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FEMME - Q and A with Erin Fowler

Home > Adelaide > Dancing | Shows | Theatre
by Tema (subscribe)
Write because you want to, not because you have to.
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Photography by Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions


Erin Fowler is a popular name within the Adelaide arts scene, where she is involved in the musical duo Sitara (alongside her sister Tess), in addition to appearing at WOMADelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and supporting Macy Gray on her 2015 Australian tour. She is also one of the co-founders of one of the best creative hubs that offers artists a space to showcase their work - The Mill.

Having won Best Dance in the Adelaide Fringe 2019, the South Australian dancer, musician, and actress will be bringing her highly anticipated hit show FEMME to the Adelaide Festival Centre next month, as part of their InSPACE Program, which provides a unique opportunity for contemporary and experimental theatre, dance and hybrid performance artists to access venues and services. Through the art of theatre and dance, FEMME will explore a range of concepts around femininity and female sexuality, in addition to showcasing how women can be powerful in a world that is primarily governed by a masculine dominant culture.

In anticipation of her upcoming show at the Adelaide Festival Centre, I was fortunate enough to have an e-interview with Fowler - have a read of our exchange below:

Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Erin?
Erin: I am a dancer and musician who also works in the holistic arts. I love all things movement. have trained in ballet, contemporary dance and even traditional martial arts on top of a Chinese mountain! Over the past 12 months, I have been touring my solo theatrical dance show FEMME around the world, which has been wonderful. I am also incredibly passionate about working with women to feel better in their bodies, to feel empowered, to feel part of a supportive community of other women and to feel free to be whatever version of themselves they want to be. With this, I also internationally teach Qoya - a feminine movement practice that combines the wisdom of yoga, the creativity of dance and the freedom of sensual movement and am also a teacher and practitioner with the Eliyah Tantra School, facilitating Qoya and temple dance practices at their international retreats and trainings.

Photography by Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions


Tema: What about dance spoke to you in a sense that you decided to pursue a career in the industry?
Erin: I have danced since the age of four, so it has always been a big part of my life. I was a very quiet child and didn't like talking all that much, so movement felt like a really safe and satisfying way to express myself. In my teens, I had some great experiences working with some professional contemporary dancers and it sparked my passion for movement and performance. At first, I resisted pursuing a career in dance as I felt like I should do something more "worthwhile" with my time, but I soon realised that it was the thing that made me the happiest, and through my studies and first years working, I began to believe in the power of the arts to inspire, to delight, to reflect the world we live in and to contribute to the creation of a more inclusive, considerate society. For this reason, I now develop art works and projects that address some of the issues that matter most to me, including the empowerment of women, the addressing of gender inequality and how it negatively affects us all, the climate crisis and the need, I see, for us to find ways to come together in community more often.

Tema: Can you please tell us about your upcoming show FEMME at the Adelaide Festival Centre?
Erin: FEMME is a solo theatrical dance work that draws on my experiences as a female, from working as a model in Paris at the age of 18, to being a business owner and entrepreneur. FEMME is "one woman's search for self within the cacophony of gender and sexual conditioning that surrounds us".

Photography by Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions


Tema: What inspired you to create this show?
Erin: I started making this show about four years ago. I was in my late twenties, and I suppose this is a time where you start to think about your place in society, how you are perceived, and how you want to be perceived. An ongoing theme that I had grappled with, was feeling like my gender and my appearance changed the way I was treated. I felt like there were certain expectations placed on me that had nothing to do with who I was as a person. In particular, the fact that I was a model and therefore perceived to be an "attractive" female, meant that people were always asking me why I didn't have a partner. Likewise, being very ambitious and passionate about my work, I was always having to prove that I could be trusted and that I knew what I was talking about in business, even though I was a young female. Both of these patterns were very frustrating at times and hard to ignore. Making this show allowed me to explore some of these experiences and to create something that could encourage conversation and reflection in other people too. I really wanted to create a show that was very intimate and where the audience were able to watch me performing as well as watch the rest of the audience watching me too. As a female, you are so used to being looked at and I really wanted to bring this under the spotlight and play with those dynamics somewhat.

Tema: Who are the key individuals involved in FEMME and how did you decide on who was going to be a part of the show?
Erin: For the first development of FEMME at the 2019 Fringe Festival, I worked with a group of SA creatives that I had worked with before and who I knew and trusted. Chris and Kyra Herzfeld have been part of the show from day one and have supported the show significantly across all areas. Chris and I, in particular, have been working over the past 10 years to create a series of dance photography collections, so working with him on this project seemed like a natural fit. I also worked with close friend and collaborator Callan Fleming on the dramaturgical aspects of the show. It was great to have someone I fully trusted as an outside eye in the early stages of creating the show. Since then, others have come on board including Joanne Hartstone (Director) and Tom Kitney (technical support) of HartstoneKitney Productions. They are currently running the super successful Black Box Theatre at the Botanic Gardens and are a great recent addition to the team. Mario Spate did the original sound design, and Chris Petridis the original lighting. Chris Herzfeld and I are also excited to be working with Scene Change Event Technology for the Adelaide Festival Centre season on some really wonderful new lighting elements.

