PRIDE 2020: KJ & Frock

In this blog, KJ reflects on her identity, being a Lesbian, and the experience of researching for, creating and performing Frock…

Hi, I’m KJ, a performer in Frock - Stopgap’s current outdoor work. I wanted to write this blog to reflect on my experience as a Lesbian performer in celebration of PRIDE 2020.

I AM A PROUD member of the LGBTQ+ community. Going forward when I refer to LGBTQ+, I am speaking to everyone in and around this community. I appreciate and respect you all.

A little about me…I identify as female, I have a wonderful wife, a beautiful daughter with my wife, a supportive family, accepting friends and a brilliant workforce that surround me.

I feel very lucky to be surrounded by people who have accepted me for who I am. It wasn’t easy coming out at 21, the society we live in doesn’t yet make it an easy transition. The way I approached coming out was to be honest and hope that my family and friends would realise that when you love someone who is gay, it doesn’t change who they are to you. It just changes the person you expect them to bring home for dinner!

Being a lesbian is part of my identity and how I see and move around this world, but I hope I’m not only defined by this. People have many identities: Gay, Black, White, Lesbian, Straight, Disabled, Mother, Father, Non-Binary, Queer, Trans, the list goes on… People are people and my feeling is that we should live together without judgement and in respect of one another.

The world needs more kindness, acceptance and mostly LOVE.

LOVE is something that the arts has in abundance. LOVE breaks down all barriers, we are all brought together from different backgrounds to the same space and time to develop our LOVE of art – in Frock it’s the love of dance. The dance sector in my experience has been open and accepting.

I know others who are not as lucky and are unable to be “out” at work. Work life makes up on average 10 hours of our day - about 42%. We sleep for on average of 33% of the day. So, people who are not able to be “out” at work have less than 25% of their day to be themselves. I imagine that work-life balance is very hard to manage.

Stopgap has openness, kindness, and inclusivity at its heart. When Stopgap bring dance work to outside audiences that would not always see dance, it breaks more stereotypes than we could imagine. In Frock we look at the stereotypes or gender “roles” of the binary couplings that have gone before us, our grandparents, great grandparents etc. By researching this Lucy (Artistic director and choreographer for Frock) began to wonder how placing the stereotypical costumes of these binary pairings on the opposite gender may start to shake up the stereotypes we still have today.

In Frock the female cast members wear suits and the male cast members wear skirts and dresses. I would say this costuming draws intrigue immediately amongst the crowds. It is often a starting point of conversation around the older generations who I imagine have lived through such binary roles and are now reflecting on their experience. However, I have noticed that younger generations don’t bring this into their questioning of the work. This is uplifting and inspiring to see  barriers breaking down and acceptance of “difference” growing. The way we dress, like our sexuality, shouldn’t have to define us. It should celebrate all sides of you. I am someone who often has to repeatedly come out, as most people who meet me don’t assume I am gay. Maybe this is because society still holds a stereotype of what gay women look like?

When performing in Frock I wear a full suit, this is a first time for me, and I LOVE IT! Wearing the suit to perform in is freeing, empowering and feels great to move in. I like the way it allows me to tap into different parts of my identity that I possibly wouldn’t reach. It’s more comfortable than most of my previous costumes and allows me to go to the floor practically without worry of injury on the rough outdoor surface. It also allows me to feel vulnerable, feminine and sexy.

It was interesting to me that all the women in the cast had worn shirts and trousers before but most of the male dancers had not worn dresses or skirts. The men in the work are open and this is in no way a reflection on them but more a reflection of what is deemed ok in our society. This illuminates to me that we still have some way to go with accepting differences.  This is exactly why dance and art is made; to question, probe and act as change.

I believe the audience for Frock notice the costuming first, then as they watch on, they will see learnt gestures, mannerisms, embodiment of characters that have been researched from previous generations. This juxtaposition of gender and character continues to unpick the stereotypes gone before us. Why should women mostly sit knees together and embody soft and gentle gestures? Why does the male role in previous era’s lend itself to a relaxed posture with bold and expansive gestures? Frock begins with the dancers embodying mannerisms from the opposite gender’s stereotypes. As the work progresses this characterisation starts to loosen it’s shape and morph into different versions of ourselves. As if the fabric from the gender identifying costume is fraying at its seams. By starting with ridged formulas both in gesture and in formation, this sets a scene from which the dancers then mash up and explode into free and fuller material. Reflecting the evolution of roles that are beginning to shake up in our society.

Having a clear trajectory of where the work starts and ends provides the dancers space to explore different versions of character and ourselves within the arc of Frock.  This is something I find really exciting when performing it, each time is not the same, my character and myself within the work  starts a fresh with new experiences each time. This is always helped along by the ever-changing landscapes and audiences when performing outdoor work. Frock allows me to be all the sides of myself and pushes the boundaries of my body language. The research for Frock  focused a light on how I embody different “roles” throughout my life and how my natural mannerisms may be read and interpreted. This was something that has factored into my thinking in performance and in my everyday life. I love performing Frock. It is energetic, subtle, fun, interactive and bold.

I feel proud to be a part of the Stopgap family and always super proud to perform Frock on the streets of any city. 

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