Saturday, 30 June 2012


I will be acting (moving silently is more appropriate) in a play by Terry Johnson called Hysteria. I have a minor role - 'older naked lady' is the official role title - together with two other models/actresses, Bernie Barrett and Angela Platter. From the role you can gather that I will have to walk around the stage in a state of complete undress (or semi? I am not hundred percent sure, as yet). I am used to nudity, I am a life and art model, so nothing unusual there.

Rehearsals have just begun for the main characters; the naked ladies will begin rehearsing on 11th July, with clothes on.

Terry wrote the play in 1993. It features an imaginary encounter and exchange between Freud and Dali. The lead roles are taken by Antony Sher (Freud) and Will Sheen (Dali), with Indira Varma as Jessica and David Horovitch as Yahuda.

The play will run in Bath from 23rd July, for four weeks. Then we will tour, with performances in Richmond, Oxford and Cambridge.

It is uncanny that I should be acting in a play inspired by psychoanalysis, just as psychoanalysis begins to take a major role in my life.

I became interested in therapeutic dance two years ago and decided to do a course in DMP (short for dance/movement psychotherapist). By the end of the second year the lure of psychoanalysis was too strong and I decided to exit the course. I was itching to embark on  psychoanalytic training, which I am in the process of doing. By serendipity, when I had to choose a personal therapist at the start of the course, a requirement, I chose to be in analysis with a Lacanian psychoanalyst. That did it for me.

It might sound odd that, as a body centred person, I should choose "the talking cure", but to me there is no contradiction. Just because I am engaging in a study of the unconscious and unconscious processes, it does not mean I am rejecting the body, on the contrary.

It is also interesting, part of the same thread if you like, that of all the ballets, the one I chose to go and see most recently is the Prince of the Pagodas. Again the connection with psychoanalysis figures prominently and it was not deliberate on my part. The ballet is a journey into the unconscious, very Freudian in terms of its symbolism. Kenneth MacMillan, the choreographer, was in analysis for many years. In 2009 there was a symposium at Imperial College, on the occasion of MacMillan's 17th anniversary, at which psychoanalysts from IPA with an interest in dance were in conversation with the audience, examining Macmillan's creativity in relation to his own personal journey through depression and anxiety.
Photographer: DG

“What lies behind the sense of guilt of neurotics are always psychical realities and never factual ones...What characterises neurotics is that they prefer psychical to factual reality and react just as seriously to thoughts as normal people do to realities.”

Freud, Totem and Taboo, 1913

Over the past three to four days I have witnessed a number of online attacks on a fellow model, on deviantArt (where else?) in what to me sounded a most hysterical explosion, in a Freudian sense.

I was wondering whether those who displayed such neurotic behaviour may not find some solace in a Freudian approach to the root cause of their anger.

Just a thought.

(All photos unless otherwise stated are by Korrigan and modelled by Alex B)

Thursday, 28 June 2012


I went to the ballet yesterday, with a very 'ballet knowledgeable' friend. I had not been to the Royal Opera House since, oh my, 2004 - or was it 2005? I am not a balletomane. But I wanted to see Monica Mason's restaging of The Prince of the Pagodas by Kenneth MacMillan and so I went.
The Prince is an amazing ballet, choreographed by MacMillan three years before his death. A young Darcey Bussel took the leading role and she did leave her mark, so much so that no one would ever step into her shoes. Nineteen year old Darcey had these amazing long legs and lent a Balanchinian quality to the dancing which is very, very  difficult to match. But now that she has officially retired, other dancers are being given a chance and they are taking it. Life goes on, for sure.
The Prince is a very traditional ballet, a fairy tale that brings together King Lear and Sleeping Beauty. First choreographed by Cranko, it has a score by Benjamin Britten. MacMillan rechoreographed it in 1989, as the Royal Ballet wanted a traditional ballet in the repertoire.
The most intriguing thing about it is Britten's score. Britten composed the music score for the 1957 production and the music is entirely based on a transcription of Javanese and Balinese gamelan melodies onto western instruments. Britten went to Bali to recuperate from a nervous breakdown and fell totally in love with the music of the island. He inserted traditional gamelan melodies into the score - they are out of copyright, so the question of plagiarism does not arise, though one wonders...
This you tube video by Christomacin uses Britten's score with photos of Balinese rice fields, so you can hear it for yourselves

