‘Onwards’ Poem from Hawkwind’s Warriors of the Edge of Time Tour

Many moons ago, I toured with the legendary space-rock band Hawkwind, it was the best (and weirdest) of times. For just under a decade Laura McGee and I partnered up to create stage shows that brought their gigs to life and gave an extra visual dimension to the music. We worked alongside the lovely John Moules who designed the mind-blogging projections and light show and, of course, a group of visionary musicians who’d been honing their craft for over forty years. We met many amazing people and made lifelong friends across the world, die-hard fans who showed up enthusiastically (and relentlessly) to any and everything Hawk related.

 

In 2009 we toured the ‘Warriors on the Edge of Time’ show and this was the tour we were most proud of. As always, Laura created a set of incredible costumes, masks and headpieces, and we berthed nine new characters who appeared at various points throughout set-list, telling a story loosely based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric sagas (with of course our own little twist.)

The fact that my surname is Elrick, certainly added some momentum to the mystic.

 

In this incarnation The Eternal Champion was, of course, a woman and you can imagine how much fun it was being her wielding the black sword on stages across the world. We played the Enchanter, the Universal Child, the Eternal Champion, the Dark Mother, a Fire Elemental, an evil Wizard, two dancing stars and two tribal space-punks and least of all forgetting, The Golden Void itself. Every performance Laura and I switched characters and the drama evolved, so that we both had equal chances to play the protagonists and the villains and tweaked the story every night we went on. Laura and I had the time of our lives and the love we got back from the Hawkfans was truly mind-blowing.

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So here’s poem I wrote, almost a decade ago, that preceded the stage show and was inspired by mine and McGee’s first conceptual brainstorm. I thought it would be nice to match the words to the final images and celebrate the epic fantasy world we got to live each night onstage.

Special thanks go to Brian Tawn (the Keeper of All Things) and long time Hawkwind chronicler for digging out an old copy of Hawkzine and allowing me to revive this poem.

 

Onwards

 

 

It all started in the Dawning, just a yawning crack of light;

A loosening of the gossamer weaved in fabrics of the night.

A moment hung in timelessness, a child berthed to the void,

Awoken to the Universe by a passing asteroid.

 

Reborn amidst a tethered realm in an act of Cosmic Will,

She tried with all her might to fly, but threads, they held her still.

Until, a weary wanderer (who’d traversed all stars and planes),

Took pity on this speak of might and released her from her chains.

 

The Enchanter saw within this child a spark of something pure;

A flicker of an infinite love he’d cherished once before.

Bewitched and rapt by such a sight, he devised to spy on further,

And watched her dance whilst cloaked in shadow, curious to what she’d discover.

 

Unbeknownst, she spun in space, a whorl of careless energy,

And the laws of attraction soon enticed a second elemental frenzy.

All aflame a creature came and blazed around the girl,

Revealing scenes of scorching scenes and heat engulfing worlds.

 

Now versed in tongue of glowing fire she began to radiate,

She learnt the ways of heat and lust and what could senses sate.

The Enchanter watched in rapt delight and felt her essence quicken,

He vowed to make her a precious prize before her skin could thicken.

 

But such a feat could not be reached without the proper force,

A balance of opposites was surely required for his hunt to stay on course.

So summoning his antithesis, he called a being of equal strength and power,

To assist in a plan that would draw her in, he invoked the ancient Dark Mother.

 

As old twin flames, this woman came, now twisted, harsh and bitter,

Although it split her heart in two she’d do what the Enchanter bid her.

They conjured up a potent spell that could bind the wildest heart,

Yet Dark Mother cursed the carefree child that cracked the past apart.

 

Beyond all choice and need and drive, the stars watched ever on;

Celestial lights in eternal lights they viewed, judged not – just shone.

Infinity was ever theirs to expand and illuminate,

For their cold to our conceptions of want, to our fear, our greed, our hate.

 

 

And now, inside the Mother’s heart, had grown a gaping hole,

Bereft of love this demon stood, not feeling sane or whole.

The Enchanter had drained every waning wisp of hope she still had left,

She cursed his name and vowed to steal some warmth back for herself.

 

With fading strength, Dark Mother shifted, shucking off the skin she’d worn,

And soon appeared rejuvenated, her body and face transformed.

But try as she might she could not distract the Enchanter from his task:

No eyes for her, not fooled by disguise, he was untouched by her transient mask.

