Photos by Alick Tsui
For The Festival of New Dance 2023
Neighbourhood Dance Works - St John's NL
In Greek mythology history, Poseidon is the god of the sea and waters, as well as of horses and earthquakes therefore ruling not only the waters but also the shores. Newfoundland is a place where folklore and legend often blend together, reflecting the island’s history, while providing a way to communicate what happens in daily life.
Dale Jarvis explains that “Mermaids and mermen are legendary aquatic creatures with the head and upper body of a human and the tail of a fish. “The name mermaid comes from ‘mere,’ meaning lake,” writes English author Jane Hutchins, “and ‘molgd’ meaning Maid, which has been replaced by the latter. However this race of so-called mer-people has always been associated more with the sea than with inland waters.”
Merfolk have been part of Newfoundland culture since times immemorial both in indigenous and settler beliefs.
Based on this information and understanding the proposed piece by Murphy, the idea for the costuming is a flowy yet opulent costume built in layers. From the waist down, hand painted voile and fishing nets revere the movement of the ocean and the living environment in a 3 layer skirt in shades of blue, green and black embroidered with horse hair, beads and found buttons. The torso is adorned with an organza harness and epaulettes encrusted with stones, beads and crocheted and hand dyed barnacles and pearls showcasing the warrior side of the god/merfolk. The costume is finished by a textile sculpted crown, embroidered jockstrap and metal cuffs pulling from elements both from the Greek reference and the traditional Newfoundland merfolk popular images as well as a 20ft hand painted train skirt to be used as the “oceans floor” for the dancer.
What I expected to achieve with this costume is not only respect the movement of the dancer but also divert the idea of the gender binary code in which gods are conceived creating a beautiful queer entity that will inspire pride and pleasure in the viewers.