Reflections On Shifting Practice by Bianca Mastrominico



To the Magdalenas around the world, to those who were able to attend the first online Magdalena festival and to those who presented, shared and had a creative vision to light the path.

Thank you all for the gift of sisterhood and companionship. I am sorry I wasn’t post-human enough to be able to participate in all the events, but I did my best to follow the artists named in this reflection/recollection.
To the team, thank you for bringing me here, there, and somewhere in between on cyberspace.


On the branch of a tree / a bird was eating a fruit / On a nearby branch / another bird looked on / The latter went closer / and then realised / that they were both / just one bird.

This ancient Indian story came to my mind while reflecting on my experience as an invited artist and as a participant, in BODIES:ON:LIVE MAGDALENA:ON:LINE 2021 . In the festival, I believe the first bird was the artists who had set up their creative roots in the immateriality of the Internet, digitally competent, with a body of work and years of experimentation behind them. The other bird was the cautious and critical performers, writers, directors candidly declaring their uneasiness towards online adaptations of live work, alongside the curious and adventurous, who kept watching closely to grasp techniques, processes and approaches. But what was the fruit? Technical knowledge? The awareness of the medium? An uncanny ability to make everything appear smooth on Zoom and other online platforms? All of this – but digging deeper, above all for me it was the courage to fight against the constraints forced on artists by the pandemic, the inclusiveness in conceiving a truly multicultural digital space for creative exchange, and the passion for moving forward and celebrating our identities as artists in such difficult circumstances.

In the sharing of my work I felt welcomed and supported, as a participant/spectator I was invited to be a co-creator of meaning and often – to my great delight – to blur the boundaries between being and performing, in a fluid exercise of our communal creative muscles and expressivity.

In many ways for both the artists and the participants, the first online Magdalena festival conceived by Elizabeth de Roza with Helen Varley Jamieson provided a shared opportunity to think creatively outside the box, to break the psychological isolation, to feel part of a wider context where it was possible to listen and be listened to, as well as to learn from each other, with curiosity and a non- judgemental attitude, testing the future of creative life post-pandemic and re-imagining it less bleak, more defiant, with growing resilience and hope. Through further participation and active involvement in disseminating the event, I also came to understand how the serendipity of the pandemic had been generating the building blocks of the festival, and its embedded argument for a more sustainable and accessible future of performance making, both live and digital.

Similar to the monthly At:Home:Live meetings, which brought up the many and varied challenges (but also the chances) arising from our increasingly hybrid lives, a pattern of reconnection and emotional housekeeping, alongside discussing and discerning, was established as a sort of internal protocol for gatherings at events. We were looking after each other as well as looking at each other through screens. The actual process of coming together – virtually connected in doing and witnessing some new and familiar work in an unfamiliar territory – was instrumental in creating a mind-set of remote proximity, which allowed us to appreciate each other’s online presence despite openly questioning notions of embodiment, theoretically and in practice.

From addressing the gaps in our digital literature and performance making, to finding the creative potential in the constraints and apparent limitations of working with the technology, without preaching to the converted or indoctrinating the newcomers, this same ethos was kept throughout the festival, opening up several spaces for honest and invested conversations based on the personal experiences of artists forced by the circumstances to find new strategies and make practical adjustments to their work. Throughout the festival I have constantly been pondering on the title, BODIES:ON:LIVE, and its suggestion of capturing our physical experience in the mediated interaction of our global bodies, with all the liveness that comes with that experience, which is no less ‘real’ just because the work and the contact happens online.

As well as being a presenting artist in the programme, I tried to participate in as many events as possible, starting with Helen Chadwick and her workshop called The Creativity Door, a gentle yet powerful invitation to undertake an individual journey grounded in a deep process of self-knowledge and discovery, through defining, drawing, writing about, physicalizing and vocalising the perception of our own roots. I then moved on to experience the energy and psychophysical release brought by Taranta Atelier, a workshop led by Maristella Martella and inspired by dance rituals connected to the Southern Italian phenomenon of Tarantism, which brought me into my homeland for a few hours. Both workshops gave me an impression of liveness on digital which was generated from the focus and connection with my bodymind processes, in a voluntary act of opening, tuning in and reaching out through the membrane of the technology.

Affirming, instead of suppressing, the differences and ambivalences towards making and working online, the official opening event started with an upfront introduction by Jill Greenhalgh, which I appreciated in its authenticity and openness regarding the struggle and doubts she faced in confronting the digital adaptation of her own performance work, as well as the statement that she will never take for granted the chance of being able to work with other artists in a material space post-pandemic.

Auspicious news came from a Zoom-defiant Parvathy Baul that the festival had begun on the day Kali was menstruating, which is meant to bring good luck. Her singing invocation to the Goddess not only bestowed a propitious ritual upon us against all (technical and human) obstacles, but also set the bar for what ‘liveness’ and presence might mean online. When the power of her voice saturated the computer mic and Parvathy commented that ‘Kali has come’, the devotion in associating a technical glitch with the descent of a powerful Indian deity onto the platform was an image of epic dimensions set against the mundane deficiency of Zoom audio settings. However, it also spoke about how the performer’s transmission of her intentionality – as well as her purposed and self-focused, directed mental and physical energy – was a masterclass in reaching, connecting and affecting her virtual recipients no matter what. Having witnessed and worked in Bengal with singers and musicians from the Baul tradition, I reflect on how, through that quality of connection which comes from a total embodiment of a spiritual act of singing, Parvathy was able to focus purely on the human communication at a deeper level, despite the remoteness and the apparent screen barrier.

