Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Kat is a woman (has been for quite a while now). She is a migrant (since 1999) from the Thracian Valley in Bulgaria. In 2022 (surrounded by family and friends), she turned 40. To celebrate and mark this moment she gave herself the permission to do the one thing she had always wanted to – make a dance solo. Kat has always danced, but she has never before been a dancer. But then, she's never been 40 before either. This is the result of 40 years of joy and hardship, laughter and tears, super tunes and super moves.
Hi Katherina, thank you for talking with The New Current, how have you been?
Hello, hello, thank you for having me. I am spending my days preparing my body and mind for the fringe and rehearsing 40/40 - the show we are taking to the fringe.
Is the excitement building ahead of 40/40’s run at ZOO Southside this summer?
Absolutely! I am so excited to be taking this show to the fringe this year. It is a work about this moment in time. For my body, as a woman — a migrant woman — in her fortieth year and the fact that I will be showing the work this Summer is dead exciting. Ultimately 40/40 is about acceptance and where better to consider that than the biggest performance festival in the world?!
There is a lot of stereotypes and pressure placed primarily on women dancers and it usually always revolves around their age. Since making 40/40 what more can be done to challenges these assumptions and provide more space and opportunities for women dancers over 40?
I absolutely love this question because we don’t even need to mention the dancer bit and it is true. There are a lot of stereotypes and pressures placed on women especially in relationship to age. Full stop.
I started making this work because a few things were happening and they led me to ultimately take a bit of space to make work about them. What I was seeing on stage was mainly very young and able-bodied performers. And the other big catalyst was that I finally gave myself the permission to invite an audience to view a body like mine — bigger, not classically trained and raw, unpolished — because I want to see more work with bodies like that. I want to see and make work that is closer to the messiness and complexity of life. And of course there are female dance artists like Wendy Houston, Liz Aggiss and Janice Parker whose practices I have followed and admired for a very long time and so I feel that it was easier for me to give myself that permission to place this work in a more dancerly context.
I would have never called myself a dancer a few years back because those ingrained notions are ones we all have and I am no different. But now that I am 40, I really need to embrace and accept who and what I am and celebrate this - worry less about what I am not. No doubt some people will reject the work and I am cool with that.
What does Edinburgh Fringe mean to you?
Well, we (Two Destination Language) have taken a few shows to the fringe before and so we think we understand what is at stake and what it takes to place any work in this context. The fringe is an amazing but also a hard, difficult thing. Emotions run very high and it is extremely easy to have huge highs and huge lows. I have already made my wellbeing and care plan and I will be sticking to it as much as I can.
The Edinburgh Fringe is all of the positives and all of the negatives in one place — isn’t that why we love it?!
Can you tell me a little bit about how 40/40 came about, did you have any apprehensions about creating a show that is so personal?
I already mentioned a bit about how the work came about above, but I think that we always make the work we are ready to make at any given moment in our creative development and growth. Our work has always originated in something personal yet it has always strived to be relevant to a wide range of people. So, yes, 40/40 talks about personal experiences but they are relatable to others and it is in that the spark of dialogue can happen. And that is what I am interested in.
"We innovate all the time, we bend form and change content all the time."
How much has your lived experiences helped you in the creative process and what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt throughout this process?
I would say that all my work is influenced and affected by my lived experiences. I don't know what I would have been making — or if I would have been making — had I not left my home land at sixteen. I really don’t know. Neither do I know how things might have turned out if one thing was different when it comes to process. This process has been a joy. I invited a few women to help me along my way and they enjoyed being with me and with the work, so I felt held and felt very able to listen and to look after them in return. I believe that care is multidirectional and that we all have responsibility to create the atmosphere in the room. So, this process has been brilliant and hard and joyous and it has really pushed me —- and for that I am very grateful to all those that walked into the room to be with me.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you could have told a younger Katherina?
OMG! How long have you got? Well, I think the first thing I would say to younger Katherina is to be kinder to yourself. Much kinder to yourself. When it comes to work or life or love - just be kinder to yourself. The second thing I would still say to her - wear the high heels you are still carefully looking after and you barely ever get out of the box - get them out and wear them - give yourself that joy!
What have been the biggest challenges you faced bringing this production to life?
I think the biggest challenge was to say “Let’s do this sister!” and then grabbing all the work and running with it with as much joy as we possibly can.
As well as performing 40/40 you also created and designed this piece, how do you manage all these creative rolls on a production like this?
I am a very visual maker - so it all just flows together somehow. I might have an image in my mind for the set, or parts of the set, before I have any text or a single move and definitely before I have music. I often build a show from a series of images. And then these images begin to move and they begin to speak. I am very interested in visual language - to me spoken language can sometimes be pale in comparison with an image. That may be because before I worked in performance I made images, and I would say that I still make images, but now they sit on stages as well as hang in galleries.
How salient has the creative collaboration been between you and Liz Aggiss, Lucy Suggate and Rachel Krische?
Having Liz and Lucy and Rachel in the room was a gift. A gift I first gave myself in finding the guts to reach out to them and the huge gift that they all said YES to coming and hanging out with me and my thoughts and my body. They are all very different, working separately with me, and I absolutely love that. I really value different views and perspectives and it was my joy to listen and absorb their valuable time and precious lived experiences from developing their own practices. I like to say ‘cooperation, not competition’ and these collaborations really embodied that sense of artists feeding from being together. Each and every one of them were so generous to me - that is priceless!
Have you always had a passion for writing and the theatre?
No, I don't think so. I developed that. I see a lot of performance, a lot of different stuff - a lot of art, lots of dance. I think that has given me the strength to place my own voice in the mix - sometimes very quietly but often enough for me. I’m not a shouter. I have never been and I think as I grow older I dislike shouting more and more.
How did Two Destination Language come about and how much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
Two Destination Language is a decade old and while I think our projects change and evolve, our core beliefs haven’t changed a bit. We want to be real and we want to be true and we use different artistic languages to express that. We innovate all the time, we bend form and change content all the time. I think that can sometimes be a bit hard for programmers because it’s hard to place us in a box.
Oh, there is a bit in 40/40 about boxes in that respect, so you should just come and see it!
Will you use your platform to create work that continues this beautiful celebration of women over 40 taking control over their lives and experiences they want for themselves?
Yes, that’s the whole point of the work. Own your power and celebrate it. We all have it so choose to use it to a nurturing and creative effect.
What does your work say about you?
A wild child, a wild card!
Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer other women over 40?
Advice - try and do what you want!
Tip - compromise can be a good thing!
Suggestion - go to more morning club nights - they have revolutionised my life!
And finally, what do you hope audiences will take from 40/40?
I hope they will leave the space wanting to jiggle their bingo wings. I hope they focus on their own joys in what often feels like immense hardship and heartache.