Inside Bonnie Curtis’ ‘GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS’
Artistic Director and Choreographer Bonnie Curtis talks about the creation of GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS and how it became a powerful examination of the experiences of women in modern society.
First premiering in 2017, Bonnie Curtis’ award winning GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS gains a new life on stage as it makes it’s international premiere in New Zealand this March.
Bonnie talks about GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS, a work shaped by her experiences as a girl growing up in modern Australia.
“Originally when I decided to choreograph this work it was originally going to be about gender. I wanted to make a work that looked at what it was like to be a male, female and non binary. After I did some research into transgender and non-binary, I realised that I couldn’t create a work about it because I really had no idea what it was like. I didn’t want to create a work that was potentially going to be offensive to transgender and non-binary people so I decided against it. I also decided against creating a work about men because at the end of the day I really don’t know what it’s like to be a guy either so I thought I would stick with what I knew and that was about being a girl.
When we started the creative process, the dancers and I had many discussions about the themes I wanted to explore in the work. We also talked about what we thought was important to get across. The dancers had a big input into the shape of the work. It is as much their piece as it is mine. I feel like I was just the facilitator of the ideas. There are ideas and sections that we had in the work before it’s premiere that we took out because they didn’t work. There are also things that were in the first and second season of GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS that we have taken out or changed.
Some of those things included a section about body image and ballet. I decided to take that out because it really wasn’t working how I had imagined in my head. I wasn’t sure how to make it work like I wanted so I just let it go. I think maybe it was too raw of a topic for me to explore. Maybe I will revisit it. One day.
There was another section that was in the original GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS that was about the pressure society places on women to have children. I can’t remember exactly why we took that out but it wasn’t a strong part of the work and it didn’t enhance or compliment any of the other sections. There was also a section in the first season that was a trio. This was only because I had a residency as Alumni Company choreographer at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts and only three of the dancers could make the rehearsal time. We ended up changing this for the second and subsequent seasons as we had new dancers come on board and more time to work on it. It became a sequence of duets, interweaved over the top of each other. The whole idea of this section is to draw attention to the female body, to seduce our audience. There is an underlying sensuality and enjoyment in the movement.
After our last Sydney season, we changed some things before we went on tour to Queensland. One of our dancers ended the section with this seductive dance wearing her white sheet. I had some feedback about what the point was of the “sexy sheet dance” and what message it was trying to convey. I didn’t have a concrete answer so I had a think about what I wanted to say. I felt like there was nothing directly in the work about sexual assault or harassment, but it is something I feel all women have experienced. Here was my moment to give a brief glimpse of this. I decided to make this ending a duet where it started off playful and little sexy but escalated into something more menacing and aggressive. As the lights fade to black, the audience is left with a very strong image.
People have asked my why I created GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS. At the end of the day, I really don’t know the true reason. I don’t think there is an exact reason. I had just moved back to Australia from Europe, I had a whole bunch of emotions and thoughts running through my head and I needed to get them out. I realised while I was in Europe, as a creative, you need to make your own work. You can’t just sit around waiting for work to come to you. I also wanted to make my first full length work, as I’d never made one. I thought I would stick with something I’m fascinated with and that’s gender and what it means to be female. I really wanted to explore the stereotypes that women are faced with on a daily basis.
I did think there would be more masculine and aggressive elements in the work when we first started working on the piece. I didn’t think it would be so feminine, as I am not a very feminine person. Once we started getting into the creative process it just sort of happened. At some point I noticed that there was no mention of men, masculinity or really anything to do with guys. I liked that it didn’t point the finger or blame anyone for anything, it just presented a set of observations about life as a woman. I really wanted to stay with that feeling and not really make any mention of men or the patriarchy, I just wanted the work to be about us girls.”
See GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS international premiere at Te Auaha in Wellington, New Zealand on March 14-17.