Today we’re joined by Bridgett Cains and she’s the 500th artist interviewed by Asexual Artist (YAY!). Bridgett is a phenomenal dancer from Australia who dances in a variety of styles. She has been all over the world, dancing with various troupes and in a variety of venues. She also teaches dance and choreographs too. Bridgett loves to share her passion for dance and I could not be happier to feature her on this blog. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m a freelance dancer, choreographer and teacher working in a range of styles, but generally fusing contemporary dance, belly dance, and contortion. I’ve been performing and teaching for the past fifteen years without any real plan other than to take chances and make opportunities wherever I can, which has taken me on some unexpected adventures. I’ve worked in Australia, the US, and Europe in a range of contexts including performing in dance projects, arts festivals, outdoor events, music videos, belly dance troupes, circus cabarets, experimental theatre shows, burlesque shows, body art competitions, fashion shows, and corporate events.
Although I’ve pushed myself to become confident in improvisation, I’m a choreography geek at heart, and as a teacher I love nothing more than to give my students the skills to create their own original choreography.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration in people who haven’t followed straight paths, or who put their own spin on their genre. People like Garry Stewart, Marion Motin, Cera Byer, April Rose, Henry Rollins, Mike Patton, Amanda Palmer, Tim Minchin, Rachel Brice, Noel Fielding, Martin Martini, Diana Vishneva, Tom Waits, Tanja Liedtke, Philippe Petit, Aya & Bambi, Heston Blumenthal… (I keep a running list here). When I’m looking for inspiration for a specific project, I try to look outside of dance so as not to accidentally steal anything, and instead turn to circus, sideshow, music, theatre, books, stand up comedy, film, visual art, and whatever else I’m surrounded by at the time.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I took my first ballet lesson when I was three and continued in regular classes well into my twenties, but never dreamt of being a professional ballerina, instead alternating between wanting to be a librarian, a scientist, a teacher, and an author. When I was fifteen I saw a contemporary dance performance that permanently shifted my focus to dance, and I started taking my training much more seriously. A few years later while I was recovering from a hamstring injury during full-time training, I took up belly dance and contortion which have taken my work in directions I’d never dreamt of, and introduced me to some of the most incredible people.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?
With over twenty years of ballet and ten years of belly dance in this body alongside all the other styles I’ve dabbled in, I’ve accidentally developed a signature style that’s mangled them all to the point where I definitely don’t look like a ballerina or a belly dancer. Whenever my work is reviewed or audience members comment on my performances, they always mention my hands, my flexibility, and my lines, so I guess they’ve unwittingly become a signature in my choreography.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
Try to explore things that challenge you to question your understanding of your artform. For me, setting foot in a belly dance studio for the first time after only ever having trained in ballet, jazz, and contemporary taught me entirely new ways to approach my work. It was terrifying at first, but now I’m hooked on taking classes in styles I’m not familiar with, and going through the humbling experience of being a beginner over and over again.
Being open to new things has taken me on so many adventures, including volunteering at a circus school in the Hawaiian jungle, running the dance program at a summer school in the UK, teaching at a performing arts camp in New York, working with burlesque performers in London and San Francisco, learning flamenco in Seville, taking belly dance lessons in Albuquerque, and taking Butoh and Irish dance lessons in Dublin. None of these things would have happened if I’d followed the plan of my fifteen-year-old self; to get a degree in dance and perform with a local company for the rest of my life, and I’ve since developed an aversion to long-term plans.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I’m aromantic and asexual. I flirt subconsciously and regularly develop crushes, but I have no interest in sexual or romantic relationships.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I usually work alone, but it’s never come up when I’ve worked on collaborative projects.
The only issue I’ve faced is in marketing my work, because I’m uncomfortable with the idea of anyone finding me attractive, but simultaneously love the way I look and need to promote the idea of people watching what I do with my body. It’s definitely a struggle to present myself well and with confidence without people projecting sexual undertones.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
I’ve had a few people insist I’m just going through a phase, or I’ve just not found the right person yet, and that they’re willing to wait for me to change my mind or grow out of it. I also find a lot of people assume that asexuality stems from some kind of fear or a traumatic experience, and that I must be an easily offended prude.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Build yourself a network of supportive people you can trust. Talk to people, keep a journal, and even make art about what you’re feeling if you need to. It’s difficult to understand and process it all when you’re in the middle of it, but if you can get it out of your head it’s a lot easier to step back, start making connections, and understand what it is you’re experiencing. I’ve only recently (in my thirties) realised that asexuality and aromanticism explain so much of who I am and what I’ve experienced, and I came out to close friends and family who generally seemed to have figured it out before I did, even if they didn’t know that these things had names. Most importantly, know that you’re not alone, you’re definitely not broken or dysfunctional, and that working on being comfortable in yourself is a very important thing.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?
Thank you, Bridgett, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.