“Zürich is boring because I am not there and your unbuggered arse is missing me somethin’ rotten”

Oh beautiful darling Nigel, what can I say? I think you’d hate all the grief (but be secretly fucking smug at it all, or maybe want to know why you didn’t knock the Olympics off the front page), and I’ve got you in my guts like a plague so you’ll have to hear it from me also. If you’re not too busy rotting, that is.

I’ve been reading your emails. God, but I was vacuous. I probably should have been a little more attentive when you bought a glass of orange juice in a heart-shaped glass in the morning after all those weeks of chaos, and why the fuck I didn’t jump on a plane to Helsinki and miss some days of rehearsing?

It was the last day of teaching in ImPulsTanz (I wonder what you’d say about that? Probably that I had become a sell-out reactionary of the bourgeoisie, and did I think I was better than you? Something unprintably and laughably offensive anyway), and lunch was being assembled when I heard the quiet, excited clamour of a death. “Who?” I asked, when the huddle had turned itself outward, and the person behind me said your name.

Was it you who unzipped my top that first day, when we were rolled and pulled around the (now also gone) loft studio in Tanzhaus Wasserwerk? After a mere 10 days you’d teased out not a small amount of my life, secrets, loves, desires … and yes, all that we spoke of over rosehip tea on the Sunday Zürichsee ferry you gleefully announced I would make theatre out of on the Wednesday. It became all the people… and probably the best 15 minutes of performance I’ve ever made.

I don’t think anyone has had such an effect on me and my messing around in dance, personally, as you, and you are responsible for so much of my work since those weeks in Zürich — I even thought voice work was rubbish until you came along. I’m embarrassing you now, aren’t I?

Or maybe … I hadn’t really thought of you that much since the last time I was in Vienna, and saw a work of yours, hoped you might be in town also. Or rather, I’d thought of you often, talked about you and how you’d inspired me and pulled out absolutely the best work I’ve done, talked about how various things I might be working on came from you in one way or another; but really thinking about you … I just expected you’d be around until you were old and crapulous.

Your emails, god they are eye-wateringly, obscenely hilarious. And not enough. Fuck, Nigel, way too soon. Who’s going to save dance from the endless, turgid, dull hippy hell now that you’ve sodded off? You were a step into a bigger world for me, and I never want that to end.

I MISS NOTHING.
I AM NOTHING.
I AM BEFORE DEATH.
I’m poor and unemployed and unemployable. Loving it.
Fuck me when I’m ninety?

goat snake witch dance theatre blackness

The last couple of days I’ve been working on a side-project, cleaning up my dance/performance/choreography website, francesdath.info. I decided a while ago I wanted to move it into WordPress, change the font to Anonymous Pro, and try and make everything I would do by hand-coding possible through the WordPress browser editor.

Success! (Mostly). The design hasn’t changed, except it’s been cleaned up a bit, and a more structured layout used. The video took the longest and was a rather intense learning process, which is going to fall over into some other projects I’m working on at the moment. The words I edited a bit, but mostly left alone. Some time I’ll clean that up also.

As for ‘goat snake witch dance theatre blackness’, I couldn’t decide which word I liked the least and somehow they all sit together quite nicely, like an excess of baroque.

finishing

This week I made a decision I’ve been thinking about on and off for years, and always delayed because somehow I would be seduced back to what has been my love and life since I saw Ballett Frankfurt perform all those years ago. It has taken me all around the world and led me to meet some wonderful and beautiful people who are very dear friends, but in all of this there has been… but…

I decided with what savings I had to jump on a plane and come to Europe, to Berlin or Brussels and find somewhere that gave me something in life as well as in dance. I ended up here in Berlin, and yes, it is a city to fall in love with. But there remained that qualifier, and like running around in circles I could see no new way to continue.

So I decided to give up dance. I don’t want to insecurity, precariousness, lack of work, uncertainty, and most of all the bitterness trying to have a career in something I love very much has brought me. After eight years since graduating, I have nothing to show in terms of a career or progress, I’m largely where I was then, applying for the same funding, trying to make small projects happen, begging for work, and long periods of nothing. And perhaps most importantly, broke.

