As Evelyne Cousins put so beautifully in Flemish newspaper De Morgen, “Apollon Musagète is a banal revue of flat nude images. Or: Apollon Musagète is an electrifying play of free female bodies. Holzinger enters the stage, stark naked, her gaze provoking. In her hands, neatly painted nails, she has a long nail and a hammer, which she puts into her nostril. With tender gestures, Holzinger touches her face, following the course of the nail to where she has to pierce her skull. “Real pain, real blood, real sweat, real entertainment.” Holzinger smiles.” In this piece Florentina mixes ballet history and feminism, forcing us to shift our gaze on the female body. Our eyes are upon their bodies, yet they remain masters of it. We asked Florentina for a little sneak peak behind the scenes.
One of the aims of the show was to assemble an all-female ‘freak show’ and to establish a kind of utopian environment in which men don’t exist. I was travelling the world to look for females that I thought were fearless and extraordinary and who would be willing to enter new territory with me. Of course, there are a lot of such women out there. In the end coincidence and chance brought us together in this constellation. There are some performers with whom I had worked before and some that were absolute wild cards in the beginning of the process. Ultimately you get a kind of family throughout a process like this. Sisterhood has been very important as a keyword for the work.
One of the aims of the show was to assemble an all-female ‘freak show’ and to establish a kind of utopian environment in which men don’t exist
Initially I wanted a mechanism on the stage that would challenge us, something invincible, to destroy the fantasy of the invincible performer mythos. Yet soon the bull didn’t challenge us anymore. We found out his rhythm and mechanics. It’s a machine with a simple pattern. In the context of the show some might think the bull is Apollon, while it represents a male presence, one that is actually not essential but can be used if needed.
The bull represents a male presence, one that is actually not essential but can be used if needed
When we get into a new space before a show, we do a whole run-through. This is a new thing —so far my other shows haven’t been that complex technically, but in this one with the sound and all the girls and the machines, we need to do it to in order to not be a mess in the show. To some it might look like mess anyway, but the is actually carefully crafted and should always be as organised and as controllable as possible.
I rather highlight differences than try to make people the same
We work out together and everybody warms up for their individual acts. Our work challenges our bodies in a variety of ways and we’re not suicidal, so it’s really important to take care of our bodies and prepare well. An hour or so before the show we go into make up and thats the moment to set the mind straight, to focus and exchange hot topics in front of the mirror. Usually we distract ourselves with stupid jokes. In this particular process shit jokes have been especially been favorised. We all know performance is not the most important thing in life, so we’re pretty relaxed, always ready to embrace anything that might happen. Then we’re ready.
We all play very different roles in this show; everybody contributes very specific elements from their individual set of capacities. I’d rather highlight differences than try to make people the same, and to celebrate community like this; that different realities coexist in a way that leads to a thing that we wouldn’t imagine on our own. But we know we are all team players of the same team, and we all support each other. We need this to individually have the strength to do what we do and enjoy that.
Nudity functions as our high tech armour in Apollon; they are our bodies and we use them as special effect machines
Nudity functions as our high tech armour in Apollon. They are our bodies and we use them as special effect machines. The female body and how it got constructed throughout history in relation to a public gaze, in art, in porn, etc. even in the supposed ‘private’, is an excellent tool for the stage, It kind of perfected itself as a machine for performance. It serves to seduce, repulse and mislead an audience, yet at the same time it’s none of that, it’s really just us without clothes on.
Florentina plays Apollon Musagète 29 Nov at STUK, Leuven. The piece is free for Subbacultcha members. Join here.