Going to the ballet is definitely an experience. It's a world apart, that of ballet, with its own hierarchies. Yesterday there were quite a few cast changes due to injury. I got rather agitated believing the substitute dancers would not be up to the task. 'You must be joking', said my friend, reassuringly. 'They will be very good, perhaps not exceptionally good as in outstanding,  but they are all so well trained, you will hardly know the difference'. Absolutely true, The dancers were incredibly proficient and danced beautifully.
The Royal Opera House was packed. Who says that ballet is dead?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Professional and Amateur: the rise of the 'pro-am'

It is a well known fact that if you are involved in the arts, are serious about what you do and want others to take you seriously you need to label yourself 'a professional'. I have seen this among photographers, models, dancers, actors, visual artists etc etc. It speaks volumes about our society and culture and the institutionalisation of the arts.

In this day and age, however, the people who make a living out of their chosen art - the so called 'professionals', in other words, are fewer and fewer. People still refer to themselves as professionals for fear of losing face and work opportunities but in fact they may be waiting on tables to pay their rent and practise their art at night. The number of 'professional' artists keeps on growing, thanks to the many graduates from various universities art degrees, including performing arts, and art schools: all very capable, talented, well trained. What happens to them all? Is this 'pro' versus 'am' a false dichotomy? Is excellence only dependent on being a 'pro'?

No, not really.

In the 21st century we are seeing the rise of the 'pro-am', the amateur who makes work of professional standard but does not earn a living out of his/her art.

In this respect I found Diana Ragsdale's post on the website of the McKnight Foundation particularly enlightening. The professionalised ethos of the arts and culture sector in the US (and not only in the US), says Diana, is "at odds" with reality, "out of synch in an era in which amateurs working to professional standards are increasingly embraced as talented and vital contributors across many fields".

I characterise myself, happily, as a 'pro-am'. I model, dance, teach dance even, but dont make most of my living out of it. I don't regard my work in any way inferior to that of a 'pro'.

Art is there to enhance the quality of life of individuals and communities. By fetishizing professionalism we seem to lose sight of what art is about.

As one of Diana's commentators, Michael Garcés writes:

"By pointing out that good work is happening in many contexts, often outside the larger institutions or other places where the market can sustain a living, is a call for greater, not lesser, rigor. But it places the onus on individuals to make decisions for themselves what is good, or even great, art, as opposed to accepting what they are told to value. To my mind Ragsdale is not calling for a lowering of standards, but rather, in this sense, asking that we take on the responsibility for standards as discerning individuals"

I could not agree more.

(All photos modelled by Alex B and taken by Korrigan)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


I am always amused at how people who profess to lend little or no credence to psychoanalysis, are happy to invoke concepts such as narcissism and narcissistic personality with the intention of branding others.

I get the narcissistic label given to me quite frequently, as well that of being inconstant. It may be my modelling - the assumption is that by 'performing myself' I want to be centre stage and that's no good - or just the fact I have, over the years, learnt to pay attention to myself and my own needs and again that is "sooo selfish".

I can't stand lack of depth, lack of commitment and lack of intellectual rigour and when I am confronted with these I don't refrain from making my dissent heard, I just can't. I recently came across all three of these major 'lacks' in different situations: an intimate relationship that had run its course and had to be finished off; a course of studies which revealed itself to be not what I had expected; an absurd self-evaluation exercise called REF in which UK academics have to indulge, describing their research work as 'world -leading' or of 'international significance'. I will tell you about the REF in another post. Unrelated though these occurrences may seem, the theme of narcissism brings them together.

Let's go back to narcissism, then. It was Freud who introduced the concept, responding to Jung and Adler, in 1914. He first identified narcissism as a homosexual object-choice, then talked of it as a developmental stage that falls between auto-eroticism and object-love, a stage that is linked with the emergence of the ego. Later he saw narcissism as an "ongoing structure of the ego". Freud talks of two types of narcissism, the primary and secondary. Whereas primary narcissism is developmental, secondary narcissism is an "abnormal"regression to pre-objectal stage.

