Image: ‘Sisters of the Black Crow’ / Jocelen Janon
Beauty. Ugliness. Darkness. Light. Reality. Myth.
These six words can describe the inner being of all of us – as well as the very reasons for our existence. They’re also some of the subjects of a new dance piece about women.
Sisters of the Black Crow is one of four pieces in a line-up of top choreographers called Taumata – Four New Works, taking place today and tomorrow (15 and 16 October) at the Tempo Dance Festival at Auckland’s Q Theatre.
A choreographic collaboration between Sarah Foster-Sproull, Rose Philpott, Jahra Wasasala and Grace Woollett, with music by Andrew Foster, Sisters of the Black Crow takes inspiration from mythology and the occult. The piece can be described as “a dark poem about women, fuelled by a desire to explore the duality of life’s beauty and ugliness by entwining mythology with personal experience.”
Villainesse caught up with Sarah Foster-Sproull, who brought the women of Sisters of the Black Crow together because of a desire to work with women she loved and respected, and had strong but feminine energies. This is what she had to say.
Villainesse: What can you tell us about Sisters of the Black Crow? How did the idea come about? Why that particular name?
Sarah Foster-Sproull: The idea for the piece builds upon already established working relationships I have with the performers Rose, Jahra, and Grace. We have been working together for over three years and have a unique process for collaborating on dance material.
The name “Sisters of the Black Crow” evolved from research we were doing into alchemical transformation (a perspective on spiritual transformation), which describes the “black soul bird” observing itself disintegrate in a process called dissolution. I was interested in this for the images it evoked and I wanted to explore movement ideas within this zone.
I understand that the performance takes inspiration from mythology and the occult, could you elaborate on this?
I like to cast women as goddesses, so I look to mythology as inspiration for this. I recognise that there is often a light and dark side to the “mythological” goddess – so I aim to represent this within my work.
The mythological aspect then intersects with the people I work with. Their input is always present in my work because we discuss our personal relationship/thoughts/experiences to the theme within rehearsals, and choreographic tasks are built in response to this. Above all, the performers are the single most important aspect of the work, because without them there is no dance, and there are no ideas to be shared.
Additionally I have always been interested in dualities – good/bad, light/dark, beauty/ugly, one/many, harmony/discord, chalk/cheese because I enjoy the tensions these polarities create.
What does dance mean to you? Can it be empowering? In what ways?
Dance is the art form that I express myself in, so for me dance is a lifeline. It is a way to process thoughts, understand more about the world, get in touch with being a physical person, and understand others (dancers/collaborators/colleagues) in a deeper way.
What do you see as the role of dance in 2016?
The role of dance is to reflect our society, to make a statement, to encourage the audience to think laterally, to communicate, to intrigue, to entertain, to explore to possibilities of the human body, to offend or delight, to connect with other human beings. In 2016, more than ever before, technology and media are evolving at such a frightening rate that real human connections are now more vital than ever before.
What has the experience working on Sisters of the Black Crow been like? Is there something you're most proud of, or that was your greatest challenge?
I am always proud of my work, as we work really hard on what we do. Each new work is a precious thing- a privilege, as well as a challenge. This time around the challenge has been my new baby. I initially made the work when he was three weeks old, so juggling breastfeeding, baby jiggling, and choreographing has been a trip. I am proud to be a working mother in the arts, and philosophically believe that children have a place within my rehearsal processes (this doesn’t work for everyone, but for me it’s great). My husband Andrew Foster is a theatre director/actor/set designer/composer and we want our kids to grow up understanding what we do. Making art is not a clinical process, it’s messy and cluttered, hilarious and fiery, and kids seem to love that.
It is important to say that none of this work would be possible without Natalie Maria Clark, my producer and creative assistant. She is truly a saving grace, and I would be lost without her. For example, I’ve just come back from Singapore with my family. I was there for an Asia New Zealand and Creative New Zealand funded residency to make a dance work on T.H.E. Second Company. During my time away Natalie has been holding down the fort and arranging stuff for our upcoming performance in Taumata this Saturday and Sunday. If it weren’t for her the dancers might have to perform naked, and practice in a carpark with no pay. So, as you can imagine, we all love her.
What is it you love most about dance?
The people. My closest friends have been made through dance, and I am constantly surprised and inspired by my colleagues. We are a rag tag bunch of freaks and geeks and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
One last thing, what does the word “feminism” mean to you?