On the other end of the spectrum in the quest for embodiment and participation through new technologies, I eagerly participated in cyberformance sessions and workshops led by Helen Varley Jamieson and the team behind the digital platform UpStage, who were inviting participants to explore, test and play with its functionality and tools in an informal yet expert-led approach. Through a fascinating and almost hypnotic semi-improvised session for the work in progress of Mobilise/ Demobilise, the audience was invited to participate through the live chat visible on the virtual stage and was involved as a co-creator of meaning, while interacting with the cyberfomance as it happened.

Through what for me was a substantially playful experiment, I learnt the function and effects of the semantic map of the platform in action, which appears to be both sophisticated and simple at the same time. The agency given to the audience to play freely, randomly and creatively via the chat – together with the blurring of the positioning between performer and participant – provoked a risk-taking and seamlessly never-ending element of surprise. This process of constant, fluid and reciprocal manipulation generated a complex echo chamber of multiple and interchangeable signifiers, where words, sentences or images were picked up from the chat by the cyberformers and translated into a visual language of symbols and texts on the cyberstage.

The work I was invited to participate in on UpStage provided a creative space of coming together and a ludic arena to test boundaries in digital form and content – I started responding to the signs creatively, taking inspiration from the comments by other participants on the chat, and the associations conjured by the images, the sounds and the juxtapositions provoked by the cyberformers.

The reciprocal manipulation of cyberformers and audience members is an exciting and edgy line of interpersonal communication within an online group, which opens an interesting area of investigation, related to modes of participation on digital platforms which might also mirror those on social media. Additionally, there is a reflection to be made about where the ethical responsibility lies in the generation of the ‘text’ through the chat, and how the developing content is bound to be interpreted by both the performers and audience members as the performance moves on and the process gains momentum.

UpStage was also used for the sharing of Jeux de Massacre, a collaborative work in progress conceived by Christina Papagiannouli in collaboration with the UpStage team as a sharply ironic cyberformance adaptation of Ionesco’s play, using the pandemic’s dark statistics, and born of (and within) the lockdown boredom and the creators’ feelings of being stuck in alienating circumstances. I felt the black and white palette coupled with the clinical ambience of the virtual stage fully conveyed the traumatic essence of the Covid ‘plague’ with a sardonic and caustic look at the human struggle to survive at all costs.

In terms of adaptations, I was very much looking forward to experiencing the online version of Daughter by Jill Greenhalgh, a long running, successful live performance adapted for the online environment by Jill and her performers with the technical support of Christina Papagiannouli on the Ohyay platform. Although there is an extra challenge to transpose a live performance which was never conceived for online engagement, the encounter was preserved and translated into one of a different nature, which spoke of our current time in the digital fragmentation of personal stories and bodies, waiting for contact in different ‘rooms’ in which the audience could choose to enter. While it did not resemble the original performance in form and intention, something else was surfacing, and more than a shared experience amongst a physical congregation of spectators, it was private and personal. The one to one relationship with the performer in a digital space inhabited by other – invisible but present- audience members as witnesses, still resonates with me. The nature of the participation felt predicated upon an invite to enter the world and the existence of each performer, while the technological distance was somehow reassuring, as it left a gap to (discreetly) project my own experience of being a daughter into the conversation, as well as appreciating the human sharing that was taking place. While other spectators might have found it intimidating, I really enjoyed the window open to the possibility of interacting with the performers and to be given agency to respond to them, and possibly I would have liked to have more of that.

I am also fond of my participation in the visual feast of the carefully crafted Await by the extraordinary Debora Hunt bringing puppet-objects to life, and to witness the highly refined and delightful minimalistic storytelling of Mrs Blister Changes Boots by Gilly Adams, as well as the power of the unsettling improvised sharing of Angry Women led by Annie Abrahams, and the tender, dynamic and surreal aerial performance by Jana Korb.

In Headcount by Karla Ptáček I was impressed by the quality of the writing and the dramaturgy unfolding on Zoom, as well as by Karla’s natural ability to take us into the digital space with her, in a dynamic, funny, honest and truly captivating performance. I had the pleasure of meeting her a bit better in a digitally warm and absorbed conversation around the (virtually) crackling fire lit for us by Christina Papagiannuoli in the ObservaStory, the online networking and exhibition space introducing the history of the Magdalena Project which Christina created and curated, and which also doubled as a social space for gathering, networking and meaningful chats in a separate digital space from the Zoom matrix of the festival. The slight anxiety of disconnecting from the main platform to adventure on my own into was rewarded by the fun of moving around with my mini-me avatar (which I assembled) and observing my virtual self, crouched around the fire-pit in a standby posture, while I was enjoying meeting my new friend. I admit I started to empathise with the avatar so much that I felt a bit sorry that she couldn’t have a ‘real’ drink as I had, but also grateful that I – through her – could pause for a while and meet a likeminded companion in this journey. It was then that I realised how much I was missing one-to-one communication and how refreshing it was to be given the chance to have one in that space.