 

Absorbed in tomes that twisted minds and immersed in spells of power,

He only dreamed of the One he’d released and desire flared-up every hour.

Now taken all he needed from her, to Dark Mother, he would not gaze,

With this rebuff, she knew the folly of her love, and scattered back into space.

 

The Universal Child had grown strong and wild, a woman herself now no less;

Not to be captured, confined or contained with a freedom most truly blessed.

And the more that the Enchanter watched, the more he couldn’t justify her possession.

For none should be bent by another’s hand or be swallowed inside their obsession.

 

He swelled with pride as he watched her glide through vistas gleaming and shimmering,

For a captured bird is no real prize and there is no losing or winning.

So he let her free to feel and to be, to tend that pure light he’d first seen,

Because selfish love can’t rise above, it is just an illusionary dream.

 

Now with truth exposed, the Enchanter choose to loosen the grip of his charm,

And without that fetter she soared even better, now expanded and fully disarmed.

Ascending much faster beyond heavenly matter the Deities of Destiny smiled,

Pleased with the speed of this creature of their seed: the evolution of the Universal Child.

 

The Enchanter returned to his listless roam, relinquishing all control,

No more attempts to avert his fate, he resigned to align with the whole.

At one with the rhythms that bind all forms, he found a humble and unified perspective.

A change took place, he slackened his pace, and upon Nature’s complexity reflected.

 

With steps now slowed, new wisdom bestowed, he passed through the chamber of fire,

Shedding all skin and planted within him, a new kind of dream to aspire.

Each now in all and every in one, comes a contented disbanding of will:

This story is ancient and always beginning, a tale drifting Onwards still….

 

 

Words by Stefanie Elrick  // Costumes by Laura McGee // Stage Show by Laura McGee & Stefanie Elrick**

 

**There is no official footage of the tour unfortunately but literally hundreds of fan videos on youtube. Dive in!

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Wonder Women Festival – Manchester

From the 2nd – 12th of March Manchester’s many theatres, galleries and clubs will be flooded with artists, activists and creators celebrating just what it means to be a woman. Documentary films about Rebel Dykes, all female techno nights and a huge range of performance and art are on the bill. Could you love Manchester any more?!

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This bold inspiring festival (which sounds to me like a direct challenge to own your own wondrousness) is a creative countdown to the 100yr anniversary of women winning the partial  vote in 1918. Manchester has always been full of forward-thinking fire-crackers, none so much as Emily Pankhurst who was of course, born and bred on the mean streets of Mosside.

The festival poses the question, just how far have we actually come in the past 100yrs and it’s an honour to be invited by Instigate Arts to explore the theme not once but twice throughout the festival.

At the festival’s free launch night ‘Making The Strange Familiar with Instigate Arts’ on Thurs 2nd March I will perform The Art of Reflection at Manchester Art Gallery, a piece first created for the Trans-State conference last year. I describe this piece as a dance-based mirror ritual exploring identity and it’s construction and have integrated a lot of my own magical practices into it. I’m also in the middle of writing my next short story, which is about a woman consumed by a hungry mirror, so there’s certainly a theme bubbling away in my work!

I believe the body is the most powerful tool of expression, for a woman to be dancing freely (outside the confines of some shady establishment) would have alone been dangerous in centuries past! The body also provides a perfect canvas for people’s expectations, which I personally delight in subverting. The Art of Reflection plays with ideas of self-invention and transformation and has a soundtrack that slaloms through the Sex Pistols, to Garbage to Bjork (allowing me to shake out all my crazy energy and channel it healthily!) This piece’s pretty risky climax can’t be practiced or rehearsed, so how it ends is just as much of a surprise to me as my audience. Come and see! The event is open to the public and begins at 5:30pm.

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IMAGE BY LAURA WILLIAMS

Then on the 3rd March at the Royal Exchange I will perform a pure movement piece called ’21st Century Witchcraft’ in the Dolly Mixtures showcase at The Royal Exchange theatre. This cabaret style event is a brilliant place to revive a performance I first created for A Queer Review in collaboration with the wonderful Greg Thorpe. The piece responds to a 7min monologue from Anohni (of Anthony and the Johnsons) in which transgressive bodies, witch craft and the feminisation of religious icons are discussed.

