“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’m poor and unemployed and unemployable. Loving it.
Fuck me when I’m ninety?


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.

all the people i can remember sleeping with … day 7

After my opening up during the last rehearsal, today’s three-hour endurance spectacle, resting on many pages of preparatory notes and too many hours in Cibo and staring at walls – and chocolate – was one of those fortuitous ones where everything seemed to flow along like an afternoon of eating and playing in the park. I was though, completely empty from two weeks of grant writing and other emotionally fraught things, and was very determined to get quite smashed on Saturday night, so I’m writing this at the other end of Sunday in-between preparing more pages for tomorrow’s rehearsal and the coming weeks … trying to accept I only have eight minutes, too few rehearsals, and that I don’t need to act like I’m making a full-evening performance.

Although, if I act like it’s all these things, I’m liable to be blasé and when it’s the first thing I’ve made in almost a year, slipping into the land of doing what I know and have done before is the last thing I want to have happen.

The Rape of the Sabine Women part has started to resemble what it will eventually become, yet when we spend only less than two hours with it … I was sitting on the bus this evening wondering what I’d do if I had say, three months full-time to make a performance. How much more would I develop something beyond the familiar ‘get it to where it’s looking ok and working and get started on the next thing’. In making dance, writing, almost everything, I’ve become so used to regarding the first appearance of something as more-or-less being what it will be, no major edits, no complete or partial revisions, maybe some minor amendments, but that’s all.

Despite these qualms, this scene has managed to become something that I really like, and continues to evolve into itself without the dread need for setting steps and counts. That in itself is secretly very useful for what I have planned in monadologie, and here in the studio has been often an hilarious tangle of limbs and teeth, and bite-shaped bruises.

With that part mostly coherent, the attention was really directed at what The Rape of Lucretia would become. So many notes pulled from two years of thinking of this work, and stuff that never made it into crush, stuff that might not make it in here, another tangle of little things, most no more than a line ore two. Some though, are things that have already been something.

Judith Butler talked about gender being the repeated stylisation of the body, “That congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being”, to which Nietzsche posthumously added, “There is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed – the deed is everything”, and within this, identity only exists through language. So of course Wittgenstein turned up and said, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent”, or at least Derek Jarman made him say that. And so again I find myself back in Zürich with Nigel doing bad things to me.

This was a scene with Jens during SiWiC, that really does belong here, and unlike say, all the 春宫图 Chungongtu stuff that started off as my infatuation with Agoraphobic Nosebleed and ended up in hell, or even the biting stuff now that I imagined as belonging in pestilence … this piece over the years seems like a playground where things get stolen by other works with less scruples.

Paea can act the Austrian Contessa like a charm, and Daniel never once has missed a chance to get all his clothes far away from his body (or burp loudly and at great length, or fart, come to think of it).

The Rape of Lucretia has become a very short almost formal tableau based on five paintings of the story, and nothing like what it began as. Similarly the very first thing we worked on, from photos of Deborah Paauwe’s works I’d taken during 42a, and the memory and amnesia in a body, reemerged through one of Paea’s tasks for me, “Frisking and saying it’s OK”.

I also found I have to teach them all how to do proper Black Metal head-banging, or hand-banging actually. So far I describe it as, “seize the sacrificed goat’s still-beating heart, shake it and squeeze the warm blood from its severed arteries, raise it high to the beast”. I awoke from my catalepsy last night to find them surrounding me preparing to do all that. Plus video camera.

Oh, and then there was John Jasperse. I’m really entering new territories of embarrassment here. The title of the work originally was a list called, “Everyone I have ever slept with”. The doubt insinuated itself and the name changed when I realised firstly I couldn’t remember people’s names and far worse, the longer I dwelled on this, the more people, tenuous ghosts, returned to me. Tonight I found the original Zürich list, also the list from crush last year. These, and my memory of both are so incoherent as to bring even the notion of faithfully recorded memory into disrepute. There is a third version also, that Anna recited, perhaps in existence on video still, most likely lost.

From the beginning of this, I thought also of people I had crushes on, and what the consequences such a public airing of my daydream world would be. Tara’s task was “Describe in words, while reflecting in movement, one of your fantasies”. I spent Thursday night on the internet trying to find video of John dancing. I settled for photos. There is a text also accompanying my memory of how he moves. Perhaps to save this for later.