While new performances and other events were under way each day, the three panels curated by Elizabeth de Roza provided a strand of reflection, recollection and articulation of ongoing practice and performance research, which ran parallel to the presentation of creative work and provided much food for thought, as some of the panellists, being artists themselves, managed to conjure an explicit performative atmosphere within their presentations.

The panels provoked discussions and debate, while critically questioning a wide range of practical and theoretical perspectives. In the first, Bodies:On:Live, we heard Jill Greenhalgh, Rakini Devi and Maria X, debating about what is LIVE-ness and live. Three powerful voices speaking about honest and legitimate doubts regarding the translation and migration of live processes online, as well as the uneasiness in fully embracing the medium, while also pointing at the viscerality of digital performance experiences as a form of corporeality through the wires. Some reflections flagged up the need of persevering with an artistic presence and identity during the pandemic, while opening up about governmental censorship and the political aspect behind the creative use of the internet and cyberspace.

I embraced the chance to explore and expand on my proposal and practice of the online creative space as an ’ecology of becoming’ in the Shifts in Practice panel (see also my blog ) as well as sharing the event with Lois Weaver, who introduced us to the participatory approach of porch sitting conversations she created with Peggy Shaw (both founders of Split Britches), alongside the wonderfully funny and unsettling Last Gasp they filmed in lockdown – and with performance artist Shobari Rao, captured during her lockdown in a black and white film as a tiny figure walking up a corrugated mountain in a solitary pilgrimage towards a place of personal significance.

While in the Future:Proof panel, Christina Papagiannouli investigated what is at stake in the proliferation of online performance making and how we can benefit from the pandemic-induced urge of adaptation and curiosity towards new technologies, with the contributions of Cheng Nien Yuan and Naná Sodré a clear line of discussion emerged about how culture, politics and geographic location is affecting the current digitalisation of our embodied experience, how we are learning to relate to our digital bodies, what does intimacy mean online and how it is possible to recreate it virtually. Questions also arose about the way in which cultural belonging and specific working mindsets might affect the use one makes of the technology (if access to technology is possible). Discussions were raised about what the strategies of co-existence between creative work in person and its digital streaming might be, and how we can factor in sustainability and accessibility, as well as improve the gap between technological poverty versus having the means for ‘cutting edge’ experimentation, in order to reconfigure notions of participation through technology-driven artistic projects.

Strategically positioned to close the cycle of performances was the digitally accomplished work by Suzon Fuks and the six writers who contributed to the process, which was livestreamed from a physical venue in Brisbane/Meanjin.

Be Like-Body Obsolete retraces the captivity we all endured in our personal spaces, the dilated stretching and passing of time resulting in feelings of ‘not being’, the collective trauma and the loss of meaning, as well as the domestic and private space conditioned by the pervasive, relentless and repetitive use of the technology. Through a slow, physicalized tension, merged with spoken words of sudden realisation and inner wisdom, dealing with her body emerging from the debris of the techno-culture in which she is supposedly trapped, Suzon becomes an embodied consciousness on screen, talking to herself and us, fighting to set free from the toxicity of digital living ‘taking over’ her senses and thinking processes. And while the work seems to ask if the body is now destined to become obsolete, she can still make something with the technological junk at her disposal, and finds beauty in creating residual jewellery while embellishing herself with the dust of immateriality, in a dystopian but creative relationship with the physical constituents of devices, screens, laptops and smartphones as extensions of our bodyminds (as Rebecca Loukes would say).

Beyond the inevitable and somehow anticipated Zoom fatigue, the boot-camp experience of a live Magdalena festival predicted by its creators was retained to the full, with a compulsion to attend events which, as much as it might be interpreted as FoMO (the dysfunctional Fear of Missing Out typically suffered by social media users), in this digital reality it came from a genuine inner desire – born from the perseverance, the coherence and the cohesion of our coming together – to witness what our collective energy had been capable of generating, a special kind of human energy without which no art (and no artists) can survive.

Participation at the festival was also a healthy sign of a much deeper necessity to connect creatively, to break the isolation, to be part of and contribute to generating a space for listening and learning from each other. It was also about realising that in being able to rely upon each other, we support our survival as artists and concretely help that curiosity which keeps us alive as creators, gazing towards a post-pandemic future that is more defiant and resilient, holding new opportunities and unsuspected directions in our work. Each day for each event we joined in, we came out of our loneliness and self-segregation a bit more, springing into awareness that the online space can be a place for meeting our own and other’s creativity, in a playful way which thrives on experimentation and personal discoveries.

After the wonderfully liberating Cleaning up! event facilitated by Zoe Gudoviĉ, who invited us to inhabit and occupy the private space of our toilets in public (though some decided to use backgrounds or head-towels in order to not unplug or lose Wifi connection), I could not stop feeling that amongst the innumerable personal stories and creative experiences we went through, one of the most important achievements of this first edition of the Magdalena festival online was really the encounter between established digital practice and adaptations and/or shifts, which created a rich and equal dialogue from both sides. And if those two birds in the Indian story might not have recognised each other as one (yet), thanks to the concerted effort of the festival team to bring all the artists together in sharing and learning from one another, throughout BODIES:ON:LIVE they certainly came much closer than ever before.


