Is non-binary the modern feminism? An interview with Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard

Circus News

Is non-binary the modern feminism? An interview with Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard

Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard is an interdisciplinary artist working through circus and film. I first saw their work at the Montréal Complètement Cirque Festival (2022) at La Chapelle, an intimate theater just north of Mount Royal Park. Their solo show, Scuse– while presented as a work in progress –  was the most thoughtful and impactful piece I saw at the festival. Lessard has been top on my list for this series:“When I started the process of Scuse, I was really trying – maybe naively – to answer ‘What is it to be a woman [today]? Am I a woman? What is a woman?’ How wide, and abstract, and complex is this question!” While Lessard was crafting Scuse, they had also enrolled in a university gender studies program. “Very quickly I realized this question was impossible to answer. Everyone is different. There is no answer.” Lessard shifted their inquiry to, “What is the perception of femininity that society instills in us? And how does this perception, and the behaviors that come with that perception, encourage me to fall into a pattern or a trap of being sexually abused? What are the very simple things – actions, behaviors, words – that create the binary without us even noticing?” Based on personal experiences, Lessard’s work puts the gender binary and sexual violance side by side, and asks, “If we don’t have such a big gap between genders would we have as much sexual violence?” Lessard admitted, “I don’t have a specific answer,” but an answer is not what they are seeking through their art. 
Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard. Despite the direct connection of Lessard’s work and the theme of this series, Lessard was generous with their personal reaction to the title. “To be very honest, I felt a bit anxious. Not a big feeling of anxiety, but still a little shiver of discomfort, you know? And a subtle feeling of being stuck into that tag. This feeling is actually the starting point of my solo show, and the starting point of my personal reflection. Why [does] being tagged very clearly as a woman create a feeling of being stuck, or a feeling of being unsafe, for me? It’s something that I need to address. But in your email, you clarified the vision of a...
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Madeline Hoak

Madeline Hoak is an artist and academic who creates with, through, and about circus. She is a Writer for CircusTalk, Adjunct Professor of Aerial Arts and American Circus History at Pace University, Editor and Curatorial Director of TELEPHONE: an international arts game, and curator and director of Cirkus Moxie, a weekly contemporary circus show at Brooklyn Art Haus. Madeline has performed, coached, produced, and choreographed at elite regional and international venues. Her background in dance and physical theater is infiltrated into her coaching and creation style. She is passionate about providing her students holistic circus education that includes physical, historical, theoretical resources. Madeline initiated the Aerial Acrobatics program at her alma mater, Muhlenberg College, where she taught from 2012-2017. She is also a regular contributor to Cirkus Syd's Circus Thinkers international reading group. Her circus research has been supported by Pace, NYU, and Concordia University. Recent publications include "Teaching the Mind-Body: Integrating Knowledges through Circus Arts'' (with Alisan Funk, Dan Berkley), a chapter in Art as an Agent for Social Change, "expanding in(finite) between," a multimedia essay in Circus Thinks: Reflections, 2020, and "Digital Dance & TELEPHONE: A Unique Spectator Experience." Madeline has presented academic papers at numerous conferences including Circus and its Others (UC Davis), International Federation for Theatre Research (University of Reykjavík), the Popular Culture Association, Gallatin (NYU), and McGill University. Madeline earned an MA from Gallatin, New York University’s School of Independent Study, where she designed a Circus Studies curriculum with a focus on spectatorship.