Why Did We Choose the Suffragettes?

By Alex Dellaportas – Choreographer ‘Shatter’ 2017
AUGUST 9 2017

“What a wonderful thing to be able to combine some incredible contemporary dance with historical storytelling.”

Choreographer of our new work ‘Shatter’, and Artistic Director of SYDC, Alex Dellaportas, writes about her inspirations for the piece and why she chose to tell the story of the Suffragettes.

I consider myself a feminist.

And while that scares some people, let me reassure you that it means I believe in equality for everyone.

Don’t worry, I’m not a “man-hating feminazi” as some people love to label feminists (which, by the way, is ridiculous because how do you compare Hitler to a person who believes in equality?)

As someone who loves to be passionate about things, I’m often involving myself in conversations with people about equality and all the little things that still stereotype and separate us by the construct of “gender”. Like birthday cards – why must all the cards for ‘her’ be covered in pink sparkles and rainbows while the ‘him’ cards are full of blue, drinking, cars and sports? I don’t believe it is fair to assume that either sex automatically loves these things because of their biology.

And yep, sometimes I’m that person who changes the T-Shirts around in Kmart so that the boys have some shirts with the words “beautiful” and “sparkle” on them, too. Why can’t boys be sparkly?

Anyway, it’s this stuff that really interests me, and when I had to decide on the production for 2017, my heart set on a story about the original feminists. A story that would bring a discussion about equality, history and the performing arts together for one huge work.

In a world where everything was gendered and people had to fit into two boxes, there were a group of women who were brave enough to question the system and break down those boxes. And in groups across the world, they changed female lives forever. They won women the right to be voters and lawmakers in a world where they literally make up half the population. And it’s ridiculous to think that this only happened less than 100 years ago for some countries.

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The word “Suffragette” was actually a word coined by newspapers to demean the women who were becoming violent as a result of their protesting. But the word was somewhat reclaimed and these women fought on regardless.

After deciding on this part of history to focus on, I began to write out a storyline. Something a little different. Something that might let people know about their incredible stories. Our story focuses on one woman’s journey to becoming a Suffragette. But in a small twist, we learn that her mother is already passionately involved in women’s rights and that Rosie, our main character, was forced out of that life by the judgements from society.

She was shamed into silence by those around her – something that is so relatable for people today.

Being told you can’t be something when everything inside of you tells you that you can and that you must.

Rosie must navigate through a world that doesn’t believe women can or should do the same things as men. She has to find her “people” and also make some huge sacrifices so that she can become part of the fight. And a strong part of that fight, too.

There’s a lot one can learn from Rosie’s story, and I’ve made it my mission to teach the 80 or so people involved with our company all about these courageous women and the gaps in equality we still face today.

 

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What a wonderful thing to be able to combine some incredible contemporary dance with historical storytelling. Dance can be so powerful and moving and challenging – and we aim to present all three things in our October premiere.

I can’t wait to share it with you.

‘Shatter’ premieres October 5-6 at Frankston Arts Centre.

Book tickets at: http://artscentre.frankston.vic.gov.au/Whats_On_-_Buy_Tickets/Spark_Youth_Dance_2017_-_Shatter