Andreas Constantinou is a choreographer, and will be bringing two pieces from his six year research engine: The Genderhouse Project, to London this February. The Womanhouse and ReDoing Gender will perform at the Laban Theatre on the 25th Feb. This week, I Skyped with Andreas to find out more about this brilliant project and the work he’s bringing here this spring.
Interview by Amie Taylor (@spoonsparkle)
AT: Hi Andreas, lovely to speak today. To start with perhaps you could tell us a little about you and how you came to be a choreographer, and about your training…
AC: Yes, I started training in dance when I was 15, I was always a mover, as a child I was very expressive. When I was fifteen I used to be a big Madonna fan actually. It was around the late 80s / early 90s, and she got me in to dance. So I started dance classes and it all opened up from there. When I was 18 I went to Laban, I did a degree there and then I realised pretty early on that I wanted to be a choreographer, I wanted to be a maker. That’s how I started, since then I’ve been working all the time, wherever I’ve been in the world. In 2003 I formed my company, HIMHERANDIT Productions, with the idea of not making pure dance works, but with more interest in interdisciplinary works: performance art, live art – more experimental performance, but deeply rooted in the body. I’ve been based in Denmark since 2009, where I’ve been making my productions, with the support, luckily, of the Danish Arts Council – the Aarhus Arts Council. I’m currently working as an In-House artist at Bora Bora – dans og visuelt teater, the main dance theatre here in Aarhus. So for the past 4/5 years I’ve had a lot of support over here to do what I’m doing.
AT: Is it any different, or any easier over there to get funding than in the UK?
AC: Yeah. I’ve been out of the UK since 2006, so I’ve not been living there, but I have many UK collaborators and friends, and it seems to me that it’s much more difficult with funding and support in the UK. I consider myself very lucky.
AT: Is there a formal arts council over there, in the same way as there is here?
AC: There is a formal arts council, but in each region they also have arts councils, that give regional money. And I’m being supported by both.
AT: Congratulations, that’s brilliant –
AC: Yeah, I’m super lucky and happy.
AT: You’re coming to London next month with two shows, The Womanhouse and ReDoing GENDER 1.5. Tell us a little about this project and these two shows:
AC: Both of these pieces are part of a six year performance research engine. I’m three years in to that now, it’s called The Genderhouse Project. Three years ago I decided I wanted to tackle the subjects of gender and queer genders specifically and I realised that such a topic as this couldn’t be done in one performance, but would take quite a considerable amount of time to explore the many parts of it. So every year there are different projects based around different subjects of gender, and The Womanhouse and ReDoing GENDER 1.5 are a part of it.
The first three years of the project focussed on aspects of masculinity and the second three years are focussing on aspects of femininity. With the Womanhouse, I wanted to work with a group of women and to raise the subject of how do you see masculinity? What is masculinity? How is masculinity socially perceived? Is masculinity specifically related to being man? Can you be masculine without being man? All of these topical questions were the starting point for this piece. So I worked with four performers over three months, and in this work, I ask a lot of questions, they ask a lot of questions. We don’t try to make statements of what we know, but instead try to creatively meditate around the questions. So I hope that the piece raises questions, rather than stating what it is. One of the ambitions of the work was to start with masculinity as a stereotype, but then to go further and break that down to see what lies behind.
AT: So ReDoing GENDER sounds like it’s quite closely linked…
AC: Yes, they are closely linked but in a different way. ReDoing GENDER is a solo project which runs over four years, and has been heavily inspired by the writings of Judith Butler. She’s written a lot around gender performativity, so I came up with this idea for ‘redoing’, over the course of four years, every year going back to the drawing board and to basically keep redoing my gender every four years, performatively. It’s quite a personal work, as it’s a solo work, so it comes from me. It tackles a lot of frustrations of patriarchy, the frustrations of being a queer male and living within a patriarchal society, and what that brings up. And even more specifically themes of nature versus nurture. In terms of nature, the very Darwinian thought that we are born and our gender is ingrained in to our DNA, and nurture being that it’s a social construct.
AT: What are your own feelings around the nature / nurture debate?
AC: My personal feelings? I’m would go more towards nurture. I’m not a believer that our genders are built in to our DNA.
AT: Me too. There’s so much around us affecting our gender all the time, from the day we’re born –
AC: Exactly. It’s a social mechanism that takes place from the moment a parent finds out they’re whether they’re having a boy or girl. There is a gendering process that is socially happening, it’s not just about parents but the whole way society conditions in to binaries of masculine / feminine.
AT: And what do you hope people will take away from watching? What are you hoping to change?
AC: I hope it raises questions for people. I hope that they go away thinking about things that they haven’t thought about before. I hope it promotes diversity and the realisation that when we meet something we don’t know – it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad.
AT: That’s brilliant. Thank you so much for your time today Andreas.
You can see Andreas’ show at the Laban Theatre, Deptford on the 25th Feb 2016. Booking here