Article Title:Val Smith's Circle in Box
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:15th October 2013 - 08:00 am
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Story ID:14052
Text:Picture by Mark Currie Genderqueer performer Val Smith is bringing Circle in Box to Tempo Dance Festival. It mourns the construct of the circle as a ritual space for community transformation. The black box theatre is summoned to test its potential for containing ceremonial experience. What paranormal affects emerge through being present to the circle in the box? Smith tells us more. Tell me about Circle in Box? What is the inspiration for it? Circle in Box developed out of a practice-led research project as part of my Masters studies this year at Auckland University. I wanted to look a little deeper into the performer-audience relationship to explore how I might heighten the experience of how intrinsic politics pass between people within the context of performance. Over the year, as I refined this piece, I became more interested in how peoples’ expectations of dance and performance informs their engagement with the work. Circle in Box plays with these expectations in a way where a dance of microperceptions and micropolitics unfolds in the space. What do you hope people take from the show? I hope that people take away some insights around how we engage with dance performance in certain ways, maybe reflections on personal tendencies as spectators, and perhaps even ideas around where dance and performance can lead us to into the future. Circle in Box hopes to open space for reimagining what dance is. Picture by Mark Currie How long have you been dancing for? What drew you to dance? When is anyone not dancing? If you think you are not dancing right now, I suggest you reexamine what is going on inside your body, there is always a dance going on. I was drawn to train in contemporary dance because I had some experiences of the potency and power of performing in the early ‘90s as a member of an Anarchist Feminist Troupe called The Random Trollops. Also at that time I was having transformative experiences of dance in rave scenes, where I came away with a feeling of freedom and liberation. haha. Also though, I think that the language of the body, of dance, felt so familiar to me, that once I started to explore some of the more experimental forms, a language emerged through my body in which I could articulate myself with so much more sophistication than I felt I could with words. How does it help you express who you are? Dance is, for me, a gateway to deepening my understanding of who I am. And a gateway to appreciating how I have come to be who I am through relationship to others and the world around me. Dance has helped me realise that I am not alone in the world, that we are here together. In terms of expression, dance is a space of unlimited possibilities, these past few years my practice has been a way into expressing gender in expansive ways, fluid ways, creative ways and uncertain ways. Picture by Georgia J M Giesen Do you think people, even within the queer community, understand the identity genderqueer? As I understand it ‘genderqueer’ is a relatively recent term to have been coined, and in its newness as a naming of identity, as a signifier or expression, it’s meanings are slippery and multiple. Genderqueer doesn’t seem to have solidified yet as a concrete definition, and I like that about the term. It seems to me that identifying as genderqueer is becoming more common or familiar within the queer community and not yet so commonly in broader crevices of society. However if you had asked me whether I thought people within the queer community wanted to understand the term genderqueer well that would be a different answer, perhaps leading to more sticky questions regarding intergenerational difference and issues of communication within queer communities. Tell me about what it means to you? Genderqueer for me operates as an indicator of my preferred expression and an indicator of a certain style of politics or activism that I relate to. The term allows me to play with a certain style of indefinability in the world. A space for blurry-ness where I can engage with questions about ways of being in my body and ways of wanting to exist outside of male, female, masculine, feminine, him her or really any pronoun or concretising label. Genderqueer is a way of representing and/or provoking assumptions around the known, a world tidily composed of binary ‘black and white’ things and objects. I am thinking of myself and humans generally as so much more than what we know ourselves to be, and genderqueer for me somehow sits with this way of perceiving the world with a less evaluative pair of glasses on. How great is it that Tempo has something like Prime, which is a bit more cutting edge and outside the square? The way I see it the curated group show Prime is not so much ‘a bit more cutting edge and outside the square’ than it is dance artists who have been selected as an ‘interesting’ combination of styles and approaches to choreographic practice. Prime, is also in part, defined by choreographers who have been making work a tiny bit longer than for example the artists in the Fresh programme. The Tempo directorship has shown some interest in trying to include a sense of the ‘cutting edge’ in dance, though I feel the structure of the festival as it is can only really accommodate for a limited amount of thinking outside of the square. In the past there have been ideas put forth to Tempo from within the contemporary dance community for a style of platform, which is more conducive to innovation in dance practice. So we shall see how Tempo modifies itself into the future in relation to what is occurring independently within performance communities locally and what dance artists would like to share within the festival structure. Circle in a Box plays as part of Tempo Dance Festival’s PRIME 17th   
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