It seems pointless and futile, and for me personally a waste of my ability. Not just as a dancer or choreographer, but that I could be doing something else that maybe I don’t feel so passionately for but am actually able to do something worthwhile with.

What I wanted was a small group of like-minded people, in an old building made just habitable enough to enter, and to make art together, no touring, no festivals, nothing of this conveyorbelt that it seems is compulsory to run along, and this was far too much to ask for. Maybe then some chances to make work at other companies, or dance in some projects, or have enough regular funding to perhaps plan beyond the next month, but this also seems too much to ask. And the thing is now, I’ve lost interest. I don’t care for this and not sure if I was suddenly given this tomorrow I’d even want it.

I’ve done far too many projects for little or no money, or worse that have cost me both money and health to put on. I’ve spent weeks and months at a time writing and preparing funding applications, grants, residencies, all this, all without pay, or in fact paying to do it as the time spent doing this was time I could have been working and having an income. I’ve been and remain completely baffled by the whole industry of performing arts, the funding, festivals, producers, administrators… I still have no idea after all this time how I am supposed to proceed, what I should do to have some semblance of a career. I thought it was to do with talent, but far too much of what I’ve seen has to do with playing favourites, politics, obscure agendas that have nothing to do with art, and at worst something I can only think of as nepotism.

And I’m also bored with dance. With what I see, with the safety, conservatism, meaninglessness, vapidity, staggering lack of creativity or inspiration, lazy and mediocre ideas, their research and production, and seeing so many dancers completely underutilised. And seeing so many dancers treated as dispensable, as children, as problems that have to be dealt with, as the utter bottom of an industry that keeps everyone above them well-paid and secure in their careers even while they are leaving the dancers without work because ‘we didn’t get the funding’. The same dancers who are the entire reason for everyone having a purpose for being there at all, and who should be regarded as the centre of their universe.

Since I began training in Melbourne, and through all my travels I have seen these same things over and over, and also seem such little positive change, scant progression, and quite a bit of things getting worse or just stagnating. And so now here in Berlin, contemplating more years of struggle that maybe will also come to nothing, I no longer want to chase this across cities and continents and hemispheres. I don’t want to pay a couple of hundred euro to go to an audition in another city, I don’t want either to be constantly traveling around, I don’t want to be applying for things that if they even happen won’t be for another six months, I don’t want to live in a life that is for an imagined future that likely will never arrive.

These last mornings, going to ballet, I’ve enjoyed dancing more than I have in a long time. It’s no longer for this imagined future, staying in shape for some possible audition, or keeping myself around in the scene, doing it because I am a dancer. I am no longer a dancer. I am also no longer a choreographer. I do class because I love moving, I love the difficulty and exertion, the familiarity, I love the special world of dancers who do these incredible things with their bodies, it is truly a magical place.

But I don’t want to be poor. I don’t want to be insecure, to worry how I might pay rent or look after myself. I don’t want to compromise my life and myself and other dreams I might have for something that gives too little in return. I don’t want to be bitter either, and exhausted, worried, upset. I’ve tried to find different ways to do it, moving to Adelaide was certainly this, but it feels like it is just me without any support shouting into emptiness.

I would say to friends who were thinking of quitting it’s better to make that decision when you have work to find out if actually dancing is what you no longer care for or just the endless grind of lack of work and the daily exhaustion of trying to have a career in this. And also I would say that I didn’t want to give up and then when I am fifty or sixty regret this, to leave before I have seen out the possibilities. So perhaps now what I have reached is that I don’t want to stay and regret later not having explored all the other possibilities in my life, that there are certain tangible, real things that will not happen soon or at all for me if I stay in dance, and I know I will regret this if not more then at least as much as not trying to make real my desires in dance. And that perhaps giving up a career that does not exist is not so difficult.