Bianca Mastrominico

Suzon Fuks in “Be Like Body–Obsolete”

#8 AT:HOME:LIVE Sunday 12 Sept 2021


#8 AT:HOME:LIVEfeedback, launch and activity

Sunday 12 September 2021

Find your local time here:

Santiago de Chile 5pm; London – 9pm; Munich – 10pm; Brisbane – 6am (13 September); Auckland – 8am (13 September)

The next AT:HOME will focus on feedback about the Bodies:On:Live Festival and the launch of the program of Mestiza Chile Festival with artistic directors Veronica Moraga and Antonieta Muñoz. Karin Ahlström will propose an activity.
AT:HOME:LIVE is an opportunity for Magdalenas around the world to gather and speak about what is important for each of us right now.
AT:HOME:LIVE takes place in Zoom and is open for two hours on the second Sunday of the month. (zoom is open 15 minutes prior to the start time)

Zoom link is posted here, as well as on the Magdalena Project website, and available in the newsletter.
Meeting ID: 950 310 6464
Passcode: athome8


If you have not used Zoom before, here is a video with tips to help you. – video tutorial
It’s also possible to join a Zoom meeting via a web browser, if you can’t or don’t want to install the Zoom application.

AT:HOME:LIVE was a precursor event to BODIES:ON:LIVE, the first online Magdalena festival which took place last June 2021.

The Two Birds That Were One by Bianca Mastrominico


The Two Birds That Were One by Bianca Mastrominico

Sotto in Italiano.

a reflection on the first online Magdalena Festival.
On the branch of a tree / a bird was eating a fruit / On a nearby branch / another bird looked on / The latter went closer / and then realised / that they were both / just one bird.

This ancient Indian story came to my mind while reflecting on my experience of participation as an artist and as an audience member, in BODIES:ON:LIVE Magdalena:On:Line 2021 this June.

In the festival I believe the first bird was the artists who had set up their creative roots in the immateriality of the internet, digitally competent, with a body of work and years of experimentation behind them. The other bird was the cautious and critical performers, writers and directors candidly declaring their uneasiness towards online adaptations of live work, alongside the curious and adventurous, who kept watching closely to grasp techniques, processes and approaches. But what was the fruit? Technical knowledge? The awareness of the medium? An uncanny ability to make everything appear smooth on Zoom and other online platforms? All of this – but digging deeper, above all for me it was the courage to fight against the constraints forced on artists by the pandemic, the inclusiveness in conceiving a truly multicultural digital space for creative exchange, and the passion for moving forward and celebrating our identities as artists in such difficult circumstances.

In the sharing of my work I felt welcomed, supported, and I found connections between culturally diverse practices which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to encounter otherwise. As a participant/spectator I was invited to be a co-creator of meaning and often – to my great delight – to blur the boundaries between being and performing, in a fluid exercise of our communal creative muscles and expressivity.

On the last day, when online exhaustion kicked in, I still felt compelled to be present with all my focus, but it was not caused by FoMO (the Fear of Missing Out often suffered by social media users) as much as by a genuine inner desire – born from the perseverance, the coherence and the cohesion of our coming together – to witness what our collective energy had been capable of generating, a special kind of human energy without which no art (and no artists) can survive.

I am writing an in-depth reflection on the festival which will be published on the Magdalena website soon.


Bianca Mastrominico

An Experience of Angry Women by Shelly Quick


An Experience of Angry Women by Shelly Quick

I wasn’t sure about signing up for Annie Abrahams’ Angry Women workshop and performance. Lately, anger isn’t really a thing for me. Sometimes I miss it. Sometimes I wonder to myself, “Where has that kick-ass, punk-angry rebelliousness gone?”

Sometimes I fear I have become that oblivious, internally combusting middle-aged woman I used to despise and pity in equal measure. Sometimes, I wonder if a silent, unbidden anger is slowly but surely imploding within, destroying every last bit of me in the process, leaving only the shell of me intact. Perhaps I signed up for Angry Women as an excuse to check on the state of my anger, to see if it was still there — an island in calm waters hard to reach, or a force of destruction hard to detect?

The day of the rehearsal I was nervous. I rarely perform these days, preferring directing and dramaturgy to being in front of an audience. The performer in me, like the anger, is something that got lost in the flotsam and jetsam of living an adult life. Sometimes I daydream that when I turn 60, that punky, cocky younger self will re-emerge, and I will jump back on stage with the ease of the woman I was in my 20s. I’ll perform crazy, experimental pieces and say all the things I’ve been too polite to say over the years – In other words, I’ll be like the women in Magdalena, who dare and dare, no matter the circumstances, no matter what the world might say about women in theatre, women of any age daring to create what they want to create.

This brings me to another reason I wanted to be involved in this festival: I wanted to see what could be done with theatre online. What could be done by women, many of them of a certain age, non-digital natives, who were daring to say, “We will not be silenced by these circumstances, we will find a way to keep putting our work out there. Our work is important and deserves this attention.” Of course, many of the women in Magdalena had already been working online and digitally before CORONA, and that was important too. What could I learn from these pioneers?

