Childhood. Religion. Children. Work. The F-word — not the one you’re thinking, though perhaps to some, offensive all the same.
Dancer and documentarian Louise Moyes explored life in St. John’s and all the aspects it involves — including feminism — for “St. John’s Women,” one of the pieces she’s presenting next week at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s.
A fusion of documentary film and dance, the piece focuses on three generations of women in St. John’s: Kay Haynes, in her 60s; Moyes herself, who’s in her 40s, and Ashley Kapoor, a woman in her early 20s.
Moyes interviewed Haynes and Kapoor using the same questions on their experiences in the city, and shot a film with their responses as well as her own; in “St. John’s Women,” the film and photos are shown on a screen while Moyes performs the essence of their words in dance and mime.
It’s a revealing piece, especially for Moyes, the only one live on stage. Her own words and movements, sometimes comical or self-deprecating, represent everything from dying her hair and shaving her legs to visiting an insemination clinic in Montreal (she didn’t end up becoming a client).
“After the first time I performed it, I called Lori Clarke, the composer, and said I feel a little weird. She said, ‘Louise, you just revealed a lot of yourself on stage,’” Moyes said. “I had never revealed that much of myself on stage before. At the time, I didn’t think about revealing ourselves — we are three women telling our stories, and this is my particular story that is somewhat reflective of my generation. They’re willing to tell their stories, so of course I’m willing to tell mine. It did hit me a bit after (the first time it was performed) — whoa, I did tell a lot on stage and I’m feeling a little exposed, but if we’re going to share our stories, we’ve got to share them.”
Haynes spoke of growing up downtown with her father, a widower, and her stepmother; Kapoor, whose mother is a Newfoundlander and father is Indian, moved to St. John’s from Toronto as a child, and considers herself to be from St. John’s. Moyes grew up in town with parents originally from England.
Through their stories, St. John’s is seen through different decades.
“Kay says when she was young, you got married, you had babies and you stopped working, and that’s what everyone did. Ashley, at 23 or 24, can say, ‘I’m not sure if I want to have kids yet.’ I’ve got a whole other story because I had my babies late, as my generation did,” Moyes explained.
Feminism: Moyes struggled with whether or not to include it.
“It was a big question — am I going to use the F-word? Am I going to say ‘feminist?’ But we did, just to get their perspective on where women are in society,” she said. Moyes considers herself a feminist, and Haynes does, too, though she says she’s not a militant one. Kapoor doesn’t identify as a feminist, and that’s something Moyes finds interesting.
Along with “St. John’s Women,” Moyes is remounting “My Secret Pig,” a show she did 20 years ago which went over well. Based on a difficult romantic breakup, the piece, like “St. John’s Women,” includes stories from three different points of view, is set in St. John’s, and has elements about women’s identity and role in society, although in a comedic form. In it, Moyes plays herself, a Cockney man and a Quebecoise girl, and sings a cabaret song to a pig, in a very pink dress.
“At first I was like, do I have to do it like I did 20 years ago? Well, no, I’m a different person now,” Moyes said. “I’ve been through other breakups since then, and it’s really interesting to invest yourself 20 years later. There was more of an innocence to it before; it was lighter. Now there’s more of a weight in my movement and feeling. It’s a challenge, but it’s really fun when you make the breakthrough and find what this piece now is as a 47-year-old.”
Moyes has performed “My Secret Pig” in Vancouver, New York, Montreal and Toronto as well as at the St. John’s Festival of New Dance.
“St. John’s Women/My Secret Pig” opens at the LSPU Hall Wednesday evening and runs until Saturday. Opening night is a special fundraiser for Oxfam, and will be followed by a panel discussion, hosted by St. John’s City Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary, with three generations of immigrant women in St. John’s: Oxfam worker Mimi Sheriff, Yamuna Kutty, who is president of the Multicultural Women’s Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Zainab Jerret, the co-ordinator of the International Food and Craft Fair for the multicultural women’s organization.
If she hadn’t become an artist, Moyes reckons she would be a social geographer, studying how and where people live and work.
“Where people live really does affect who we are; the geography and the history of the place and the community, so that is what comes out in the show,” she said.
Tickets range from $18 to $23 (plus surcharge) for the regular shows, and are $40 for opening night, which includes a glass of wine and a $20 tax receipt. They’re available by calling the Hall at 753-4531 or online at www.rca.nf.ca.