I am interested in Kristeva's take on both Freud and Lacan. She talks of a narcissistic structure of the ego and explains how we become individuals and how we come together and love: "she uses her notion of primary narcissism to reconceive the process of becoming a subject as a process that does not involve a break motivated by a threat that cuts the possibility of love without fear" writes Kelly Oliver in her Reading Kristeva.

For Kristeva narcissism is not to be condemned. We all are narcissists. Narcissism is self-love that makes one capable of loving others. Thus narcissism is healthy.
"Love"says Kristeva "reigns between the two borders of narcissism and idealization...All love discourses have dealt with narcissism and have set themselves up as codes of positive, ideal values."

Worth considering.

(All photos modelled by Alex B. Photographer: Korrigan. Location: Calais)

Sunday, 10 June 2012


Photographer: DG

life.after.theory is a little book edited by Michael Payne and John Schad published in 2003. It contains a series of interviews with theorists such as Jacques Derrida, Frank Kermode, Christopher Norris and Toril Moi. It is a reflection on the theoretical explosion of poststructuralism and what came after it. 
I was particularly interested in the interview with Toril Moi, who comments on feminist theory "after theory" and discusses Julia Kristeva and Simone de Beauvoir. 

Toril Moi published the first Kristeva Reader in 1986 in which she pointedly acknowledged her identification with Kristeva, as a woman "coming from one language and writing in another".  Moi is Norwegian and has been writing in English, Kristeva is Bulgarian and has been writing in French. I share that identification, for I too come from one language and write in another, so I too write as an étrangère and take that position of outsider, of which Kristeva speaks. 

I have been reading and thinking a lot about Julia Kristeva, recently. A literary critic and a psychoanalyst, Kristeva  draws on her clinical practice in her writings about culture and the human condition.  Her critical texts are examples of exquisitely evocative and thought provoking prose. Latterly she has also embraced fiction writing, articulating her theoretical insights in the speech and actions of her characters.

 I find Kristeva's notion of the chora most intriguing. The chora is "the seat of the semiotic modality of significance, a non-expressive totality formed by the drives and their stases in a motility that is full of movement  as it is regulated …as rupture and articulations (rhythm)…it precedes evidence, verisimilitude, spatiality and temporality ".  Joshua Hall, writing for Philosophy Today  has linked the chora to dance. In a similar way, other writers have linked the chora to music. 

But even more significant, for me, is Kristeva's emphasis on the speaking subject. Toril Moi points out that this is a key term, that brings with it a sense of embodiment "which you also get in Freud, Merleau-Ponty and Beauvoir" and which has led her to developing  the personal in her writings.

Why am I posting about Toril Moi and her comments on Julia Kristeva? Because as I read on, I was really struck by what Toril says to Michael Payne towards the end of the interview. The 1980s sense of "theory", she says, continues to reign supreme in universities, especially in the US.  But "theory today is the orthodoxy, the dogma that’s taught to every student…the point is to stop repeating a hegemonic and terribly dogmatic discourse. It  is important to find a voice of one’s own”. 

I think this is crucial. A great many students today learn theory in sound bites and key words. There is a surfeit of  critiques relying on "deconstructing" and "re-constituting", full of jargon and empty words. 

"What I and many other people have been trying to do" says Toril "is to find different ways of thinking ...that allow me to say something that I can believe in, that I can mean"

True and sincere words, which really resonate with me. 

(Photo modelled by Alex B)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Dancing on the Millenium Bridge

I have been real busy, sorry not to be so regular in posting. I am making some major changes in my personal life, after two years of being involved in dance therapy I feel the urge to move on to psychoanalysis so I am busy sorting out the practicalities.  But the most wonderful thing of all is that I have started performing again so I ended up  in Janine Harrington's piece The Bridge to be danced on the Millenium Bridge on 23rd. If you are around please come along to watch and interact with us. Invite yourselves on FB, there is an event page
The Bridge will be repeated at the South Bank in July, dates to be confirmed.
I will be writing more in the next few days but first I wanted to let you all know about this event.
I will be dancing in other performances too throughout the summer, so watch this space.