But back to the rehearsal. We did not introduce ourselves, and once Annie had done a bit of housekeeping, she asked us to change the setting that displayed our names to symbols. “Have people in the past called each other out? Started to argue?” I wondered. “Is this a way to make the anger less personal?” I clicked on the setting and typed in three dots: an ellipsis, that ambiguous piece of punctuation that perhaps expressed my doubts about how well-suited I was to the performance, or perhaps my doubts, period. Other people put little, old-fashioned emojiis, others asterisks. No one, I noticed, put a line of punctuation that would suggest bleeped out swear words in a text. Too obvious? Cliched? Forbidden? Was replacing our names a performative act in this piece?

Annie outlined the three key elements that would frame our work. She said we should be present, that we should trust, and that we should listen. I wondered about the trust. We weren’t in the same room with each other. We couldn’t see each other’s bodies to read body language. We didn’t even know each other’s names. Conversely, we could see into each other’s houses, an unusual intimacy amongst strangers, and read the language (however limited) of the objects within each frame. We could see each other’s faces, and perhaps read them more closely than usual because our gaze could be read only as to the camera, allowing us to look at each other in a way usually reserved for those we know and trust. I decided to trust the process, and Annie, and the other women in the rehearsal. There was no point in being here if I wasn’t willing to do the work.

Before beginning the first rehearsal, Annie asked us to consider a few phrases that we might introduce into the piece, and gave us a few minutes to write. The phrases that came to my mind were about my missing anger. Where had it gone? It used to be so strong. Was it a bad thing to have lost?

When we came back, Annie instructed us to keep our cameras on, close our eyes, wait ten seconds, and then begin. The overriding sensation, upon opening my eyes, was not visual but aural. A polyphony of voices in different languages and timbres washed over me. I felt caught up in the riptide of it, searching for the way up through the sound to air, air for breath, air for voice.

Some voices were already up there, cutting straight through the polyphony – A youth, a boy of only 12, had been gunned down in the street – “Bang! Bang!” came the refrain. Someone else ate her tongue, ate her words. Someone else’s words had been stolen. “I’m scared”, said someone. “Don’t be scared,“ came the reply. “There are some people whom I will never forgive, “ said a woman. She had a list. I thought of my Buddhist teacher, who had asked the class, “When you carry anger around, who does it really hurt?” I floated a version of the question into the waters: “What does being angry solve?” The response was quick: “Is that what we’re trying to do here? Solve things?” Annie pushed her fist towards the camera rhythmically, provocatively. A call to arms? A taunt? A dare? The gesture seemed somehow more powerful than so many words – I thought of Yoko Ono’s song Revelations and the lyric, “Bless you for your anger/It’s a sign of rising energy.” Was our energy rising? Were we feeling anger? Commenting on it? Performing it? With so many thoughts in my head, I had broken my agreement with Annie to be fully present, and was somewhat relieved when she ended the session for a quick debrief.

After discussing what we thought had worked and what hadn’t, we tried a second version. This time Annie asked us to turn off our cameras and only appear with an intention. I determined to be more present this time round and with the added element of virtually stepping into and out of the performance space, I found it easier to navigate my way through the words, gestures and facial expressions that were generated. I abandoned my original phrases and improvised, responding to my fellow performance partners and offering what came to me naturally, without filters or cops in the head. Having the option to be silent and unseen created more freedom for me, it gave me a little space for personal dramaturgy, to find my place within the structure and get out of the way when I felt like I had nothing to offer. Annie also seemed to prefer the second version, but decided we would do both versions: one version on Friday, and the other on Saturday. I was pleased when she decided the version I preferred would be done on the evening I was performing.

In the days between the rehearsal and the performance, my awareness of what I had signed up for sat lightly under everything I did. A friend suggested I invite my mother to the performance. I considered it, but decided against it. Even though my mother hasn’t watched me perform for many years, I knew that I could not participate unselfconsciously if I knew she were watching. I started to think about what women are taught about anger and its display, and the judgements passed on angry women, the names they are called when they are angry, the names they are called out of anger: “Bitch, salope, puta” – and, more recently, somewhat implausibly, “Karen” — “Karen”, that angry, risible, know-it-all Youtube woman-of-a certain age (my age). “Oh how angry women are wrangled, one way or another, “I thought to myself. Suddenly a phrase came to my mind, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” And there it was again, the ellipsis, this time truncating the phrase because the ending was known, the threat implied, internalized, my feelings about it ambiguous, maybe even angry? I decided I would use these names and this phrase for the performance on Saturday night.

I was slightly less nervous on Saturday than I had been for the rehearsal. I felt better about the words I would start with and had experimented a little with moving within the frame of my camera as well as moving the frame itself by picking up my computer. I felt I had more online performance movement possibilities, and could place gestures and frame my face in different ways to combat my tendency towards being static in front of the computer. When we began the performance, I recited my, “Bitch, salope, puta, Karen” incantation quietly, using only my voice and not my image. When I heard Annie say, “Respect me”, I felt an impulse to stop my incantation, and did. The network between us felt so delicate, the line between exploring anger and becoming angry shimmering as a possibility that scared me a little. In fact, words scared me, still somehow hard to navigate in the polyphony, so I turned to gestures, responding to proposals, creating some myself. At a certain point, very organically, a space seemed to open for my, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” I played with the completion of the phrase, disconnecting “Don’t” from “say it”, so that they could be separate commands, or the ending of “If you don’t…” It seemed to provoke responses, so I stayed with it for a while, experimenting with tempo, gesture, tone. I was enjoying working with the other women in the performance, and felt connected to them. I felt less connected, however, to the audience. Was that important in an online environment? I wasn’t sure.

