Go Your Own Way with Edalia Day
I talk to Edalia Day about performance, tricksyness, and making whatever's fun
Edalia Day is a neurodiverse, transgender spoken word artist, animator and theatre maker based in Norwich, England. I met her in 2018 at Bar Wotever, a queer cabaret night at the infamous Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London.
I was doing a Kate Bush tribute act called Kate Push the Pills, combining the frenetic energy of Kate Bush to coming off antidepressants. Edalia was performing a spoken word piece. She struck me as a lovely, gracious individual and I began to follow her work.
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To me, Edalia’s work is like art in motion, flourishing, moving and progressing. I have seen her grow online, from movement-theatre specialist and spoken word artist, to animation and motion designer.
If you’re not sure what that looks like, here is a really cool example of her animation work:
We often follow artists on social media without giving it much thought, but I always took time to investigate what Edalia was doing. I felt the way that she approached the world of performance was special. I saw a generosity in the way she shared it. I was enthused by the illustrations she posted on Instagram, quickly sketching the movements of other performers at poetry slams, then animating them.
It’s the type of art I love. Something that doesn’t finish before it started. Art that feeds on and grows with others, like a wild, germinating garden. It shoots through cracks, straining against the frame of society’s expectations. It is expansive but contained. We are peeking in at something that we know can tell us something, but doesn’t insist.
I enjoy all the shades of what Edalia makes. Anyone who follows this newsletter knows that I enjoy talking to multidisciplinary artists with a huge breadth of interests (so that I don’t feel so mad and alone with mine!)
Read my interview with Nadia Mbonde to learn about her wonderful multidisciplinary approach
I love having conversations with people that teach me something I didn’t know, and I took much away from my chat with Edalia.
We talked about learning traditional movement-based arts and its influence on our creative process
Edalia listened to me ramble on for twenty minutes about flamenco, Jerez, and why I left the performance and cabaret world in London to pursue it. We found common ground in my enthusiasm for flamenco and hers for capoeira, which started her journey to falling in love with physical movement.
Capoeira is a kind of martial art that looks like a dance. It originates from the Afro-Brazilian population, and is now popular all over the world. In fact, Edalia discovered it as a teen in Swindon, South West England.
The parallels of our obsessions in these arts intrigued me. Capoeira is a fight that looks like a dance, and flamenco is a dance that can almost seem like a fight. Like flamenco, which originated in a marginalised community, specifically the Spanish Roma, capoeira was a type of martial art originally performed by enslaved Afro-Brazilians.
Both traditions are relatively modern for a folk art, emerging around three-hundred years ago. We spoke about the experience of learning an art that is so deeply rooted to a specific culture, and respecting and understanding its significance as a tool of self-expression and identity.
Capoeira is known for being a “tricksy” art, which is what attracted Edalia to it. Those engaging in the sport must be light on their feet and acrobatic. Capoeira compelled Edalia to study movement and performance at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in London, and then mime and physical theatre at the world-famous Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris.
Edalia began making and performing her own shows in 2014, incorporating interactive video projection—another of her passions. Her capoeira training re-emerged in her performances unconsciously. Known as being a particularly physical performer, constantly moving and bouncing around the stage as she spoke, it occurred to Edalia, watching herself back one day, that she was doing a capoeira move called “ginga”.
The objective of ginga, as Edalia puts it, is, “trying to catch the other person out” with its “playful, bouncy movement”. It is intriguing to me, the idea of employing ginga in a one-person show, an experience with the audience that is so intimate—leaving the solo performer quite vulnerable. Reflecting on the performances I made, which left me feeling exposed and raw, it makes a lot of sense. Perhaps we all need to employ a bit of ginga in our writing, or art—or even daily existences?
We discussed the pleasures, difficulties and nuances of making autobiographical work
Whilst studying at the LeCoq school, Edalia observed that the audience would react instinctively to her body language. She found this useful when developing her show, Too Pretty To Punch, a piece she made to talk about the transgender experience. At the beginning of the process Edalia was reluctant to follow what she describes as, “the trans trope” - the expectation that your personal journey would be offered up on a platter for the audience to consume.
