Words by Maria Elena Ricci.
Extravagant, immersive, athletic and multidisciplinary, Symoné is a one-of-a-kind artist with an undeniable, awe-some talent. From spinning 50 hula hoops on her body at once while skating on high heels, to presenting her work at conventional and unconventional artistic venues, Symoné moves though the performing arts flawlessly and courageously.
DAJ: You conceive your body as a ‘multiversal tool’. What do you mean by that?
Symoné : There is so much we can do and say with our bodies; for a long time I’ve been interested in communications, particularly body language, sociology and linguistics. I studied linguistics at university and thought that this was what I was passionate about, but found myself more excited by how we can tell stories with the body. I like to keep exploring how we use the body. I believe our bodies are endlessly able to achieve and do so much, say so much, and I think there is always much more that hasn’t been discovered.
DAJ: Your work as a multidisciplinary performer lives in different artistic cultures, from underground parties to commercial and contemporary art. I’m interested in what differences, structural or more specific, you’ve noticed or experienced in these different contexts?
Symoné: These spaces are all so different for sure. The first two styles of work that come to mind that feel very contrasting, like the “entertainer vs artist” are the corporate spaces vs. the live art performing spaces. Firstly to say this is all based on my experience and skill set, it’s not gospel. I tend to work in corporate settings as a circus artist, but there are corporate live art events, I guess I’m particularly referring to the events that hire “entertainment”… So there’s a language that I’m using that isn’t universal.
Corporate spaces tend to lean more towards crowd pleaser skills, quick shows, and high skill level performing. These tend to be located in luxury hotels, private events, corporate dinner parties, etc. and costuming and “look” is very specific.
If it were a kind of spectrum, live art is much more expressive and the pacing of a performance is a lot more lenient. This tends to be performed in all types of locations from art galleries, basement clubs, art centres, outdoor spaces, etc. From my experience, I feel like the experience and artistry is valued in these types of shows.
Then there is cabaret, outdoor work, indoor theatre, I think these places can mix artist vs entertainer and you can be more flexible to how far on that spectrum you want to go, like there’s more freedom. At least, this is how I approach it. Also to say, this very much my experienced based on what I do! I would say in my experience with live art vs corporate settings…when I said “there is a specific look” in corporate settings I actually meant gender and how there is an importance in conforming to beauty standards in these worlds and fluidity of gender (unless you are a drag queen) doesn’t seem to be something these spaces will offer. While all of these spaces offer something different as a performer experience and the audience, honestly I value working in all these spaces, I can express different parts of me.
DAJ: What influences your work?
Symoné: I get asked this a lot! I think in my early years I was inspired by circus artists and cabaret, but find myself the past few years more interested in those outside my primary fields (particularly writers, visual artists, technologists). Also, I’m inspired by artists and makers that have this “realness” and by realness I mean artists that make me feel something. I love combining skills and forms and always learning new things. Reading poetry, playing video games, cooking and traveling helps motivate and influences my work.
My favourite: Taking walks in nature. The more I open my mind and do an activity outside my own, the more it just seems to feed into my work by pure feeling. I don’t really feel excited or inspired by what’s going on Instagram or tiktok, I think it’s superficially interesting but it doesn’t stimulate me enough to feel like I want to create like these other inspirational forms. That’s me I know! I’m not saying these places can’t be inspiring, but I think saying what does and does not inspire you is important, knowing who you are as an artist is important…
DAJ: How do you see your work in dialogue with past, present and future?
Symoné: Bear with me trying to explain this! Thematically time is something that seems to creep in subconsciously for my pieces.
UTOPIAN (t&c’s apply) responded to power roles, why they’re abused and how hierarchy exists. When making this work I looked at my personal past and referenced human history and reflected on these topics. I looked into the future yearning for a kind of queer utopia. I used the Greek etymology of the word ‘utopia’ (meaning “no where”) as inspiration for this piece. I have a longing for something that seems too complex to exist, but something I dream could exist in our future and I speak to the present and future about this feeling.
Euphorica, our ensemble costume based performance about the relationship to queerness and nature, has a similar intention with a kind of speculative fiction approach. Much of this work relates to the past and future, of how LGBTQIA+ people were identified, how they were either honored highly or disregarded and needed to remain hidden alongside how nature moves beyond time and human communication. This communication system was inspired from nature plus the past when LGBTQIA+ people used coded systems during strict anti-homosexuality laws in the U.K as one example. With this show we dreamed of a kind of queer telepathic network that was beyond our current senses and communication system as humans. I think similar to UTOPIAN (t&c’s apply), there is a feeling of “looking into a future of queer utopia” that this show is inspired from.
A videogame I’m currently working on is thinking about memory loss and the power of the mind. While I’m still working out what this piece is doing exactly, I think I’m just fascinated by technology right now, where it’s going and how much you can use it with art and storytelling. I’d say in terms of time, it’s become a reference for mood and aesthetic, how technology looked and sounded in the past (how it glitched, the sounds, etc) and using this aesthetic within the storytelling to connect the ideas of memories/and the past.
DAJ: What is the role of care and pleasure in your work?
Symoné: Care is a word I like to consider, but pleasure is a word I like the sound of thinking about it more! In terms of care, I think it’s something I think about in the process of creating my work. For me, creating in a caring environment offers playfulness and good communication. In terms of pleasure, I suppose the first word that comes to mind is voyeurism. It’s a word I like to consider more in the final product of some of my performances, and in the moment as a part of my character. I think it’s a powerful and empowering tool I enjoy using.
As far as care, I do value “processed focused work” meaning work that is created mindfully with the process in mind. Creating playfully and in a timeline that feels like joy is very important to me. It’s like creating becomes meditative and creatively stimulating rather than rushed and unenjoyable.
DAJ: You can spin 50 hula hoops on your body at once, all whilst skating on high heels! What does your training and schedule look like?
Symoné: I used to train 3-5 hours a week my first few years. I think this was useful in my practice but have since switched up my training to more “micro training” 20 mins to an hour a couple times a week…which typically comes to the same amount of time as before, but basically I don’t crash and need to recover like before and allows me to do more shows healthily!
My training sessions typically look like warm-up, conditioning focused (injury prevention exercises) creatively focused (creating new tricks/moves, and transitions) or drills (redoing movements and tricks I use in shows to further ingrain them in my body). Consistency is key.
DAJ: Are you currently working on any new productions?
Symoné: Yes! As I mentioned briefly I’m newly working on a show and videogame about the power of the unconscious mind and dreams. It’s another fusion of live art and circus and currently in the mode of getting it out into the world. When? Not sure yet! Arts Council England have supported this initial R&D, and I aim to have artist chats about the process of creation so if this interests you to discuss I hope to share more of this soon on my Instagram and newsletter. Sorry for the lack of details right now on what I’m making. I’m trying not to share too much information on this stage but definitely worth keeping eyes open (and if you’re a programmer looking for new work and reading this please feel free to get in touch I’d be happy to chat)!
My show Euphorica and UTOPIAN (t&’s apply) are in planning mode, they will be out 2024/2025 for a tour if you missed it in 2022.
Next show dates: Showwomxn by Marisa Carnesky September 16th – Full day of durational side show performances by 16 of the UK’s leading showwomxn (Smithfields). Header image by Captured by Corinne.
Follow Symoné on Instagram.