The next day I asked two people who had watched the performance what they thought about it. One enjoyed it, but thought that perhaps we were a bit too static behind our computers. The other said she, “didn’t feel smart enough to understand it.” I probed further. “Did it make you think anything? Or feel anything?” I asked. My friend replied, “Well, I didn’t want to switch it off, and it made me think about anger. I felt uncomfortable watching it, but I wanted to keep watching.” I liked this response. It’s the kind of response I like to provoke through my own work. Kind of like sticking a sliver under the audience’s skin, giving them something to worry at for some time to come.

Thinking about this made me start to think about my own work again. Perhaps that project languishing in scattered notes, photographs, ramblings and computer lists could be knocked into something workable, online or off. Maybe I could even perform in it myself. Why not? The possibilities are there. I suddenly started to catch a glimpse of that punky, swaggering, blaguing 20 ,30, 40 -something woman I was, have been, still am. That woman who dares is still in me somewhere. Writing this, I realize that attending the Magdalena Festival and working with Annie have reminded me of this.

Performing in Angry Women doesn’t/didn’t solve anything, and that, as one of my co-performers pointed out, wasn’t really the point. It has changed something though, at least for me.


Shelly Quick
Angry Women 2021

A few words of appreciation and gratitude for the closure by Janaina Matter


A few words of appreciation and gratitude for the closure by Janaina Matter

A few words of appreciation and gratitude for the closure of our first Bodies:on:Live


remember to tell the earth to embrace me
the wind to guide me
the water to move me
the sky to dream me

forget not of the homeless
the hungry
the lonely
the deceased
the ones in grief

Janaina and her cat take the risk to sing
take the risk to dance
take pride in being queer
every now and then

be grateful
that I can still breath

invite people over to my home
take a peek inside their own
perhaps, remember I am not

share the screen
share the scream
share the dreams

remember to double check the time
to pee before block 9
to laugh on every break
to cry

fill up with admiration
and gratitude
until next time


Janaina Matter

(pictured below with Clotilde Matter, a regular audience member at the festival)

Taranta Atelier Maristella Martella


Taranta AtelierMaristella Martella

“Reaffirms the idea of dance as a healing practise”.

“Liberating and relaxing. It gets to a point where you begin to throw away your safeness, the safe moves, the self-awareness”.

“I do not need to dance as an artist. I just need to dance”.

                                                                                            (Kerensa Dewantoro)

“Bye Bye! Have a good trip!”

                                                                    – “Alone, but together”.


Go on a trip is always a great experience. Especially with good company. Especially in wonderful places. Like Southern Italy. Where Maristella Martella, among other participants, invited me, and where I had two wonderful evenings exploring ancient and powerful traditional dances and rituals. On the 19th of June, an exciting journey began. Zoom windows opened and eyes, pupils, lips, hands, and feet were vibrating on the screen. This vibrating continued, even intensified on the following evening, the 20th of June. It did not even subside when Maristella stopped dancing for a few moments and sat down. The participants continued to turn round, and round and I do not think that at the end of the workshop, with Zoom closed, the windows would have closed for good and stopped vibrating.


“It is always about love, to be together”.

During Maristella Martella’s Taranta Atelier workshop, I realised that I never thought about how many ways I can sit in front of my laptop. That I can sit behind it and look upside down into the camera. Or that I can not only sit but dance. And when I dance how the others see me? I mean, all they see is what I am showing them, which fits into this little square or window here on Zoom. Of course, if I go farther from the camera, they will see my whole body moving, dancing, and enjoying the music. But what if my room is not that big? If I do not fit into that little square, if the others cannot see me properly?

Then I realised that I did not need to see the presence of the others to feel it, to know that we are dancing together, that we are listening to the music together. When I was spinning, and the others were spinning with their laptops and phones as well, I felt that the whole Earth was spinning, because we were dancing together on different continents at the same time. We went on a trip together indeed.

“Bring yourself and your heart! And perhaps a foulard!”

Together, but each of us created our own ritual. At our own pace, with our own feelings and our own foulard. In a room, in a rehearsal space, in a workshop, on a table, or the floor. So, Kerensa Dewantoro – teacher, and theatre-maker from Indonesia, whom I asked about the trip from the perspective of her own window.

Before the workshop, have you had any previous experience with Tarantella or any ancient or traditional dances and rituals of Southern Italy?

No, I did not know of it. Though I grew up with an aunt who was part of the Garabandal movement where little girls went into trance when they saw the Virgin Mary. That is what it reminded me of. Absolutely fascinating to discover and I think that I do it in my daily life. Reaffirms the idea of dance as a healing practise.

Did you have any concerns that this dance/movement workshop will take place on Zoom?

Not at all. I have done many workshops on Zoom. In a way dancing in your own home can be quite freeing compared to dancing in a real space. Though I miss it. There is something liberating about dancing in the space you usually dance in. For me, this is the space I dance and create in, and even perform in. Everything is there for me.

How did you feel before and after the workshop?

