Monday 11 June 2018


I want it to stand on its own, and in relationship to your reading as much as anything. But also, I feel I should let you know, in case you want this, that the writing emerges following these two residencies that I have been lucky enough to spend time inside these past two months. It is also written in response to and alongside others, who are acknowledged at the end of this post.


Dear So,

                  Your letter* arrives and says to me:              what are you waiting for?

                   Your words begin to articulate my landscapes of

            - what? -

                                      well        many things, one of which is,

    really, a deep deep fail.

failure of imagination. inability to comprehend.

not magic, not beauty, not flow.

And my question: how to write about this in words without describing a kind of success?



My question, not yours. But perhaps in relation to your:



In response, I offer my own stories:
                                                                    of language, of forgetting how to dance, and of what makes us, for each other.

The language

an armour

but inside it

an arm.*



Saturday. I am seated with others around a bonfire. I am brimming with the knowledge that I must speak tonight. I clumsily stand in my power. In front of, say, thirty or forty people. Night time. Gunditjmara land. This, I say, matters. Sorry, I say, for my words will not be articulate. I am speaking, I say, as a woman of colour. Sorry, I say, for the trembling in my voice and the rage and sorrow coursing through my body. Because I have not been trained to speak this way. I have been trained to keep things quiet.

So it is that I speak.*

“There’s a lot more I could say.

        But I’m respecting.

Sorry … over-respecting.

I’m over-respecting.”]


and then

Someone else speaks.
A direct attack on my words.
A comment made with all the love and anger and pain of another life, preparing for a different battle.

- and lands
as intended
in my body

which is suddenly twenty years younger, and reeling.

Time, in this moment, does not serve to heal, but jumps backwards to protect.

My greatest protection has been to listen, and not to speak.


But this is just the setting / a prelude / to what I brought into the next room. The question.

The question relates to

is also

this question:

                                  Is it possible to work with ‘choreography’ the ordering of bodies without making museums of ourselves?

The question lives alongside questions of ambition and voice and career and success. Which means it lives alongside the tantalising feeling of passing and moving smoothly through the world. Alongside the act of viewing and the act of listening. Alongside terms like ‘dialogical’ and ‘engaged’ and ‘interactive’ as segregators.

Alongside my desire to dance, to be danced, to be seen to be dancing.

                                                           Alongside my desire to speak.



To be read.

To read a body onstage.

In my earlier shows, I have faced this as a confrontation.
I have played out vulnerability until it was real. I was very good at this.

But this time, I wanted to see what would happen if I was my inheritance, my families, cultures, relationships, labour.
If I was my queerness and brownness.

I couldn’t. do it.
Not yet.


We could have been intimate. And sometimes we were.

We could have been kind. And sometimes we were.

We could have been dancing, and sometimes we were.


It was not the solidarity I had imagined. It was harder than that. But it was solidarity, and it was trust. Deepest trust, to continue to show up. To continue to show up in full doubt. To continue to show up in anger and (self) hatred. And to mark it through, in conversations and movements, even if dull, even if far, even if terrifyingly absent.


The idea,

we wrote,  

       is not to make a coherent piece of choreography, but to interrupt, challenge, and contest the assumptions embedded in terms like


  ‘choreography’ or

                 ‘innovation’ or


[It’s funny. I told a friend before we began the residency that I hoped we might give ourselves permission to make something that felt “abhorrent”. I had no idea that I was going to use that word until it happened. Now I feel my way into it differently. I feel my body trying to shudder away from its own skin. And I think:

The language an armour but inside it an arm.]


An interviewer asks Arundhati Roy,

“Do you worry at all about comparison being made between the two books, or are you fully prepared for that?”

Arundhati Roy replies that she does not worry.

The interviewer persists: “Okay let me ask that another way. Do you think this is a better book?”

Arundhati Roy replies

      “There’s no competition.”

She replies

              “It’s not about success.”

She replies

“It’s not about critics or bestseller lists. Because I know – I mean, sorry to say this but this is the truth – that when people read the book, and think they’re judging the book, Anjum and Tilo and the dogs and the vultures are also judging the reader … really truly, I mean … this is the truth.”*

And in that one moment, without agression, I hear an act of decolonisation.

It is not only about your way of reading, she is saying. It is a meeting place.

Do not

(she says to me)   

    make assumptions


                      about how meaning and value are constructed.

   There              are         always             so                 many           things             happening               at          once.


NOTES of various kinds

* image by Alex Tálamo and Rajni Shah

*Since it arrived as if a letter, in my inbox. Since I received it that way. And since it is written on a platform called tinyletter. I receive your words as letters.          - And to the reader of this blog post – know that its writing began as a response to these fine fine words.

*I can’t help thinking about Sara Ahmed, whose words embolden my life. She has written many excellent words about arms and willfulness and feminisms. See here.

* [thank you Andrea Zimmerman for what you said in 2015. I have never forgotten it. you expressed disappointment that I stood on stage and spoke from script after the bananas incident. you urged me to be braver in what I shared, not to be afraid of my own rage. you noticed that I was very good at providing the conditions for others to be vulnerable, but that I did not invite this of myself. and I have carried your words with me, now they are … (funny) … ripe.]

*Thank you is not enough. to Alex Tálamo and Victoria Hunt who were inside that process alongside me. the shell of which lies here:


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