Mastercopy interview with Alexandrina and Jamila

Alexandrina and Jamila

Please note this is an except from a longer interview, read the full interview on the Mastercopy website.

How do you convey politics through dancing?

Jamila: The words ‘convey’ and ‘through’ suggest that the dance is a medium for the politics; the way I see it is that dancing (as any other action within a context) is political in itself. Our decision to claim that the piece has some kind of political agenda is just our naming something that is always the case – these are not occasional politics. We are trying to highlight the politics of a body on stage that we think need to be addressed. I understand our dance practice as a practice of embodied politics.

Alexandrina: I think realising that the moment I step out of my house, I am engaging in politics has become an important framework for living and trying to understand the world. I choose to use dance as a way to process my politics. Because the body is so intrinsic to dance, it can be an exciting medium in which to question, tease and confront politics.

Are you excited to be a part of the Chisenhale Dance Space performance?

Jamila: Yes! Chisenhale is great and has supported my work since I graduated, which has really meant a lot to me. I am totally excited about this 30th Birthday season and the future for Chisenhale as it becomes more of a performance venue. The space is run in a really interesting way with its surrounding community of artists having a big say in what goes on and how.

Alexandrina: Ahhh, Chisenhale are amazing and it is exciting to be part of a venue with such a rich, artist-led history. They gave us our first grant and the confidence to really go for things and be supported in experimenting which in current economic climates feels under threat. They are just really warm and friendly and that can go such a long way in helping an artist feel secure enough to push their practice.

You are having a discussion after your performance, is it important that a discussion is held about dance and politics?

Alexandrina: The discussion is being curated by choreographer Jacky Lansley and we have been invited to be on the panel. I think yes it is important to talk about it but also not become static – to keep the questions and the actions flowing.

Jamila: I think it is important to talk about all things in general! Dance somehow feels a bit behind in comparison to Live Art or Visual Art in terms of the continual relation of the work to political discourse on a ‘casual’ discussion level and also on an academic level. Also, we make work to further a debate, not only to entertain people for the best part of an hour and be done with it! We are curious and we want to learn and we have things we find problematic and the body is a site of politics and in dance, that is what we are constantly dealing with, so hell yeah, it’s important we talk about it. This is why we are publishing a book A Contemporary Struggle.

What does it mean to be a black or mixed race contemporary dancer?

Jamila: Come and see the show and you tell me!

Alexandrina: Yeah, you will have to come and see the show!

Jamila: It means I guess that sometimes I look around an auditorium whilst watching a performance and realise that I am the only black or even brown person in the room, which can make me feel a bit awkward and out of place, which makes me think that maybe I shouldn’t be there (here) because it is a world of leisure and privilege which is not for me. These insecurities and prejudices creep into my mind but I don’t believe them.

Alexandrina: Sometimes it means that I know I am picked for certain jobs because of how I look (but that’s true for a lot of people). It sometimes means that I don’t find jokes funny in that kind of comfortable way that contemporary dance audiences love. I think it can also mean a lot of uncertainty particularly when I am not creating any kind of fusion dance – I know very little about West African dance styles – so I am deeply rooted in English contemporary dance culture but perhaps with different things to say about it.