For an inclusive dialogue on topics relating to bodies, dance, movement and choreography, look no further than ANY BODY ZINE, an independent publication that provides a collaborative space to explore the performing arts.
Hand crafted with care, readers can expect to find varied formats of expression, from visuals to interviews to poems, flicking through the zine’s pages. They have an open submission policy; offering blank pages to emerging artists and writers. They’re a wide-spread publication too. You can peruse their issues online or pick up a physical copy of your own at That Place in Observatory, The Book Lounge on Roeland Street or Blank Books in Woodstock.
We caught up with Nicola van Straaten, Kopano Maroga and Julia de Rosenwerth who head up ANY BODY ZINE, to discuss the formation of the project, what motivates them and what we can expect from the publication looking forward.
How did ANY BODY ZINE come about and what’s the story behind the name?
Nicola: The idea for the zine arose from a frustration at the lack of publications about dance and other performing arts scenes in South Africa. I grew tired of paging through beautiful arts magazines and seeing categories for photography, design, film, art, music – everything but dance. There seemed to be so many interviews with photographers, curators, sculptors online but so few features of choreographers or movement practitioners. For a long time, I had been wanting to start some sort of DIY publication about dance; one that made the language of dance and movement more accessible for people. Or one that introduced people who didn’t usually engage with dance to start engaging with their bodies, movement, music and all the other wonderful things that come with dance. When I reconnected with Kopano and Julia, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make it happen. I think that the name may have come from a desire to keep the project inclusive and open, emphasising that any body can move, can dance, can engage with their own body (and others) in a myriad of ways and means.
Who is behind ANY BODY ZINE? Where did you meet?
Julia: The ABZ team consists of Nicola van Straaten, Kopano Maroga and Julia de Rosenwerth. Kopano and I met through our studies at the University of Cape Town’s School of Dance and began working together on a few projects. We really made a good connection. I met Nicky through a project we were both involved in. I was interning for Underground Dance Theatre (UDT) and she was involved on some level too (I can’t remember that detail now). Kopano was dancing in UDT’s show and I think that that was the first time we were consciously together in the same place. The next year we were all involved in another project in Grahamstown with UDT. Primary school bunk-beds and lots of fucking hard work seemed to really cement our love for one another.
What is it about dance that interests you as a form of expression?
Julia: Dance is magic for me. It asks you to engage bodily senses apart from the typical five we get force-fed at school. I think dancing, or moving in general and then with others (in improvisation, play, choreography and performance) asks you to somehow suspend your beliefs about how you think the world works, suspend your inclination toward logic and your understanding of interpersonal relations and just allow your body to work with the intelligences it has: its ability to know where it is in space, where other bodies are in space, the things it needs to do to maintain desired postures, the instant connection and response it can form in relation to someone else’s body and the massively deep ability to hold experience. I think I love that about dance.
“Dance is a way for me to remind myself that I am in the world and that others are in the world with me.”
Nicola: Dance is a really fun (and ancient) way of being with your body (ie. by being with yourself.) It is a very apt manifestation of your body being a body, because the emphasis of dance is the body. Dance is so weirdly positioned in our culture in many ways, when what it really comes down to is the body moving in time and space… Plus, the way you can bend and transform the word ‘dance’ is super magical, like Jules says. It’s hard to talk about. (Maybe that’s why there has been so little writing about it. But we intend to try anyway!)
Kopano: Dance is a way for me to remind myself that I am in the world and that others are in the world with me. The immediacy of a body moving (or not moving) through space and time is such a testament to corporeality and at the same time the imminence of death (in which there is a kind of relief. The end of one thing signals the coming of another). Body politics are also hella lit. Dance/movement/bodily performance is a space where the politics of race, gender, class, sexuality become hyper-visible and gives us incisive language and insight to talk about and understand them. I think movement is really just your body having conversations with other (organic and inorganic) bodies.
How would you describe your audience?
Nicola: Right now, I guess, our audience is mostly our friends and family. We’ve been running for about a year trying to make a thing work and of course the three of us each come with our own communities, in their various shapes and forms. So we make them support us if need be. I suppose because we come from mostly dancey backgrounds there are quite a few peers and dancers interested in what we’re doing. We’ve also received a lot of interest in the form of written contributions, as well as general likes and supportive comments on the social media. And some of those people didn’t even go to school with us! So that’s cool!