I will miss playing in the studio with friends, making what we feel has worth, trying to imagine something new and then bring it into the world, and miss also the moment of inevitability, unavoidable like a train rushing at you standing on the tracks, just before going on stage. I have no idea what the next couple of months will bring, how to just survive for one, and then whether any of my ideas for what I might like to do next can be made possible. And while crying a bit at this ending, I also feel relief that it’s over.

pestilence

This morning, sleeping not yoga-ing, a little message from Alison in Adelaide, “Dear frances … i am pleased to hav approved $15000 for ur project! Wo hoo! Yay! Xxxxx”.

I’m feeling slightly delirious again …

I mean to say, Arts SA have funded pestilence, for development early next year. This is the third part of the cycle of works that started with extermination and hell. And so I get to play with some of my favourite dancers once more.

And equally thrilling is Alison herself getting Triennnial funding.

Champagne!!! etc. I expect a rather drunken night at La Boheme soon.

häxan

Friday teaching improvisation at ADT, and I decide the appropriate soundtrack is sunn0))), Gabrielle is there, and normally I have a slight aversion to music I’ve used in previous works, but Hell-O)))-Ween is such a beautiful meditation on doom and heaviness, and Gabby says, “Oh hell was so much fun, we should do it again”, which puts a base thought in my head considering besides $50 on costumes the budget paid mostly for fees. Anyway, I’ll leave you ripe with the desire to see hell in Adelaide.

Some good news and … nominally bad news today, I’ll leave the former ’til I can elaborate, but the latter … Arts Victoria didn’t fund my next work, pestilence (I need a category for this soon). I’m quite relieved, the thought of going back to Melbourne is distasteful, and I feel the support of my work there – I mean explicitly financially – was really quite shit. This frees me of ever having to think about making work there again, so I’m quite happy, and possibly will want to get drunk again later to celebrate.

I’ve been thinking about the cycle of works hell is a part of, my love of blackness and trying to coalesce the final two works into something, still depending on Jean Baudrillard as the foundation for all the works. Perhaps by the time I get to the fourth work, religion will be dead, but when I discovered Häxan today, or perhaps rediscovered because it seems so familiar, I know at least where the next two works are going.

Dennis Cooper I found through Kindertotenlieder, so as usual a sunn0))) connection. He blogs far too much for me to read, but I stopped dead (haha) when he filled my screen with Häxan Witchcraft Through The Ages.

Is it true that it displays witches cavorting naked with lusty devils? Is a baby really drained of blood before it’s tossed into a stew pot? What’s this about women lining up to kiss Satan’s bulbous ass? Inquisitional torture? Flying on broomsticks? Hysterical nuns? Sacrilege and perversion? Demonic orgies? Otherworldly monstrosities emerging from between an old crone’s legs? And it’s a documentary? And is there really a version narrated by William S. “The Naked Lunch” Burroughs, complete with acid jazz soundtrack? It’s all true.’

— DC’s – Häxan

dance for obsessive-compulsives

Emile is almost at the end of his winter of Rotterdam, that sent him to the Spielraum in Berlin for die Kunst und die Veränderung der Massenmedien. So, the Spielraum somehow saw bits of my stuff, and decided to screen some of it this Sunday. hell and extermination that were performed in Melbourne, and bitches 婊子 that happened at Park19 in Guangzhou are on at 8pm.

DISPOSE.contemporary presents

Dance for Obsessive-Compulsives
A Collective of Works by Frances d’Ath

20:00 Uhr. Sonntag, der 22. April 2007

Frances d’Ath graduated from Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne in 2001. Since then her works have been presented in a range of diverse cities across Europe, North America and Asia such as Vienna and Zürich, Toronto and Melbourne to Taipei, Taiwan and Guangzhou, China.

Dance for Obsessive-Compulsives: Features a collective of works by Frances d’Ath for one night screening.

BITCHES 25 min / EXTERMINATION 26 min / HELL 43 min

The 25 min highly choreographed shop window-dressing performance in Guangzhou, China BITCHES is not a work of dance, in fact quite the opposite – an absence of dance. Fashion, Sex, Death, Pretty girls with too much money, rapists with murder on their minds, prostitutes, lepers, hanged men, witches, demons and corpses.