Last time I performed this piece I was told by my partner that I looked like a “sexy mental patient” – probably one of the most honest and accurate critiques I’ve ever been given. Other beautiful weirdos like Rosie Garland, Jane Bradey and Trish Dee are also on the bill that night, so there’s certainly no shortage of wild inspiring women! Tickets available here.

 

The Wonder Women festival has been made possible by the People’s History Museum and Creative Tourist. Read the full festival line-up here.

Performing ‘reinState’ – A Mirror Ritual at Trans-States

A week ago I performed at the Trans-States conference, an interdisciplinary event examining ‘The Art of Crossing Over’. Despite it being the conference’s first year it attracted a huge number of internationally based scholars, artists and magical practitioners eager to communicate and cross-pollinate.

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Image by Marco Visconti

Highlights for me included Patricia McCormack’s keynote talk discussing ‘mucosal beginnings’  and monstrous desire in Lovecraft and popular culture and Alan Moore’s call to go forth and infuse magic back into our cultural imagination through art.

I discussed’Written in Skin : Flesh as A Language Frontier,’ framing mine and Loren’s performance project against Helen Cixous’s essay ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ and was scheduled to perform ‘reinState’ with Laura McGee. After finding out last minute that Laura couldn’t make it, with only a couple of weeks to reformulate something dealing with trans-states, identity and ‘crossing over’, I had to work fast to conceptualise something new.

The original reinState performance, still to be performed on the 8th Oct at HOME Mcr, hinged on the idea of two people meeting, fusing and then ‘reinstating’ themselves through dance. Performing this alone would have been impossible and so I conceived a way of doubling myself, still keeping the ‘restoration of an identity’ idea key.

On holiday in magical Wales I had an image of myself surrounded by a circle of mirrors, with a large full length in the centre. The mirrors were clearly markers of the four directions and the mirror in the centre represented myself. I kept coming back to the world ‘reinState’, defined as restoring something to it’s former power, and it became clear that before something could be reinstated it first needs to be changed or broken down in some way. The verb itself indicates a shift of power, something that has been removed or disrupted, being given back.

I started to play with the idea of a person who has never seen their reflection in a mirror before, like a child or an animal or someone stepping back into consciousness after a long period of mental disorientation. I liked the idea of enacting the mirror stage, treating your reflection as something alien and then explored what it would be like to fall in love with this reflection and even to be rejected by it.

I put together a playlist of music that would be the guiding force to this mirror ritual and threw in all kinds of tracks from Public Image Ltd’s ‘Death Disco’ and ‘Fodderstompf’ to Tom Waits ‘Hell Broke Luce’. Through this musical collage a story started to emerge; of awakening, of ‘coming back into’ my body, dancing, encountering the other, trying to befriend it, falling in love, becoming more and more frustrated as it remained cold and aloof and eventually destroying it.

 

The answer then became clear. I could reinstate my identity by reshaping the broken fragments in anyway I liked. I rebuilt a third entity, unlike myself or my reflection, a third person, an abstract deity and a consciousness beyond myself.

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‘compenSate – The Politics of Competition’ Performance art by Stefanie Elrick & Laura McGee

A video has emerged of my durational dance piece ‘compenSate – The Politics of Competition’ commissioned by Instigate Arts and performed at HOME Mcr in July with Laura McGee. I must say, in my decade of performance, I don’t think we have ever looked more lithe or graceful in a more subtle piece of art…

Stef Elrick & Laura McGee ‘The Politics Of Competition/Compensate’ – Ambition from Instigate Arts on Vimeo.

We were asked to respond to the theme of “ambition” and decided to explore the way people try to gain social advantages or just attention through their looks. I think a healthy dose of ambition is often a good thing, it makes you get things done – it makes you start businesses, write books or create new pieces of art – but when it becomes a dominant unchecked force in your personality it can make people blinkered and distorted, a weird and often dangerous combination. 

The beauty industry and fashion world is rife with blind ambition, alongside a lot of genuine ingenuity and creativity granted, but it’s definitely the dark side. Nicolas Winding Refn represents this beautifully in his controversial film Neon Demon which I absolutely loved (first film in a while with a final scene that left me speechless!) It’s a strange and alien world to me and so naturally, I’m fascinated.