Whilst Edalia wanted to discuss transgenderism, she was not keen to put herself at the centre of it. In the early stages of the piece, she constantly received the feedback that the audience wanted “more of her” and “her struggle”. In the end, she tells me, she thought: “Fine, I’ll do your thing of including myself in this show, but I’ll do it my way”.
Edalia describes herself as “playful” and “bratty” - that she “likes to misbehave and be mischievous”. I guess that’s the ginga coming through again. She employed a lot of metaphors in the show. She made the message as accessible as possible. She wanted people who wouldn’t know what being trans felt like to understand it better. She used humour and silly clown-like movements. She was playful with the audience, yet she didn’t mock them.
Growing with your art: going it alone vs. collaborating
Despite having a wonderful time touring the show, as well as interest from many venues, Edalia is ready to move on and develop it further. What felt dark and painful a few years ago feels different now. She describes feeling lighter and more hopeful.
Edalia also talks about the joy she found in making Spectacular Spacebots, a show she developed with a group of neurodivergent artists. She tells me that working with neurodivergent artists transformed the way she works with others. Edalia is autistic and has ADHD.
In recent years she has come to the conclusion that she works best by herself. It’s been a long journey. Edalia says that in acting roles she loves being, “a cog in the machine”, but when she is directing, prefers working alone. Performing in a children’s play called Marty at the Party was a turning point for her. Oddly enough, she played a flamenco-dancing flamingo. The assistant director was autistic, and it resonated with Edalia when he spoke about his need for “timeout”. She realised that she needed that too and has begun incorporating it into her own working process.
There’s a real freedom in that. Knowing what you need to make you thrive. I have written before about needing timeout and also my struggle working with groups.
As Edalia acknowledges and I know all too well, the devising process in contemporary theatre hinges on the group dynamic. It is hard not to condemn the preference of working alone. Edalia calls it her “internal bias”. Over the years, Edalia has come to accept the way she works and sees it as an enormous strength and a rarity—to have this incredible self-motivation.
What I took away from our chat is that there’s room for openness and figuring it out. Edalia seems to have “figuring it out” figured out. I told Edalia that I struggled with group dynamics during my directing and performance Masters, deciding to do my final project alone. Since then I’ve continued the solitary path, with a rather dogged view that I can only trust myself. Recently, I’ve questioned that. Perhaps in the right place, and with the right people, there is a way to collaborate?
Edalia said that she went to Le Coq with the view to “cracking the code” of how to work with others. She learnt a great deal. For example, that there is no code, but group dynamics are important. It’s not so black and white. There’s always a duality. Edalia may work better alone in the room devising, but she loves adding other people’s creativity to the mix. In Spectacular Spacebots she was able to bring together a mix of diverse and creative people who added to her show, but in their own time, using their own methodology.
As Edalia says to me: “Whatever’s fun”.
This is an idea I keep hearing and returning to. If the project you’re working on feels like clawing out nails with blunt tools, it might be time to put those tools down. Follow your nose, and find what stimulates you.
Breaks are also necessary when it comes to creativity. Edalia tells me that she had two years of floundering and experimenting before she got into her groove performance-wise. I think that’s a space I’m transitioning out of, and it’s heartening to hear that other people need it too. The creative process is not mechanic, it is not prescribed, and it will tell you how it works best, not the other way around.
It’s always gorgeous to speak to other artists – revel in their difference, yet nod in sage recognition of mutual struggles. So yes, working alone can be a blessing, but collaborations can be an exciting adventure. You might fail, but you also might succeed. Working in an underfunded, oversaturated industry is not easy, and sometimes I do get jaded. Other times I’m pulled up by the britches by the attitude of artists like Edalia. I notice how she does it her own way—with a grace, and a humour that is both profound and light. These are all qualities unique to her.
We all have a different way of moving. The only way to find it is by getting into our own bodies, feeling out where they want to take us next.
Watch Edalia’s performances online here: www.gumroad.com/edaliaday
Edalia’s website: www.edaliaday.co.uk
I leave you with one last poem by Edalia: “Let Them Not Like You”
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