HELL along with EXTERMINATION – produced on 16mm and super-8 is a film based on the extermination performance – both filmed in Melbourne, Australia. Highly charged bodies portrayed as robots, puppets, corpses and models. An epic sequence of physical revelations and bodily motions. Both of these hybrid dance performances are a mediation on the late deceased Jean Baudrillard’s Symbolic Exchange and Death, Goya and the Disasters of War, and the desecration of humanity.

— DISPOSE.contemporary

Gallery

hell – some more photos from paul

More from the meat-locker of Paul Williams’ shoot of hell, and the video is coming soon too.

Gallery

hell – some photos from paul

Paul Williams, who shot the 16mm film of extermination came into watch the dress run and pre-show warm-up run of hell and shot a fridge-full of high-speed 35mm photographs of us acting like mental patients. The results are sometimes unprintable and will stay within our select little group to avoid being jailed as some kind of debauched internet porn ring. The remainder, in which we all look seriously fucking beautiful I’ll slap up here over the next couple of days.

Gallery

hell – apocalypse then

Two days of hell. I can’t really say a lot about it right now, it was insane, mental, fucking terrifying sometimes, a riot of fun and mayhem, sweaty, dirty bodies everywhere… The tyrannical pirate Paul Williams took photos, and there is a couple of videos floating around, waiting to get dumped to computer and bled out into the internet very soon. In the meantime though here’s some photos from after the warm-up run and before the real thing on Saturday, and onto the (execrable nanny-state bug-up-the-arse “we’ve decided not to serve your table”) Vodka Bar and the cheese frenzy at chez Paul that lasted all night, especially fueled by vodka/cranberry/lime/pink grapefruit soda, and lasted all very lazy Sunday. So, hell is over for now, and it’s been a blast and something of a reunion for us who haven’t been all together in the same room or even country or hemisphere for about six years. But if I could ever imagine dream company of dancers and assorted delinquents, this is it.

hell day 13 – i found a friend …

Dance Works is nice and cool inside even when outside was something disgusting, so there was no way I was going to leave for anything as stupid as a break. Sleeping on the floor, Emile shifting stuff around, Bonnie and Gala reading lots of nothing for everyone as we got all the junk together that makes rehearsals a show. Or something.

And Luke was rehearsing at Chunky Move during the day, so we didn’t really start anything until about 7pm, when even sitting around stretching induced great slathers of sweat and muck. This rehearsal was it, whatever we had and however we strung it together, that would be the showing on Friday (unless I get some strange idea in the interim). Costumes, and I use the word extremely loosely, are very manky, old white grandma underwear that got soaked and dirty by the time we’d kneeled down to start. It’s all very un-dance.

I changed some of the music in the “lesbian pinching flesh orgy” scene to the black mass church organ metal of Italian ‘prog-rockers’ Jacula’s track Magister Dixit off their sublime In Cauda Semper Stat Venenum. Creepiness and over-sexed meat-puppets all round. That and some clean-up stuff, and ‘avoid the monitors while stage-diving’ routines got us ready for the first real run of the beast.

Lily smacked me a great head-butt in the mush about 1 minute in, while Gala and I were busy strangling her naked “I don’t wanna die!!!” body, all immersed in the combination of wet-dog heat, instant shower quantities of sweat and a weird mix of everything alternating randomly between slippery and sticky. About 10 minutes in, I had a thought, “crap we forgot to turn the video camera on”, but Luke had me a puppetified corpse, so I was busy groping Gab. Who was later busy groping Bonnie, while we strung up Lily in a hostage scene and dispatched yet another grocery sack of viscera.

It gets all serious when Bonnie, in complete darkness describes how she died, but in the blackout no-one can see what Luke is up to in preparation for the next scene, the demonic butoh/Canton Opera Raccon Prince number, in which Gab usually ends by climbing up Luke, but this time just slid off. Haha!!! feel the invincibility of my sweat!!! And then on to Botticelli, one of those bits that goess between fun and terrifying to do and then we get to the end and it’s all round stunned silence. Followed by a plane crash.

Well I didn’t mean to give a track listing of the piece, but there it is. 43 minutes of HELL. On tonight.