I’m curious as to why men and women modify their bodies unnecessarily with face lifts, fake tan, injections in their saggy bits, skin bleaching, shaving off their own eyebrows and tattooing them on and countless other things I’ve probably never heard of to make bigger and better caricatures of their original selves.

compenSate sees two normal, healthy dancers competing for the attention of their audience. They begin plain and able bodied and through the course of their ridiculous and cumbersome alterations can no normal perform their choreography and become parodies of themselves.

The piece is hilarious and Laura and I had so much fun doing it. Thank you so much to Kevin and Anne for seeding the idea and giving us space to create. It even has a guest appearance by our very good friend Bren O’Callaghan.

So what do you think, is blind ambition a good thing?

“Put on your red shoes and dance the blues”

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a surreal week here in the (arguably) united UK. The atmosphere is unstable and navigating through the media shit-storm proceeding the EU referendum – and it’s very real cultural aftermath – has felt like wading through treacle. You can feel the tremors everywhere, internally and externally and the worrying thing is that I’m not even sure if the real earthquake has hit.

I may be wrong, I’d really like to be.

On the positive side I’m very lucky to be surrounded by gifted and pro-active people, Manchester is a magnet for human diamonds. Kevin Burke and Anne-Louise Kershaw from Instigate Arts are two such hardworking gems and have commissioned a dance piece from Laura and I called compenSATE, which we’ll be performing at HOMEMcr in the galleries on the 9th July alongside Kevin Burke, Bartosz BedaMichelle Hannah, Richard Hughes, Sara Minelli & Hyunjoo Kim,Emily Mulenga, Greg Thorpe, Angela Readman, Louise Woodcock.

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compenSATE responds to the theme of ‘Ambition’ and is a 2hr dance piece that examines the way we compete. For 2hrs Laura and I will explore beautification rituals, suggesting that these look-enhancing treatments are really homogenising the mainstream. The exhibition is free and open between 6pm – 9pm.

We’ve also been rehearsing for Christopher Bowles’s new play AUTOPSY, a dark and ambitious piece of theatre exploring our relationships with our bodies. Laura again is on-board and we’re been choreographing surreal mirrored sequences for a number of the scenes.

Christoper Bowles of Magpie Man Theatre is such a talented writer and director and since he ‘came out’ on the literary circuit last year he’s been taking it by storm. It’s a pleasure to work with him, even if he did script that I get dribbled on by one of my ‘clients.’ In the original version I got my feet cut off too, so I supposed things could be worse. He’s also turned all the cast into corpses for the show promo posters. I think I make quite a charming cadaver!

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Yesterday I worked again with Kevin Burke on one of his personal projects -‘The Measure of Hope’ – which will also be screened as part of the Instigate exhibition at HOMEMcr. Like the best of all things the timing of this collaboration was impeccable.

After a weekend of restless fidgety energy, feeling frustrated and unsure but trying to stay positive, I had so much conflicting stuff waiting to be released. Of all the dance pieces I’ve choreographed this was the most unexpectedly intense. I had a few rough ideas of movement I’d like to integrate, and we’d discussed the theme of the piece (the evolution of civilisation and ambiguity of ‘progress’) beforehand, but we basically just booked a space and launched straight in. No fuss, no frills, just the body responding to sound.

The track  itself changes a lot in seven minutes and there’s a really chaotic section in the middle followed by a beautifully gentle piano ending. As we repeated the track and I free-flowed in response, I found myself releasing more and more of the pent up frustration and anger that I had ignored all wkend, until the dance became more like a protest or an exorcism. I literally pulled and slapped and stomped and cried the anger out of my system, before reining it back in delicately and regaining control of my body.

Kevin is a great director encouraging me to perform the piece repeatedly until all my energy was spent and I couldn’t physically do anymore. I went home afterwards and collapsed into bed for 4hrs. Today my body feels battered and bruised but I know I’ve regained some sense of the balance I lost last week.

 

It reminded me that dance is such a powerful tool, especially when you do it for yourself, when it isn’t a performance for someone else’s pleasure. For too many years dance became very much like work for me and I forgot why I started in the first place. I danced as a teenager to switch my brain off, I danced myself into oblivion because I could lose control then regain myself in an energetic reset. I danced to reconnect and ground myself and I danced to find an expression for all those wordless things that rocketed round my body, manifesting as panic, simply needing to be released. It’s not a solution to every problem but it’s an amazing coping mechanism, such a simple technique that I think we take for granted and we will very much need in the years to come.