Meet choreographer Courtney May Robertson (and her life-sized doll)
It is possible to perform a duet with yourself? The answer is ‘yes’ and HUNTER is the proof. Courtney May Robertson lives out her wildest fantasies with a life-sized doll in this performance. ‘I think it’s quite liberating for an artist to display excess on stage.’
Courtney May Robertson (1992) is a Scottish-born dancer and choreographer, who moved to the Netherlands to dance with Club Guy and Roni and now resides in Rotterdam. The past years she has been working with various choreographers – like Jan Martens and Florentina Holzinger – and also creating solo works, like the pleasure of stepping off a horse when it’s moving at full speed which she performed in Korzo last year. HUNTER is a brand new piece: a grotesque and daring performance wherein the lines between repulsion and attraction blur.
Hi Courtney! Right off the bat: where did you get the idea to create a life-sized doll for this performance?
‘Well, it started because I wanted to explore my wildest fantasies that I could not achieve either on my own or with my mortal, human body. The doll is a stunt double, in a kind of way. Someone I could live out these fantasies with. She has some super-human abilities: she can become weightless, she doesn’t get tired, she has stamina, she is essentially immortal. We have a scene where we transmit fluids back and forth for a really long time… It’s kind of grotesque.’
Well, tell us about it!
‘For context, one of the body genres I wanted to work with was pornography and more specifically BDSM. And I thought: how wonderful would it be if I could create a never ending orgasm, where cum just continuously flows? So this is one of those impossible fantasies, we have a ten minute long ‘come shot’ so to speak. I can create that with the doll. I come, she comes, I come, she comes. And she’s me, so I’m coming and secreting fluid for ten minutes. With her body and presence I can live out these impossible fantasies that I can’t on my own.’
That's quite something. How did you decide to put these fantasies on a theatre stage? I can imagine it’s also quite scary to share this with an audience.
‘Yeah, it’s quite something. For me, it’s a protest against purity culture. A culture that says everything has to be clean and correct, and modest and stoic. For HUNTER I was inspired by a lot of literature. One of the essays I was studying was called ‘Gender, Genre and Excess’ and it looks at three ‘body genres’ in film; Horror, Pornography and Melodrama. In all of these genres it’s about heavy excess of emotion. These genres are often considered as low culture or fluff. They are not perceived as sophisticated or intellectual, because they have this so-called irrational display of emotion. The author, Linda Williams, talks about how this is a very patriarchal and misogynistic opinion, that everything excessive or deeply emotional is considered ‘feminine’. We’re taught to be ashamed of certain things and we uphold a standard of purity in this society. With HUNTER, I want to say ‘no!’. I can be too much, I can be excessive, I can be over the top. I think it’s quite liberating for an artist to display excess in this way on stage.’
What do you see in this society or day and age regarding to clinging on to a sense of purity?
‘Well, one thing I’m very much inspired by is body fluid. I read a work by Julia Kristeva called Powers of Horror - An Essay on Abjection. Essentially she talks about how we all contain various fluids. Blood, tears, cum, spit and so on. We accept that these are part of our bodies. But when it exits the body and enters space, it’s something to be disgusted by and feared; this ‘otherness’ is threatening in a way. I think there’s a lot of beauty to be found in these body fluids. In doing HUNTER, I attempt to transform what at first seems disgusting into very aesthetically pleasing imagery. To reclaim the parts of our bodies that we would otherwise be led to consider as shameful or disgusting.’
‘In addition to that, I’m always interested in why subcultures are hidden. Like BDSM, which often happens in basements and dark rooms. I think it’s perfectly acceptable and even empowering to engage in BDSM, to discover yourself and explore fantasies in a consensual way. But in society, these kinds of things are often pushed underground because they’re considered transgressive. That’s why I’m putting it on a theatre stage.’
HUNTER most definitely sounds like a must-see to me, but also quite a challenging performance for the audience. Do you feel that way too?
‘I would love it if people can suspend their own impulsive reactions. As for my own, I was raised Catholic, Irish descent, so I grew up with a lot of stigma regarding sexuality. All these feelings of shame and guilt made me more interested in subcultures or stuff that’s not widely accepted in society. But it remains a conflict as well: I can be intrigued by something, but there’s something in the back of my head telling me I shouldn’t be. I find this conflict interesting. I’m very curious to see how this will be for the audience as well, because I believe a lot of people have this kind of voice in the back of their heads. So I’d like to invite people to see HUNTER, sit with your first, impulsive reactions and contemplate them.’
‘I think the reason I want to show these things in a theatre with people sitting next to each other: it confronts us a bit more. We all have our secret, private lives – where I’m sure people are filthy! – but the moment we’re confronted with other people, shame is often triggered. That’s what I’d like to question.’
Bring your wildest fantasies and shame to Korzo Saturday the 20th of January and see Courtney and her life-sized doppelganger perform HUNTER. Get your tickets here.
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