Bonjour, hallo and G'day, my name is Jaslyn Kate.… I am a professional dancer, I’ve spent 20+ years, sometimes 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in a small room staring at my half naked body in the mirror, which if you think about it is an interesting use of a life. I have indeed calculated that and in rough figures, I have spent over 100,000 hours not trying to solve world hunger, not trying to assess the ethical validity of specie-ism, or even figure out how to keep a tampon on me at necessary time of the month, but to stare at myself prancing about in some form of lycra, tights or fairly naked expose... a little bizarre one might think.
Most dancers don’t go into the profession for the money or the fame. We are the lowest of the low of performing artists, the untouchable of the stage arts, and not in the way that we are strippers and the bouncer wont let you touch us, just talking hierarchy here people.
I love this weird athletic art-form, obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have been so wreck-less, or stupid, to leave the promised land of Australia to live in a freezing vortex of grey and sub par rain called Berlin, and previously London. I love dancing. I am that annoying classification of millennial who believes in the 21st Century myth that you can chase your dreams and do what you love.
There is one problem however with my chosen occupation… I am a raging feminist. Full out, would be happy to “burn my bra" if I didn’t have to clean it up afterwards, kind of feminist. (Who am I kidding, I don't even own a bra.. power to the bralet and sports crop, Hazaah!) And one of the staunch religious tenants of the creed of feminism is in regards to over-sexualisation, over-feminisation, objectification and exploitation of the female body. Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that my work as a dancer will inevitably lead to some sort of collision of values, clash of civilisations type of existential crisis.
My job, of lycra leotards, tights, heels, false eyelashes and duct tape is not the usual outfit for a radicalised student of gender politics. I am well aware of that. My poor friends, family and in particular, the poor soul who is my boyfriend, who has to deal with this level of absolute crazy of a clearly very conflicted woman. The rantings they put up with…
A recent job of mine was 3 weeks of commercial shows in California, beautiful sunny Palm Springs; getting flown half way across the globe to perform to a wide ranging international audience.
Now, as a quick side note, in the dance world, costume malfunctions are fairly commonplace, a rite of passage of sorts. They serve to give you a relatively thick skin, to approach life with a “got absolutely no shame” attitude. And unfortunately I can admit, I have shown my tits to more random and unwitting audience members than potential suitors. But this particular dance show was considerably worse… I am dancing in a Beyonce-inspired body that is two sizes too small. Which then means, moving about in extreme positions, something’s eventually gotta give. And in this particular case, it was from below. To say I had a camel toe was a definitive understatement. Now let me paint the irony of this situation for you… being a Masters student of International Relations focusing on gender politics, twerking to Beyonce with my beaver slowly but surely peeping out from its lycra hiding place, leads quickly to a sharp critique regarding ones own life choices, and if I’m honest an existential crisis of a full bottle or two of wine sorts. But the reality of this situation is that as a performer, your cardinal rule is that the show must go on. And as such, I continued wriggling about on that stage for another 15 minutes hoping for the best, adjusting as much choreography and angles as possible to avoid exposure.
So when I look back at my life, verging on 30, it is a flurry of sometimes sad and sometimes hilarious contradiction.
For me, I dream of being a part of the continuation of waves of feminism and gender rights movements, which is changing the way women are viewed, valued and constructed in todays world. Exposing the underlying rape culture, being valued as capable and worthy of equal pay and opportunities, having complete say over bodily and reproductive rights, being equally represented in powers of government and commerce; essentially protesting for women to be taken seriously and intelligently.
Don’t get me wrong, I realise through these two ideas of my dance experiences and feminism, I am talking in binaries here. I do understand, life is not black and white, we live in the tension, in the grey areas that require us to keep understanding and carving out new ground for social understanding and enlightenment… in the words of the urban dictionary… for us to be ‘woke’. But who knows, maybe one day women will lead in culture, economics, politics - delivering a great performance irrespective of what C^*&@ might try to steel the show.