Daniel’s task, that we didn’t quite make it to was, “Explain your greatest fear in regard to gender studies of any context”. My response to this, and the text that finishes this scene is, “That it’s all in my head and I have to be male”.

ignition – all the people i can remember sleeping with …

A morning back at ADT, really for the first time in about a month, and I forgot how astounding they all are, yes they kinda terrify me just how phenomenal a dancer can be. I bumped into Gary Stewart a while ago and he said, “Frances! I didn’t know you’re in town, are you staying? You know we’ve just decided the choreographers for ignition, but I think you’d be really good to have in. The theme this year is Gender Studies”. Today then is something like day zero of ignition. I’ll be hanging around ADT for the next two months making … something …

When I was in Zürich at SiWiC … to tell this story is only to recount my memory of so many retellings, and I was thinking of what I would find when I returned to my diary of those weeks, and that particular day, SiWiC day 11 – all the people i can remember sleeping with and the drugs i took. I made something so personal, humiliating, embarrassing, unlike anything I’d done before, despite all my work being in some way very personal though at a remove, hidden by the surface, the presentation of the performance.

So I have some dancers now, and a coffee at lunch to talk. The sublime Daniel who really has made moving to Adelaide special, Paea whom we shared a email trail from here to Berlin, Xiao-Xuan and Tara, and – a big hope – Gala. And some dance. And Judith Butler.

Saint Jude. I’d been thinking about what text would be the foundation for this for a while, and it’s obvious no? Gender Trouble – Feminism and the Subversion of Identity is one of only a few books that I can unequivocally say changed my life. Then to return to it again and find it’s still as fresh, uncompromising, funny, radical in its imagination of identity after almost twenty years, that every possibly easy way out to a reductionist, essentialist conception of bodies and gender is relentlessly dispatched, and she name-drops Divine in the first few pages. It is coming home.

I have also her, I suppose reflections on all this, Undoing Gender on order, and really feel a big reading binge of all my old favourites … Zizek especially.

What am I trying to do here? I’ve come to think of this performance that started in Zürich as an accumulation that recurs and is constantly remade. A lot of it appeared in Crush, though the focus there was more on shared places between me and Amanda, the cities we’d both been in and the circumstances that mirrored and shadowed each other, never at the same time.

Now I suppose the attention is somewhat on myself again, or the having-a-body the uncomfortable, confronting, upsetting, so personal it hurts, the fear of opening self. I didn’t realise Tracey Emin had made a work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, though it’s the kind of thing that would have circulated around my consciousness so I doubt I would have not known. Her willingness to make art from what in the context of performance is embarrassingly personal has appealed to me for a while.

So, Judith Butler, Angela Carter and pornography, Henri Michaux “…leaves a trace, leaves a wound”, Divine and Female Trouble, late night rehearsals, talking about things maybe I wouldn’t even write here, something dark and useless and empty.


It was only three years ago but seems … one of those entanglings with a person that are outside of time, so we didn’t see each other for much of the next eighteen months and then the next, it seems we were always around or that two months shifted out of our geographical closeness is not so far from the first one and a half years in immensity. On occasion, she remarked in a semi-joking way I’d been her mentor, and that might be a daunting thing for me and my irresponsibility were the contra not also true. After-all, I’m here in Adelaide because she decided the best way to expedite my departure from Melbourne was to make sure I got on the plane.

Of course I’m talking about beautiful and talented dancer and choreographer and very dear friend Gala Moody, who has been in all of my performances since 2004 and I’ve even had fun being in a couple of hers, who has been one of those people who is so rare in life.

Gala is on a two month crazy sojourn across Europe, from Madrid and Michael Carter to Zürich and Cornelia and SiWiC (and the Limmat and … oh so homesick thinking of …) and to Athens and horribleness of taxi drivers and transcendentalness of The Forsythe Company and on …


I wasn’t blogging when I went to DanceWEB in 2003, though used my camera until it was worn. Of all my adventures in dancing that started only because I saw Frankfurt Ballet perform so long ago, Vienna and the ImPulsTanz Festival is one of the dwellers in the stratosphere, for the dance, for the performances, for the life of being a European dancer in summer and endless days and nights and moments of revelation like when I saw Jan Fabre, moments that again changed my life. To know you are in the right place, and all this is important, from eating in the kitchen to gigantic spectacles of theatre.

