm attempting at The Place this autumn. I will be sharing more news on this attempt through my Instagram page here.
I never left the studio feeling like I’ve completed everything I intended, but I always left the room feeling satisfied. Leaving on a good note was imperative, even if it meant silly lip syncing or freestyle dancing just to let go of all the tension from the day. I have to remind myself one of the reasons I became an artist was my love for playfulness. My favourite book to bring in the studio is Jonathan Burrows’s The Choreographer's Handbook. While I spent moments in the studio physically and mentally stressed, I had Burrow’s quote in the back of my head like a mantra, "It's just a stupid dance". This grounded me.
Symoné is a multidisciplinary circus artist and performance artist