It was extremely late in Indonesia. Which is good and bad for me. It is hard as a single parent with all the goings-on of daily life to steal time, so dancing in the middle of the night was perfect, and quite liberating. Though I did not realise it was so long. Towards the end, about 12.30 am I started to feel tired.

Did you dance alone or with the others?

Well technically alone, but I did not feel alone on Zoom.

What about the real presence of the participants and the empathy created by them at a proximal movement workshop? Can such an atmosphere, some sort of unanimity, a field of action and reaction be created during an online dance workshop? What is your experience regarding this?

It is human nature to adapt. Many of the concerns theatre has had (lots of discussions in Indonesia on this regarding the change to online platforms) are irrelevant. The real theatre will come back and online will still continue. The big problem with online performance here is that people treat Zoom as a documentation tool rather than as another performer. Things change. The biggest thing missing is the touch the facilitator might have given, the smell of others in the space as they sweat, the out-of-body experience or two-body experience of being frenzied but being aware, the whispers you might make to someone because you like what you saw. But I am less judgemental of myself in an online workshop. I take what I can take for later use and practise. Sometimes in group workshops, and it is good and bad, I more judgemental, place more pressure on myself, I am aware that there are others better than me and this is truly an unhealthy mindset to be in for creating. But also, I really do want to note, that as I live in a developing country, financially the benefits of doing it online far outweigh any negatives, and the training and the inspiration still remain just as important as in real space. I am pretty certain that for the facilitator, there are a lot more doubts. People have not learnt to adjust expressions when watching the screen to give energy to the facilitator. Faces often look blank (even though they are thinking). I have been teaching on Zoom for 1.5 years, doing other workshops, and have really appreciated animated people, smilers, etc… which is why I am so animated. It is just habit.

How much were you able to focus on yourself, let go of your conscious and immerse yourself in the dancing while tiny windows were vibrating in front of you on the screen?

Like I said it was late, so noise was a factor, then I had technology issues. This was the distraction. I am very aware that when one device dies that maybe the facilitator might be worried I left and that opens up a whole lot of reasons and doubts. That was my distraction. I did not feel watched at all though I suspect that others did watch as I sometimes did too. I loved to see other people’s places, stories, and then what they come up with. It is a great pleasure for me – I am always fascinated by the life behind the artists/ performers. When I found myself too distracted or doubtful at moments, I was doing the right thing, I just turned away and got back into myself.

How did you experience Maristella’s presence and energy?

She was great. Maristella clearly has a sense that Zoom is her friend/another performer rather than a camera for documentation. She worked with it and her energy came through – whether it be hands, feet, eyes, or talking.

How did you find the dancing physically? Was it liberating, releasing, enjoyable, or a little bit difficult, maybe exhausting?

Exhausting. I love dancing, but since I had been working hard all day, at that two hours I felt tired. But at those moments I either slowed right down and could just see ether dance in my mind or took a second to watch which was a great pleasure.

And how did you find it mentally?

Liberating and relaxing. It gets to a point where you begin to throw away your safeness, the safe moves, the self-awareness.

Did you have a favourite movement?

Shaking my head and neck. That day I spent a lot of time editing and had horrible knots in my neck. I also love the rush of blood and dizziness. It is very childlike.

Do you think you will apply this move, or together with other elements of the Tarantella, in the future?

To be honest, I think I was already doing the Tarantella in my own way. I dance like crazy most days. (I am a Balinese dancer and that is not so free). I have also spent a year in lockdown developing dances and making Corona Dance Videos as a diary of my time in lockdown. I want to dance everywhere with anyone and everyone. I spent a large part of my life up until about my 30s being stuck, being afraid to move even though I have always loved dance. And it has been a slow process to free myself, to not care about the ideas of what it means to be a trained dancer, to have technique. I dance all the time; I make these corona dance videos and I am not trying to be anything. They give me pleasure, from creation to exploring, to editing. This year in lockdown has been liberating and the workshop ‘Taranta Atelier’ really has just reaffirmed what I do and the path I am on that moment. I do not need to dance as an artist. I just need to dance. And my son dances all the time too.


Száva Szántó


Reference: Maristella Martella (2021) [Zoom. 19-20 June].

More info about Maristella’s work:

Person being interviewed: Kerensa Dewantoro (DarahRouge)

UpStage and Cyberformance #2 Helen Varley Jamieson & Christina Papagiannouli


UpStage and Cyberformance #2Helen Varley Jamieson& Christina Papagiannouli

“Very interesting, playful, and tempting. Attractive and seductive in its ludic and experimental promises, which generate the desire of engaging creatively with the platform.” (Bianca Mastrominico)

“I am already thinking how I could use it.” (Karen Remy)

“Just play around! Play with it!” (Lila Moore)

Create and present cyberformance using UpStage

On the 14th of June Helen Varley Jamieson, who is a pioneer in the field of cyberformance (live online performance) and is one of the founders of UpStage, and Christina Papagiannouli, who has worked with UpStage for more than 10 years in the context of her E-Theatre project, led a workshop in which they introduced the platform and its tools and gave an introduction to devising and performing online. No previous experience or special technical skills were required from the participants – just a web browser and internet connection.

“The goal is that everybody sees everything the same way, no matter what browser they use.”

UpStage is an online venue for cyberformance (live online performance). Remote players collaborate in real-time, using all kinds of digital media including images, animations, audio-visual streams, live text, live drawing, and more, to present live performances for online or hybrid online/proximal audiences.

