This new solo work, The English Channel (previewed 7 June 2013 at Yorkshire Dance Leeds) is supported by the Arts Council of England (£30K), South East Dance Leverage Production Fund (£500), and by Screen Archive South East,Yorkshire Dance Leeds, Dance4 Nottingham.
The work is an integrated dance/film work, written, costumed, performed by and directed by Professor Aggiss, which fuses the screen mediated body and fictional and factual archive film as textually embedded into an original 60-minute live solo performance. This work continues to investigate the shifting nature of public presentation, structure and delivery systems within contemporary dance.
As The English Channel, Liz Aggiss is a cultural carrier – a conduit to channel willful women, and a cultural carrion – a vulture feeding off of archives and resources. From a feminist perspective, she provides a witty comment on mortality, and the pain, pleasure and paradox of the stage, asking the ongoing female conundrum "Do I please you or do I please myself?” Using her body as the medium through which to act out and act up, she is accompanied by a cinematic soundscape and music by Alan Boorman/Wevie, with original text by Aggiss and film used as both montage/backdrop and illustration made in collaboration with Joe Murray.
In revisiting her childhood self, revising her raison d'être, researching the empty space, and reflecting on the aging female body in performance and on mortality, the research process embraces past histories and experiences as follows; radio and in particular Childrens Favourites and Listen with Mother1959 -63: publications Family Britain 1951-57 by David Kynaston, Rank Ladies by Alison Kibler and Der Tanz als Kunstwerk by Frank Thiess: punk icons The Dead Kennedys and punk poet John Cooper Clarke: Marika Rokk Austrian German singer/dancer 1913-2004: early television programme Ready Steady Go!: the German operatic punk pop legend Klaus Nomi: Andre Jackowski's drawings: German expressionist Ernst Lubitsch 1919 grotesque comedy The Oyster Princess: Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles: Tadeusz Kantor’s The Dead Class 1975: Pictures to Imagine by Greg Daville.
The research methodology included appropriating, revising and reconstructing archive dance and music performances as follows: Kurt Joos (1901-1979) and the Dance of Death from The Green Table 1932: Robin Hood and his Merry Men: German cabaret singer Claire Waldoff (1884-1957): Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003) the first woman English Channel swimmer: the American amateur operatic soprano Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) ridiculed, for her lack of rhythm, pitch, tone, aberrant pronunciation of libretti and overall poor singing ability: Kay Lynn and her Fingers Dance first performed 1975 (1944 -): British music hall comedian and ‘Cheekie Chappie’ Max Miller's (1894-1963) and the grotesque and absurd dances of Max Wall (1908-1990) and Lily Morris (1882-1952): Grotesque Dancer Isi te Je (circa 1920): Pat Simmonds Speaking Clock (1920-2005).
The research and development process included; film, photography, radio and TV, film archive and book research: script writing and dramaturgical developments: collaboration with music/sound artist and voice-over artist: creating original films and archival mash ups: visual and costume research. This year long process led towards choreographic studio research and ‘scratch’ performances and running workshops for professional dance practitioners in which to test and share the content, context and demonstrate the integrated use of film and live voice alongside the relationship of image to space.
Professor Aggiss' research challenges the conventions of dance, creating mobile borders and contexts to reinvigorate and impact upon the art form and audiences as follows; conspiring to cross 'the fourth wall' and bridge the distance between performance and viewer provoking an active audience experience that challenges preconceptions on the language and delivery of dance: to develop an informed script with an original dance language that repositions the mature female dancing body deliberately widening the viewers knowledge, preconceptions and experience: to underpin content with dramatic visual and embedded aural strategies within the music, focusing on footsteps and embedded foley to create a visceral, layered and kinaesthetic impact on the live audience: to engage the viewer with an ‘active’ critical eye by including ‘obvious tricks’ and fictionalized histories: to create a reflective, witty and humorous dancing body.
'To say that Liz is unafraid would be an understatement. The English Channel is an inspiring irreverent clever solo performance that looks at age, beauty and being seen and very definitely heard. Beyond that, it delves into that legacy we all share – death.
'What is fundamentally clear in this piece is a coherent structure, that moves swiftly from one invention to another. It demands our attention from start to finish. Yet the kind of attention and way it relates with us is constantly changing: spoken word, movement, illusion, film, soundscape, song. Although there are several themes woven into the narrative, there is nothing that is superfluous to the story, and the audience are always taken along for the ride. I like that. The process is disciplined and sticks meticulously to the style and the concepts of the work. Liz’s comic timing is genius and the physicality is impressive as she works each idea well ‘over the border’. Yet there is a sincere point in even the most ridiculous images presented.
'The other very important thing is that she doesn’t care what she looks like – she can look beautiful, grotesque or anything in between. The shining inspiration here is ‘comfortableness’ in her own skin. With that, what couldn’t a woman do?' Zoe Parker, Culturevulture.com, June 9 2013
'Do I please you? Or do I please myself? There she is in all her glittery green glory, standing before us with hips a twitchin’ and a goblin grin on her face. ‘Do I please you, or do I please myself?’ she asks. It’s a statement that is at the core of an artistic investigation into the nature of performance, and of being a performer – and in particular, of being a female performer age 60, who has long past the stage in her life or her career when she has to bother too much about what others think. And yet you never stop being bothered – never stop trying to please, never stop giving them what they want. That’s what performing is all about, isn’t it? That’s what being a woman is all about, isn’t it? ‘I’m a one-woman variety show’ says Liz as she takes her seat for the after-show discussion. But the question raised in Liz’s piece – who this is actually for, the artist or the audience, who is pleasing whom? – is a pertinent one.' Dorothy Max Prior, Total Theatre
'Third up was a solo performer, Liz, a 60 year old woman who challenged the audience with her pronouncements, songs, film and subversive dances. The women in the audience loved her and rightly. This was different, courageous political and meaningful. As an older man, it made me think of how differently the sexuality of older, male performers is portrayed.' Donald Clark, Artyfacts, 10 April 2013
For more information see: www.lizaggiss.com/englishchannel/