Interview: Malik Nashad Sharpe Q&A

Thursday 6 April 2017

Malik Nashad Sharpe is a London based choreographer hailing from New York. His festival JOY & DISSENT: A festival of cultural activism is co-curated alongside Hackney Showroom’s artistic directors and ends in a weekend of dance including two works from Nashad Sharpe SAD KING, and $elfie$.

What is the origin of Joy and Dissent?

I moved back to the UK last year from the US having experienced intense trauma, witnessing police shootings of Black men, the US elections then Brexit. So I started making work about joyousness in response. What does it look like? How does it operate? Joy isn’t just frolicking in the park but we don’t want to dictate what it means. For me, it’s the freedom to be able state what I want, but it’s something else to someone else. We include dancers, choreographers, drag queens, live artists, poets and ask them ‘how they could use joy as protest?’ Each artist offered diverse responses to the same provocation.

What has most influenced your practice?

The emergence of queer discourse and art making triggered in the 1980s in response to the Aids epidemic in New York – an intense moment for the gay community. While the government, Ronald Regan, was ignoring it happening, these queer men were dying, so people had to make work about being visibly gay. Even though I was born in the 90’s, I owe a lot to the artists who inspired me from this period. My work is politically driven, loudly gay, loudly Black and unapologetic.

Is movement your voice?

A lot of the dance world has no interest in my work, but I do feel like a dancer in a hybrid form. It’s not about the tendus. Movement is about action and everything I create comes from the body first. I am exploring movement-gendered work using femininity as a queer marker. This is where it all starts.

You say you want to move in a feminine way. What do you mean?

Movement onstage has been gendered forever. In my performances I’m wearing a wig, there’s glitter and I’m in tight shorts. Audiences seem less interested in seeing male bodies doing such things. I find traditional gendered performance repulsive. You have to ask when does the man get thrown around? I only recently saw a trailer for a dance piece and the man was throwing the woman around like she was a rag doll. I mean, do they even know about feminism?

How do you make your work?

I go into the studio, put on music and it comes from the body. I start creating from northing except from the things I experience from being human. I collect movement material for months and do the shaping of work at the last minute without text. I am not interested in working from specific themes. The themes will emerge from the movement.

How do you translate physical experiences into performance?

The audience are themselves as much the choreographers. It’s their observations that bring meaning to my work. I perform the piece many times so the audience becomes the dramaturge. The performances are not interactive, but I do pay attention and craft an experience for them based on their responses.

Joy and Dissent, a festival of cultural activism, is running until Sunday 09 April

Rachel Nouchi is a freelance journalist in the second year of an MA – Movement Direction: Teaching – at Central School of Speech and Drama.

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