MINISTRY OF ♀ (work-in-progress)
“…the evening was powerful…the performance couldn’t be more timely…I especially liked the tableaux section, ironically since I am such a fan of high intensity movement. I think that section, because you took your time with it, seemed more like a meditation – one that slowly turned my stomach.”
– Cathy Nicoli, Assistant Professor, Roger Williams University Dance Department
We all know the stereotypes – the femme fatale, the dutiful wife, the dumb blonde, the naïve little girl, the nasty corporate climber. Whatever the role, mainstream media — television, music, film, popular magazines — bombards us with images that objectify, eroticize, demean, and dehumanize females. The collective message is that a female’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality; not her capacity as an intellectual or a leader. Capability should be questioned; successes downplayed; emotionality devalued and mocked; and sexuality scrutinized and exploited. Females are hacked apart and then reorganized into ‘acceptable’ packages. The persuasive, inescapable force of mainstream media shapes cultural norms across the globe, affecting body image and self-identity, limiting the representation of females in positions of power and ultimately, contributing to the continued acts of violence against females.
MINISTRY of ♀, an evening-length contemporary dance-theater performance, explores what it means to simply ‘be’ female in today’s world under the pressures of femininity objectified. Through the examination of iconic images generated by Hollywood and the fashion industry, MINISTRY of ♀ illustrates the disturbing, unattainable standards created by gender stereotypes and society’s appropriation of the female experience. The performance begins with six dancers, in 7-inch platform stilettos, presenting each stereotype described above through bite-sized vignettes, heavy with humor and satire. Once introduced, the clichés transform and unravel – dancers reappear wearing smile-masks; the pretty pictures devolve. Shoes fly. Faces change. Performers, adorned in couture costumes by fashion designer Carlos Villamil, navigate the world between worlds, vacillating violently between truism and truth, parody and reality. The choreography, often performed with one stiletto on and one off, draws inspiration from the personal experience of the dancers; poetry by Eve Ensler, Rupi Kaur and Nayyirah Waheed; and text by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and ranges from contemplative and sculptural to visceral and athletic, revealing a vast emotional landscape.
MINISTRY of ♀ shines a light on the extreme divisions feminine objectifications have wrought on bodies and minds, aiming to provide a fuller understanding of what it means to identify as female, hoping to be a catalyst for rewriting the social narrative.
Excerpts from this project include Blue Girl Gold, CROWN, #LikeAHammer, HYSTERA, Seagulls & Phoenixes, Post Up, Resting Wish Face, Rearview Glass, and Bring You, Take Me; and have been performed at Roger Williams University, Boston University, Dance Complex, Green Street Studios, Boston Center for the Arts, Jose Mateo’s Dance for World Community Day, Design Museum Foundation’s Work Innovation Summit, and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. MINISTRY of ♀ will premiere in its entirety in Boston in 2019 and include lighting design by Lynda Rieman; fashion design by Carlos Villamil; and set design by Corinne Chase.