Kopano: I think our audience are folks that are really just interested in what the fuck is going in the world of dance and performance art in SA. They can be a super niche (read: near unobservable), impenetrable fields to try and get into. We’re learning more and more about what people’s interests are insofar as bodies are concerned and what people actually want to talk about when it comes to their and other bodies. That’s been the most interesting part for me. What began as a pretty focused idea about writing about dance and movement and bodies (in the kind of “traditional” understandings of these three fields) has since shifted to a much more broad sphere of inquiry. Which I’m really into.
Do you have an overarching editorial philosophy? What makes something feel like an ANY BODY ZINE piece to you?
Julia: We have not defined an editorial philosophy per se, but we have certain practices that lean toward retaining the sense and authenticity of the writer’s intention, tone and style. I find that editing becomes quite an intuitive process for me. I read the words on page but also try to read past them to get a sense of their intention. From there I make editing suggestions. I call them suggestions because I then send it back to them with the freedom to take it or leave it. This type of editing extends to grammar and syntax as well. We do not hold the these structures above all else. Sometimes it serves the sense or concept or intention of the piece to have it be entirely un-capitalized, or for it to have obviously incorrect grammar. In this regard we think more broadly when it comes to the structures the words are placed in. With regard to the second part of the question, we choose pieces that interest us – I don’t think we have very strict criteria for what and ABZ piece is or not – and then we go through the editing process from there.
“Printing is just too much fun. I think humans have been making little objects to worship and swoon over for a long time and books are no different.”
Kopano: I think our editorial philosophy is about curating, to the best of our abilities, the intent of our contributors through the finished product. Like Julia said, it’s an intuitive and collective process that attempts not to create unnecessary power dynamics (which are pretty boring to work within). The processes are generally mutually beneficial in that each party takes something away. Sometimes the lessons aren’t always easy but they’re always revelatory, in big and small ways.
Is there one particular feature or story that you’ve written or curated that resonates with you and that you’d like to share with us?
Julia: This is not specifically one story, but I love writing for the zine. It gives me a chance to work through my ideas in a structured way, that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I think that’s one of the main reasons we began the zine. Besides hearing all the amazing stories, we also just wanted a platform to engage our own ability to write, so we made it one.
Nicola: I loved working on the Space Issue, the second issue. My interview with pianist Coila Leah Enderstein was super fun to do and the layout was great also because the theme was ‘space’ and I tried to play about with line spacing and stuff. (Taking things literally is also a part of doing literary things). I recently saw that Philippi Music Project are busy building their recording studio and we interviewed them a while ago for the ‘Rhythm’ Issue. It’s such a rad project so I was so stoked to see their progress. We also published a script for the first time by Lady Aria Grey for the ‘Subject/Object’ Issue. She’s amazing, I binge watch her YouTube channel when I need reminding that the world is probably going to be maybe okay.
Kopano: The “Space/Place” issue has always been close to my heart. Sibu Masters’ untitled poem in it is one of my favourite things that we’ve printed:
My new home
should be the homiest home I’ve ever called home
But the mountains and the winds all feel strange
And though the people look like me
We don’t have a lot in common
Germinating with roots in different soil
My climate cold and icy
then hot and wet
Now cool and dry
And I don’t quite know what they’re saying
Speaking in our tongue
that was clipped from my mouth at my mother’s breast
She who took flight
And I, kicked from the nest,
alien to the brood
though of the same feather,
will take wing
and catch fire
What is it about the medium of a print zine that resonates with you and the publication?
Nicola: Printing is just too much fun. I think humans have been making little objects to worship and swoon over for a long time and books are no different. The internet gave us a taste for marking our territory in some sort of cloudy cosmos of a screen, but nothing can beat the satisfaction of saying, ‘Look! I made a thing!’ and holding up an object. I also think documentation and the archival object complements the intangible nature of performance in a very important way.
What can we expect from the next issues and where do you see ANY BODY ZINE going in the future?
Julia: We have planned a slightly different form this year. We are hoping to publish quarterly. Each issue will have a movement word/verb as its theme. The next one is MARCHING and is coming out in March…
Nicola: Lol. We liked that pun. Our plan is to keep releasing all the content online. If people like the content and would like to keep it in their living rooms or bookshelves, they can sign up to receive a package at the end of the year with four lovely zines. We want to make sure people can still have printed publications, but we’re not really in the situation to print monthly and stock a few bookstores in Cape Town like we did last year. This year we hope to make better quality products that are available and affordable to those who want them.
Head over to the ANY BODY ZINE website if you’re interested in contributing, buying yourself a copy, or you just want to find out a little more about the publication.