Saturday, August 5, 2017

Naked Ugly Dancing at Victoria Fringe 2017

Naked Ugly Dancing

Dancing the ugly out at Victoria Fringe 2017.

I was supposed to be performing at the Victoria Fringe 2015 preview night two years ago when I was admitted to hospital with what turned out to be Stage 4 ovarian cancer.

With an enlarged rendering of my tumour in the background, for this year's fringe I'll be performing my latest work furthering key themes of vulnerability and embodiment: Naked Ugly Dancing. 
(Yes, I asked my doctor for photos. I would have buried my tumour but, instead, opted to contribute my innards to a research project.) 
I will be "ugly dancing." I.e., not necessarily dancing with the goal of being "ugly" but with a goal to dance the ugly out... On behalf of myself and others. On behalf of this damaged culture.

And, I'll be naked.

There will be spontaneous interaction with the audience. But gently, with no invasion of people's space.

I'm 55, overweight, not in great shape and depleted. So there will likely be some moments of collapse. Although, recently, I started ugly dancing (dressed) on the streets as a busker and am happy to report that I'm able to last an hour. :)


As the creator of the Human Body Project and Vulnerability Vigils, for more than 10 years I've been using my naked, vulnerable body/self in performance and in public. I see it as a way to create exploration and inquiry around our mutual vulnerability as humans creating and living through a crisis of mass extinction. 

It's also about pain: I experience the normalization of brutality in our culture as traumatizing. I find it an endless source of confusion/fascination that so few seem to share this sensitivity.
(Btw, I don't think it's a super far-fetched coincidence that a feminist performance artist, working with culturally-induced trauma, gets gynecological cancer.)
For me, the ugly dancing ups my vulnerability. And, as an educated, middle-class, white woman, this new work allows me to express paradox more viscerally. Pain and privilege. Healing ritual/angry protest. Awkwardness and vulnerability as art.

Venue 2, Downtown Community Centre
755 Pandora Ave

Show Times
~75 min
18+ not suitable for children
Thu  Aug 24  9:15 pm
Sat  Aug 26  12:45 pm
Sun  Aug 27  1:15 pm
Mon  Aug 28  9:15 pm
Tue  Aug 29  7:45 pm
Sat  Sept 2  12:15 pm

Tickets $9 at
Link to Facebook event

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Another Explanation for My Kids

Several years ago I wrote this letter to my daughters. I know they haven't read it.

Like many people in our culture (including myself) they don't often have the patience to listen to an explanation or even ask for one.

And, of course, I do understand that an old, chunky mother is embarrassing enough, even without parading her weirdness and nakedities around town and social media! They're also irritated, no doubt, by the thought that I might have a good reason.

Recent #uglydancing. My upcoming Victoria Fringe show is entitled Naked Ugly Dancing.

Now they are 10 and 15 and, even though I think it's still a pretty good letter, I'm going to attempt to add to the explanation.

I got Stage 4 cancer almost 2 years ago. I was really overwhelmed by a lot of things but especially working as a university instructor. I think that made me get really sick. For me, as a teacher, it was important to share certain understandings about how humans need to think differently. But I made people afraid. No one was interested in supporting me or willing to believe I had good reasons. (Does that sound a little familiar? Haha!)

An example of a difficult thing to learn that you might recognize is how in your schools you have learned about residential schools and how our Canadian government and churches hurt First Nations children very badly and caused harms to First Nations people that continue. For instance, many of those children who grew up abused have turned to addiction and abuse themselves; and, because the children were forced to speak English or French, many First Nations languages have been lost.

This is very difficult for us to understand. Because we want to trust our government and our country. We want to believe that everyone gets the chances we get.

The problems in our world are caused, in many ways, by what people believe. So when we believe we have a trustworthy country, for example, we might not look to see things that happen that are actually very harmful.

Or we might blame another group for those harms.

Unfortunately, the way we live and believe in richer countries like Canada is the cause of most of the difficulties on earth... like global climate change, poverty, weapons, war, etc. 

One example is shopping and poverty. We get many things like clothes and toys and food and things for our house. Almost everything we buy involves people in poorer places being paid very little to make it or grow it or dig up the materials for us. 

This example is very tough to swallow. Because we need some of that stuff and because our society expects us to look or live a certain way. We are pretty stuck. And there are many more examples that show how we are stuck. Another is how we need to drive but we don't want oil (which needs to be sent all over the world so people can put gas in their cars and heat their homes) to pollute our oceans and land.

I think that's why people want to believe we are nice and don't want to look at how not nice we are. Because in a way, we are not being un-nice on purpose. We are in a culture and a system that surrounds us and no one can just step out of it.

So, one of the reasons I do what I do, is to make people think about what "is normal."

I have started to do ugly dancing in the street and for my upcoming fringe show because I think of it as a kind of action to create healing. I'm dancing out some of the ugliness. For the health of our culture and my body.

I also think of it as a cultural antidote. An antidote is something that removes poison. So if there is some not nice stuff going on but people aren't seeing it, maybe doing something the opposite of normal can help remove some poisons. 

One thing about our culture that is interesting is that when women aren't young anymore, they are considered ugly. But I'm not poisonous. I'm a caring, loving person. I'm a wise person. I'm a person who shouldn't be ignored.

So if I show up as an "ugly" dancer on the street, I am doing something very non-harmful and expressive. Why should that be a problem?

A lot of my performance art is about giving people the opportunity to question their beliefs.

It's embarrassing for me too. You have no idea. But, as I've tried to tell you guys, some things are more important than embarrassment.