"You Wouldn’t Eat Just Cheese!"
I arrive to meet Liz at Nottingham train station roughly 5 minutes after her train pulls in. She wears a thick, buttoned coat, unacquainted with the bitter chill of the more northern weather. I, on the other hand, am dressed in a bright red and blue flowery dress with frills on the arms that I disfavour now I make the most of the seemingly premature sunshine for April.
She tells me she has come from Brighton and has lived there for over 27 years. “There aren’t many Brightonians left in Brighton. People flock there for the culture and a liberal easy lifestyle but there are few original Brightonians that I have met.”
“Do you consider yourself to be a Brightonian?” I ask.
“No. Not Yet.” We walk to Broadway to meet some of the Dance4 team and their tech collaborators for lunch and discussion about an ambitious online project being developed by Dance4 for dancers and audiences, and the general public to share conversations and understanding about dance.
Liz’s performing career began in cabaret clubs and pubs during the 1980’s Punk era, performing on small stages in dark, seedy spaces as a warm-up before the bands played, she tells the room over lunch
“My work is informed by all art forms and disciplines. I go to many different arts events, dance, theatre, live art shows, visual art exhibitions, all kinds of performances, as a way to inform my work - everything not just dance! I mean you wouldn’t eat just cheese would you! I as a performer and a maker am un-disciplined, that’s not to say I am undisciplined, au contraire I am very disciplined, but my work crosses disciplines. I am a dancer, choreographer, an artist, a performance artist, a theatre maker…”
The room exhales a small and staggered giggle as they warm to the somewhat overwhelmingly vibrant personality of Liz Aggiss. “My process to making is extremely research based, and I would never enter a space with the intent of moving before I knew exactly what I was going to do and why I was doing it.” This is a comment on the process of more traditional dancers’ approach to making. “Dancers go into a studio and usually the first thing they do is roll around on the floor!” Ok, maybe this is a critique as she parodies flailing arms above her rolling head.
On entering the studio space at Dance4, Liz’s approach to making and developing work is instantaneous: a huge line of papers sellotaped together creates a physical time line on which she layers text, script, objects, drawings, images, timings, props, costume ideas, colours, and more.
“From the research, I create a timeline, an aesthetic, a dramaturgy, a narrative. I develop a script, find words, create texts; I consider the sound, the visuals, and I then even consider and project the possible response of the audience. All of this before I enter the space to move. What will I wear, what is my costume and props. All these things determine my movement. All of this informs the choreography.”
I ask her if she has always been a solo performer and if she has or ever would consider collaborating with another performer. “I have in the past and most recently I collaborated with another performer in 2009.” She says that her style of work and working is more suited to being a solo performer. She does however regularly collaborate with lighting designers, sound technicians and film directors.
She invites me to listen to a sound byte of a cover of the 1984 hit Master and Servant by Depeche Mode that her music collaborator, Wevie, is working on. “The song is about Sex…I shall develop context, text and movement about sexual empowerment for the over 60’s!!” Her emphasis on the word sex bounces around the room in a silenced echo. The slithering S sound seeps out of her slender lips and rolls around her tongue like a serpent. She begins to sing softly with what seems like little breath pushed between her parted lips:
“There's a new game We like to play you see
You treat me like a dog Get me down on my knees
“I am interested in cover versions. And I wanted my musician to make this one as dirty and as filthy as it could get. And undo preconceptions.” She tells me in more detail what her work means to her:
“My work reflects my place as a solo female dancer and performer, as a woman, a feminist, my age and visibility and invisibility, being past menopause, the beauty and the grotesque of age, and the beauty in the grotesque.
“My work is informed by all of this and the world around me; I research the personal and historical and use that as reference, and am informed by politics with a big P and a little p. I want the audience to question the world around them and the way to do this is with humour. Humour is my get-in tool.”
Liz has worked hard to maintain her un-disciplined, indefinable and unquantifiable style of performance. She has been described as: maverick, challenging, anarchic, indomitable uncompromising, subversive, fearless, funny, and powerfully disturbing yet vulnerable. However the one word I would use to describe Liz Aggiss is simply inspiring.
Liz Aggiss was in residence with Dance4 from 27 – 29 April 2015 researching for her new work A Bit of Slap And Tickle, and will return again in late September 2015.
Her work The English Channel is still touring in the UK. Read the London Dance review of her recent performance at The Place, 24 April 2015 here.