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Performing Gender back to Leeds: ready for the feminist wave?

Performing Gender at the Yorkshire Dance. This is no joke: the participants will be through and through feminists by the end of the workshop!

The second workshop for the young professional dancers will take place at the Yorkshire Dance in Leeds from the 20th to the 26th of October.

A mix of point of views and experiences will contribute to enriching the reflexion about gender and identity. We asked Nataša and Tanya some questions to know more about their approaches and to preview some of the upcoming workshop. Read further to find out more! 


Nataša: Your current research focuses on the ‘sworn-virgins’ of Montenegro: since medieval times in remote, strongly patriarchal villages, if the head of a household dies without a male heir, one of his daughters can choose to become a man. Her vow of celibacy was a lifetime commitment. How is your personal research shaping your experience in Performing Gender?

Nataša: Now, with some time and distance, I can see how my early research interest changed and shaped over my experience of the first year of the Performing Gender project. At the beginning of the project, I was interested in shapes that are not clearly distinguishable at first glance, the body which is obscure and not necessarily identifiable in binary notions of gender, a voice which slowly takes shape in order to formulate words and evolves to communicate.

I then started to get curious about the phenomenon of the sworn virgins and how various anthropologists have documented this. For me, the sworn virgins are something of an in-between, not any longer identified as female and at the same time, in the process of becoming – male. Looking at the phenomenon from my western viewpoint and from a performance context, I see the sworn virgins as a perfected social drag, in fact, they could be seen as Judith Butler’s social drag done by the book. But as a woman and feminist I see the phenomenon as deeply wrong – if there would be equality between the two genders, the phenomenon would seize to exist.

So from this specific anthropological occurrence, which I could also call a gender blindspot, stems a whole array of questions pertinent for us today: is patriarchy still around today? Do women have to wear men’s trousers in order to compete with or gain men’s privileges? What do freedom and choice stand for? The right to own one’s body (particularly the uterus, in a women’s case)?

The Nobel Peace Prize just went to Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, two fighters against the use of sexual violence in warfare. In one interview, Mukwege said that ‘rape is a formidable weapon of war’. So again we are clearly reminded that women’s bodies are a battleground on many different levels and in many different contexts all over the world.


Gender Moves is a Performing Gender side project, created by Yorkshire Dance. Could you please tell us in your opinion what does it represent and offer to the LGBTI community of Leeds? How the two programmes will interact during the workshop?

Tanya: Gender Moves offers the LGBTQI community the opportunity to explore their gender through movement and discussion in a safe, inclusive space, enabling a greater sense of embodiment of each individual gender.

The workshops offer the opportunity to also think about gender in relation to place and identity, exploring pertinent questions which affect the group and provide support for individuals beyond the workshops. 

Performing Gender and Gender Moves connected during a workshop in the Performing Gender training week in May/ June.  This experience was valued by both the participants of Gender Moves and the Performing Gender artists, allowing them to share life experiences in relation to their gender identity.

During further workshops, the Gender Moves group is currently developing new experiences of creating work which reflects their identity.  They will be sharing some of the materials recently created on Friday the 26th Oct coinciding with a sharing of work by the Performing Gender professional development group. Audiences will be able to come and see both sharings and a facilitated conversation will take place after each of them.

Yorkshire Dance is further committing to developing LGBTQ audiences, participants and artists through these projects and other activities.

Now a question for both of you. Could you give us a little preview of the workshop? What can we expect from that week overall?

N. & T.: Well, we can expect that the participants, if they are not already, will be through and through feminists by the end of the workshop! This is no joke, by the way, if you are laughing as during the week we will be practising feminism/feminist activism in motion!

Starting with our private, social, biological, dancing, empathic, etc. bodies we will explore how we inhabit and express all of these in movement

We will be considering our daily lives, from a personal perspective and investigate how do we feel in our skin, how can we understand the other by embodiment? The equation of personal=political is always of the utmost importance when addressing the topic of gender.

Read more about the 10 dancers in Leeds here!