Photography by Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions


Tema: How does it feel to be performing your show in your hometown?
Erin: It's so wonderful! I was thrilled at the response at last year's Fringe, winning "Best Dance" and to be able to bring the show back to Adelaide at the Festival Centre, where I have been seeing shows since I was a kid, is really a dream come true. It was wonderful to test the show on international audiences last year, but sharing it in my hometown, is really lovely.

Tema: Who is the target audience for your show?
Erin: The obvious response would be women but I think the show reaches audiences much further than that. I can only speak to my experience as a woman, but I also interviewed many other people for the show and their voices are woven throughout the show. I think when women see the show they feel really seen and I know of a few who have come along with their male partners and this has inspired a lot of deep conversation following the show. I think the issues I talk about, concerning gender, sexuality and identity are really relatable to all of us, and all of us play a role. So, I would love anyone who is interested in these themes to come and see the show. I am also thrilled to be doing some schools performances and workshops and am developing some schools resources with the Festival Centre so that young adults are able to experience the show at a time in their lives where self-identity, sexuality, fitting in, appearance etc. are all really put under the spotlight. I had a girl as young as 8 come to the show in Iceland which concerned me at first, but her mother said she is already exposed to a lot of the more explicit content in the show, and so she wanted her to see it in a context that would hopefully inspire conversation and reflection, which I was thrilled about.

Photography by Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions


Tema: What are you hoping for your audience to experience by attending your show?
Erin: The intent of my work is really to encourage self-reflection, conversation, and a sense of shared experience / empathy - something which seems to be very missing in our fear-based times of living. The work can be challenging to watch at times, and I don't think that's a bad thing, as I believe we really need to sit in our discomfort in order to face the things that need to change. And there are lots of things that I believe need to change in terms of the way we live our lives. It also has moments of humour, vulnerability, delight and joy. Ultimately, it is a very personal expression of my experiences as a young woman, that I hope has relatable elements for all. I also hope it encourages a greater understanding that none of us need to confirm to just one idea of how we should be. For example, I can be both a respected businesswoman, and sexual, and neither have to define me. That has been a very liberating notion to embrace in creating and performing this work.

Tema: How would you describe your style of dance to someone who may be new to your work?
Erin: My style of dance has certainly evolved over the past few years. For FEMME, the movement is really there to tell the story. My body is on display at all times, and so whether that's portraying the innocent child, the model or the virginal bride, the movement vocabulary draws on conveying these archetypes in a fully embodied way. I draw on my modelling experience, my tai chi training and most predominantly my contemporary dance training to convey the story. There's even some singing alongside some puppetry just to keep things interesting!

Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about your career highlights so far?
Erin: Travelling to China in 2013 to study tai chi and kung fu was a career highlight for sure and still influences my movement style. Getting to perform overseas for the first time last year in Reykjavik, Stockholm and Edinburgh was an incredible experience. Being a touring party of one for a lot of the time, dragging my set and props through the airport on my own, arriving in new towns, and then having such lovely reactions was such a thrill.

Tema: What does a day in the life of Erin look like, when you're not working?
Erin: I'd love to know! I am pretty tied to my work most of the time and taking time away from it is incredibly hard for me. It's more than a full-time job, especially when funding is hard to come by and you really have to give it your all. But on the rare occasions where I do manage to step away, I love going to live music, seeing other shows, spending time in nature, cooking a nice meal and spending time with friends and loved ones. I am also trying to get to yoga more regularly as it really keeps me sane in amongst the stress and craziness of freelance life.

Tema: Is there anything else that you'd like us to know about you/your show/what else you have coming up?
Erin: I am really excited to be working on a new project that involves working with school children around the world on arts and climate change related activities. I think the next generation are going to completely change the way see things, for the better, around climate change, gender, how to live our lives etc. So I am thrilled to be working with young people to develop their own creative responses to the challenges we are facing, and are always looking for teachers that are interested to have me work with their students.

FEMME by Erin Fowler will be performed at the Space Theatre in the Adelaide Festival Centre. Book your tix here.





*With special thanks to the Adelaide Festival Centre for the interview opportunity.
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Why? FEMME explores concepts of femininity and female sexuality through the art of theatre and dance.
Where: Adelaide Festival Centre
Cost: $35 - $40
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