At this particular workshop, both the performers and the audience were online. Participants logged in from all around the world, which I think in itself assumes an exciting atmosphere since we “come” from different time zones and places to explore something unknown and new together. Space, the stage is given, and perhaps most importantly, it is easily accessible without any difficulty.

It feels unique to be on a stage, that is, on a platform with people and creators who are unknown and yet quickly become familiar. Because connectivity and cooperation become continuous and more direct due to the possibility of the online space and the ongoing communication. Both between the participants and the audience and the performers. This was also repeatedly emphasised by Helen Varley Jamieson during the workshop since cyberformance is live. Therefore, the interaction between the artist and her audience is essential. “I want them to respond”. And the audience has the opportunity to do that, even during the show. They can become participants in the performances, as they can instantly express their thoughts, opinions, and give their feedback through the chat. An exciting, engaging, effective, and innovative way to use a communication tool, as these conversations can be saved so that artists during their preparation process for the following shows can also use them for inspiration or improvisational situations.

However, what also felt new and intriguing during the workshop was the version of this same tool, that is, the chat, seen from a different perspective, especially from the perspective of the performers and creators. Since one of the things that Upstage differs from other similar platforms is that here artists can have full control over their performance. Because, while the audience members can individually customize the chat – they can pick a nickname, edit the font size and the transparency, and presumably other parameters will come too – the artists can also hide it, as they are able to communicate with each other without it. I would be very much interested to see a performance where at some point the audience can use the chat, therefore interact with the performers and each other, while at other parts of the show the chat would be hidden and deprived of this function, the audience becomes “merely” viewers once again. It would be interesting to experiment with control in an online space, especially to see how the course of a theatrical performance would be influenced by it. How does the audience behave when the performers have sole control over the performance? And how does that change when the audience knows that it has a say in shaping events? And if it loses that power, if it is taken away from it, how does it react? Will its relationship, interests, and engagement change and differ from how it was before?

“Make myself bigger, make myself visible”

In today’s world, the Internet and online spaces are an integral part of our days, hours, and minutes. These are places of conversation and meetings. And I hope that I am not wrong, if, as a member of the younger generation, I say that social media is one of the most significant of these platforms where we keep track of each other, of each other’s work, and keep in touch with each other. But where can we create and be present as theatre-makers? Where can we connect with our fellow performers who live all around the world and together with them create a live theatrical performance in real-time and in one venue? I think UpStage provides us space and an opportunity for this or at least offers us a possibility to explore something (new) and experiment with it together. Where authenticity is not required “you can be anything you want to be. You can be nothing”. You can be your avatar without your actual presence on the stage (screen). This is why it brings us something new and inspirational. Because UpStage looks forward to the future and invites us all to create and perform together across continents without sticking too much to our own representations. And is not that what theatre is all about? That I form, shape, and work on the character I want to play. To hold my avatar, and move it around the space, take it off, and then bring it in again. Fade it in and out or make it visible and big.


Száva Szántó



Helen Varley Jamieson (2021) [UpStage. 14 June].

37 Days to the first Bodies:on:Live, Magdalena:on:Line Festival


Thirty - Seven (37) days to Bodies:on:Live, Magdalena:on:line Festival 2021

“The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present” Haraway, D. J. (2016)


I have started reading Donna Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble recently and have been thinking about what might our world be in a couple of years forward – and yet the book asks us to stay with the “trouble” to be in the thick of the present and move through it (Haraway 2016, p:1).  What does it mean for us to move through the thick of present? For me, it is co-curating this festival with a wonderful and inspiring team of women, and together we are moving through the thick of present and re-imagining what an online Magdalena festival might be like and what are these (re)new aesthetics to performance-making?

It is heart-warming that the artists that the team had approached jumped and welcomed the challenge to re-imagine their works online. At the same time, we also have artists who have been working on this online space for over two decades. And I hope that through these, we can create spaces of sharing and (re)discoveries.

For me, this is very inspiring and exciting – because, as artists, we have the capacity, creativity, and imagination to find inventive connections while working through the present. But, are these the best solutions? I don’t know, but we have to inhabit the current space we are in and respond while remaining connected.  There are so many questions, but we have programmed an inspiring festival line-up with workshops happening three weeks before the festival.

The festival and the workshop are curated to address the theme of the festival and to create spaces for discussion on:

  1. What are LIVE-ness and LIVE?
  2. What are the shifts that some of us had to make in our practice?
  3. What might the future be, and what is this new space of creativity/connectivity?

About the programming: 

We are pleased to present these fantastic works by artists who have had over two decades of experience creating online performance and those who are new to this new space. Please go to the tab “performance”, and you will find all the necessary information.

We have artists talks by women from Asia, Europe, South Americas, UK. All who have to “stayed with the trouble” and made shifts in their practices.

And over the first three days (24 June to 26th June 2021) of the festival, we will bring together a diverse group of women theatre and performance practitioners and researchers in a panel to share how their artistic practices have shifted due to the pandemic and to discuss the questions of embodiment and live-ness with/in an online space that this shift raises.

Let the count-down begin. But most importantly, let’s continue to have the courage.


jiā yóu,

Elizabeth de Roza



Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press.