About Fitzgerald & Stapleton

Joan Alexander

Joan Alexander

Fitzgerald & Stapleton’s mission as a contemporary dance company is to redefine representation of the dancing body through frequent performance. In support of this we are evolving a choreographic process which foregrounds the performer’s virtuosic attempts to remain alive to the experience of performance itself.

We choreograph collaboratively using language as a tool to animate and direct the dancer’s performance of our choreography.

We work to expand our personal definition of dance in order to expand wider societal definitions of beauty, rhythm and grace in relation to the human body.

The scores we write include directions and instructions written in language ranging from pragmatic to poetic. Our politic is to accept with respect whatever form the body responds with as it negotiates these scores. The fundamental challenge in each performance is to remain attentive to the body as a living/dying organism that constantly orientates itself to its environment – in this way it is similar to vipassana meditation practice where the attention rests on the breath – but we are attempting to pay attention to the whole body each instant.

Fitzgerald & Stapleton are also committed to studying the interaction between the body and contemporary society. An issue which has become increasingly close to the company’s heart is the objectification of the body to create revenue for several industries including the beauty, diet and pornography industries.

As esteemed Psychotherapist and writer Susie Orbach argues – over the past several decades, a globalized media has overwhelmed us with images of an idealized, westernized body, and conditioned us to see any exception to that ideal as a problem. The body has become an object, a site of production and commerce in and of itself.

Fitzgerald & Stapleton seek to address this by developing their choreographic score writing further to include a more explicit inquiry into how image and culture interact and to offer an alternative value system for looking at and relating to the body.

Our work “The Smell of Want” looks with great depth at three main areas of industry – the beauty, diet and pornographic industries and articulates on a personal level the relationship each artist has with images and messages coming from these industries into our daily life.

The inspiration for this work springs from our study of the work and writings of French filmmaker and critic Jean-Luc Godard . Godard questions the relationship between image and language through various means in his films, using words not only to serve title or dialogue but also as images in themselves. We are particularly inspired by his 1967 film Deux oúTrois Choses que je Sais D’Elle/Two or Three Things I Know About Her where his portrayal of the daily life of a “bourgeois housewife” opens into a questioning of the political values of contemporary Parisian society, pornography, consumer culture, the objectification of women and the relationship between the artist and audience as mediated through language with its “subjective awareness”.

The score for The Smell of Want articulates our awareness and response to the proliferation of images concerning pornography, beauty and diet as encountered in our daily lives. Our previous work has questioned and stimulated debate on the aesthetics which shape current readings of the female dancing body – in particular our 2008 work Dog of all Creation, which raised a debate about the role of beauty as a validating prerequisite of contemporary dance performances,

“…if the Bolshoi, Batsheva and Preljocaj are three dance troupes whose performances can be considered as “beautiful” and “graceful” what was “Dog of all Creation[s]” sic supposed to represent? The mathematical opposite?” www.choreograph.net/articles/dog-of-all-creation

The debate progressed from a reading of how bodies were presented within the parameters of the performance (above) to how bodies are presented within current society and the implications of our art in this wider political, social and cultural context,

“…they choose to offer the naked body as a non-sexual object; they choose to inhabit a space beyond desire, a space in which women are rarely permitted to relax as social pressures dictate that the social, personal and professional success of women is determined largely on how well they conform to prevailing hetero-normative beauty norms. Beautiful (read neat, unmarked, coifed, well-behaved) bodies, we see in almost every mainstream media, make better people who amass social and professional success. It is refreshing to see a performance which challenges this superficial reality to which we are all so completely enthralled.” LD www.choreograph.net/articles/dog-of-all-creation