Gala goes to DanceWEB. Gala blogs at flyhatched.org. (And takes photos).

siwic 2006

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than six months, you’ll know in June last year I did the slightly lunatic thing of jumping on a plane to Europe with the last of my money, money intended for a ticket from Hong Kong to Melbourne, and arrived in a city famed for its incomprehension of not being rich, all so I could spend three weeks in a workshop called SiWiC – Swiss International Coaching Project for Choregraphers. My daily excesses and slaying of dancers, and nightly promenades along the Limmat in my new-found home, all lovingly documented here were also the moment when my blogging became public knowledge by the people around me, and the subject of endless self-referential conversational loops.

So, of course I would do it all again. Except I can’t, because other choreographers deserve the chance I got, and the time is now for that. SiWiC 2006 is directed by Ginette Lauren of Montreal’s O Vertigo, and applications are open now. I’m as envious as all fuck.

siwic – provokant und ausdrucksstark

For the media whores who like to see their own name in the press again and again and again, or just for everyone at SiWiC who wants to know what has been said about our games, here’s another article. This one’s from Der Bund, which originally appeared on July 18th here. Or you can just scavenge it from me and help me choke my bandwidth… Thanks again to Nina Scheu for sending this to me.

Provokant und ausdrucksstark – Der internationale Weiterbildungskurs in Choreografie (SiWiC) brachte Grenzerfahrungen auf die Bühne – Isabell Steinböck Der Bund 18.07.2005

siwic – are we famous yet?

There were some people with cameras and others asking questions and taking notes who weren’t considering charging us with several offenses which would have left us picking up bars of soap for fat, hairy bikers and going for a ride in the covered wagon. I think they all had very complimentary things to say about SiWiC, but I don’t read German, so the thrill of the unknown remains. Alternately, I could provide my own translation, but you might not believe it.

Nina Scheu, who writes for Tages-Anzeiger and seemed to be having a good time very kindly sent me three articles which appeared in local papers. For any of you who are interested and can read German, I’ve included links to these.

Wer lernt was im Choreografiekurs? – Die 9. Ausgabe des SiWiC – Christina Thurner Neue Zürcher Zeitung 13.07.2005

Ein Raum Für Wache Sinne – Eva Bucher Züritipp (Tages-Anzeiger) 14.07.2005

Hundert Choreografien in zwei Wochen – Nina Scheu Tages-Anzeiger 14.07.2005

siwic day 16 – how to win friends and influence people

After a most refreshing dawn swim by mostly naked, mostly quite trashed dancers in a river with a moderately swift current, it was really time to go home and go to bed. Goodbyes were said, last minute attempts to score failed, and I, not wanting to face a 45 minute walk home decided breakfast was in order. Not just any breakfast but chocolate croissants and coffee. It ended up being cold croissants and average coffee at the hauptbahnhoff where I was on the nod like a smacked-up junkie with Tom and Cornelia. Goodbyes were said again, I slept for an hour, had a post-performance I’m-pathetic attack, then dragged my very sorry ass into Tanzhaus and proceeded to level it like a good carpet-bombing of a defenseless city.

It’s possible the time to ask my opinion of two weeks of SiWiC is not when I am hysterical from lack of sleep, still pretty out of it, and certain to confuse honesty with belligerence. It’s possible it was all a set-up and in fact a moment of genius in reality-tv, and everyone present was in on the joke and professional actors. Either way, when I opened my mouth and said, “choreographers should be paid”, all of Zurich trembled like a little dog with it’s head on the chopping block, pinned down by a vast meaty hand, cleaver whisking the air. Smack. A voice in my head with each of those four words uttered wheezed, “you’re. never. going. to. work. in. this. town. again…”. This was nothing a few swiss-triple-air-kisses was going to fix. oops.

Later, before the choreographers dinner which was initially as cheerful as a morgue party, I sat in some park near junkie street doing a fine impersonation of a smacked-out, on-the-nod needle freak, dreaming over and over of running all the sound cues of the show. By the time I made it to dinner, I’d done the whole bloody thing another three times.

Dinner though was a dream, once Nigel awoke, Veronika, Marlee, Fillipe and fashionable-late Martin arrived, and with Denise and Teresa plying us with beer, wine, endless pasta and ice-cream, then coffee, sedating us all lounging on the red velvet sofa. It was a beautiful finish to 17 magical days. As was the orange juice in the love-heart glass bought to me, barely semi-conscious at eight-thirty in the morning along with an invitation to swill vodka in Helsinki …