BodyMeld – new choreographies Contemporary dance, choreography and dance workshops by Zornitsa Stoyanova

Interview with Philadephia Weekly’s Jacqueline Rupp about Explicit Female

Performance artist Zornitsa Stoyanova uses mylar to depict the female form

In Ex­pli­cit Fe­male, her in­ter­act­ive one-per­son per­form­ance that de­buts later this month, Stoy­an­ova will use the ma­ter­i­al to en­hance and re­in­ter­pret the fe­male im­age.


What do the words “fe­male form” bring to mind? 200-level fig­ure draw­ing class? Rod­in sculp­tures? That creepy second uncle de­scrib­ing his Play­boy col­lec­tion? More than likely Mylar, alu­min­um foil’s less ri­gid cous­in, the ma­ter­i­al of birth­day bal­loons and emer­gency blankets, does not pop im­me­di­ately in­to your thought bubble. That is, per­haps un­til now.

In­de­pend­ent per­form­ance artist, Zor­nitsa Stoy­an­ova uses mylar to cre­ate hy­brid art that’s part visu­al and part per­form­ance. In Ex­pli­cit Fe­male, her in­ter­act­ive one-per­son per­form­ance that de­buts later this month, Stoy­an­ova will use the ma­ter­i­al to en­hance and re­in­ter­pret the fe­male im­age.

“I’m not try­ing to shock any­one. But it is un­apo­lo­get­ic, it’s evoc­at­ive,” Stoy­an­ova ex­plains, her Bul­gari­an ac­cent firmly in tow. “If I was show­ing im­agery of real gen­italia, it wouldn’t have that ef­fect, it wouldn’t have that ef­fect of ‘Oh, I want to see this more,’ it would have the ef­fect of por­no­graphy and that’s not at all where I’m go­ing with this piece.” She says the per­form­ance will be very cas­u­al, but ex­tremely in­tim­ate. There will be no fourth wall, the audi­ence is lim­ited to 20  and Stoy­an­ova will be per­form­ing com­pletely in the nude.

This may not sound like your typ­ic­al dis­cus­sion of moth­er­hood, but for Stoy­an­ova, one of the biggest in­spir­a­tions for the piece was her preg­nancy and birth of her now two-year old son and what moth­er­hood has done to change her as both an artist and a fe­male. “I have a line about how my va­gina is sewn up like a fam­ily quilt,” she says, with all ser­i­ous­ness. “My work has al­ways been ab­stract with in­tern­al lo­gic, it’s nev­er had any­thing to do with per­sona, but this is nar­rat­ive in the sense that I do talk about what it’s like to have an ali­en take over your womb from the in­side and then come out­side of you. You know it’s you, but it’s not you. It’s your ge­net­ic ma­ter­i­al, but it’s not you, and what that feels like.”

Stoy­an­ova has lived in Phil­adelphia for 10 years. She left her home coun­try of Bul­garia when she was 20, to study at Ben­ning­ton Col­lege in Ver­mont. She came to dance later in life, in her teens and says that while she stud­ied cho­reo­graphy and sound design in col­lege, most of her paid gigs have come in the form of light­ing design jobs, a craft she nev­er ac­tu­ally form­ally stud­ied. Ar­riv­ing in Phil­adelphia right after col­lege, she met her now hus­band shortly there­after while look­ing for a room­mate and as she puts it, “Now we’re mar­ried and I am of­fi­cially a res­id­ent of the coun­try, I have a Green Card but I’m not a cit­izen. That’s the story of how I man­aged to stay in the states.”

Once in Philly, Stoy­an­ova worked primar­ily as a cho­reo­graph­er, but since the birth of her son, her me­dia has switched to a fo­cus on pho­to­graphy and film. With lim­ited re­hears­al time, squeez­ing in de­vel­op­ment ses­sions for her per­form­ance work when a babysit­ter or her hus­band was with their son, led her to be­gin tak­ing pho­tos and video to help speed the cre­at­ive pro­cess along. Ex­hib­i­tions of these pho­tos then fol­lowed and her fas­cin­a­tion with mylar grew. “What I dis­covered through tak­ing pho­tos and video, mylar is in­or­gan­ic, but the way that it re­flects—es­pe­cially the way I work with it—it cre­ates either very fe­male or very male im­agery and I don’t know why it is, but it’s so evoc­at­ive and also ex­pli­cit. It al­most is un­com­fort­ably ab­stractly ex­pli­cit. Be­cause you know you’re not see­ing a va­gina, but it’s so re­min­is­cent of it. But, when you look at it for a long time, it al­most is like a play of ima­gin­a­tion.”

Ex­pli­cit Fe­male is her first solo per­form­ance since giv­ing birth, al­though she has per­formed with sev­er­al groups, in­clud­ing im­prov dance com­pany, Graf­fito Works and Fid­get Space, where she is in res­id­ence. She says a pre­vi­ous work with the com­pany Idio­syn­crazy, which was the first time she was asked to per­form sans cloth­ing, deeply af­fected her be­liefs on nud­ity and her body. “It was not erot­ic or any­thing like that. It was ex­tremely chal­len­ging psy­cho­lo­gic­ally and was a very tough per­form­ance to watch, it was a very tough per­form­ance to per­form. There were five or six per­formers of all genders and races, and we did a lot of things in the nude that were quite dis­turb­ing. And after that ex­per­i­ence, I felt so free and like I really ques­tioned the so­cial con­struct of what it means to be fe­male and present my­self in a cer­tain way and what it means to be a nude fe­male per­form­ing, not in a sexy way, but in a re­veal­ing and per­son­al way.”

Fea­tur­ing per­son­al nar­rat­ives, cus­tom de­signed light­ing and live feed spe­cial ef­fects, Stoy­an­ova’s Ex­pli­cit Fe­male aims to ex­plore the “mys­tery of the shape­shift­ing form” that she says half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion reside in: the fe­male form. From preg­nancy to birth to moth­er­hood, Stoy­an­ova ex­am­ines the fe­male body without sen­ti­ment or the usu­al pa­ter­nal­ist­ic “won­der” that reads like a script to an ‘80s Lamaze how-to. “There’s a lot of fem­in­ist art, but I haven’t seen any­thing that dir­ectly re­sponds to moth­er­hood. Part of it is be­ing a moth­er brings you out of so­ci­ety, it can be a very lonely thing. I hope my work just brings a con­ver­sa­tion, I don’t need people to like my art. I just want for my art to bring con­ver­sa­tion.”

April 29-30, $15-$25. Fid­get Space, 1714 N. Mascher St. ex­pli­cit­fe­male.brown­pa­per­tick­


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