In Team C-print, we try to monitor not only contemporary art but most artistic fields to the best of our abilities. In the realm of contemporary dance, a new favourite of ours is BamBam Frost who we've had the pleasure of seeing a lot on stage this year. With our schedules finally aligning after the summer, we catch up with BamBam who has a packed fall season ahead of her with a new piece premiering at MDT, a stint at Dansens Hus and a touring gig with no other than Mette Ingvartsen in contemporary art's trending new hot spot Seoul.
BamBam Frost, YES, MDT
C-P: Before we dive into your work, tell me a little about yourself.
B.F: Hey! I'm very excited to be doing this interview. I used to dream about doing interviews, hehe.
So, my name is BamBam Frost, just to clear it out from the start - yes, it's my real name and yes it's from the Flintstones. I grew up in a part of Stockholm called Skärholmen and I have since I was young loved to perform, forcing people to watch me do whatever. My friend Amanda Mbalire introduced me to the local dance group at the youth center around the age of 7, and since then I've been hooked on this ever transforming art form. 28 years later, I'm still in the constant process of figuring out the art of dance and choreography, nowadays working with creating pieces that are performed mostly in the context of the theater.
I come from a funky ass family, a mom who's an amazing craftsman and skateboarder since the 70’s and then dad - a BMXer, Hiphop dancer and music producer from The Bay Area in California. I'm schooled in contemporary dance and chose to walk the path of experimental choreography, but street culture is definitely embedded in my DNA and a huge source of inspiration in the art I'm creating.
C-P: What are some of the overall ideas and themes that your work informs?
During the last years I have been interested in entertainment, and mainly entertainment history connected to the black diaspora. Working with ideas of the entertainer, representations of the entertaining body, pop cultural esthetics and social dances. Seeing from which contexts these artistic expressions arise, what they were a reaction to or on, then playing with the many things that they can become. For my up and coming piece though, dream beam, I'm curious about the world of fictional super powers and the practice of actually developing real ones. Using these as parts in the puzzle of figuring out alternative ways of being together.
Many of my movement practices grow out of my obsession for transformation, following the development or evolution of something. Changing the perception of an image or dance by slowly transforming it into something else, then something else, then something else. Octavia Butler wrote “The only lasting truth is change”, and that seems to be my artistic religion right now. I also realized I need to insist on pleasure while working with the body as the main tool. I try to tell myself to practice what I want to see in the world - it's not always so easy when shit makes you pissed off.
Bianca Traum, BamBam Frost and Ingrid Mugalu, SORRY, MDT
C-P: You debuted as a choreographer with SORRY at MDT back in 2018 and later presented it as an altered version titled So Sorry with Mari Carrasco and Lydia Östberg Diakité. I sadly didn’t see it but reading up; it looks damn cool. Would you like to share some words about it?
B.F: SORRY is my first baby and definitely worked as a key into my choreographic world. Of course I can't speak for everyone who saw it, but it was an amazing piece. You know, it really had urgency. We were so damn nerdy creating it, the dancing, the music, the room - such a raw and intense energy in everything we did. So intense we were just too tired to deliver on the last show, haha. You live and learn that one has to plan for rest. But there was an energy in that piece that I can still feel today.
SORRY was packaged in pink plastic, moving lightheads and deep bass. First danced and created together with my dear friends and colleagues Bianca Traum and Ingrid Mugalu. During the process we were revisiting old music videos and live performances from the last century, analyzing recurring dances, expressions and representations of the racialized body within the western context. Then we deconstructed those expressions to transform them through a repetition practice led by the questions “what more can this become? how awkward can it get?”. In the dancing we explored ways of creating alternative representations of the entertaining body. All of this while pushing ourselves to a playful yet brutal exhaustion. So Sorry is a sister aka the tour version that toured around Sweden with Riksteatern, performed and created together with - just as you mentioned, Mari and Lydia.
BamBam Frost with Lydia Ö. Diakité, YES, MDT
C-P: I’ve had the pleasure of seeing your work three times in a fairly short period of time, once with Lydia Östberg Diakité end of last year, once with your own work YES and most recently in Björn Säfsten’s This that unravels as a dancer. When I think of you, the word “expressive” immediately springs to mind. What would you say is your forté as a performer?
B.F: My forté I think would be that my deep love for performance makes me a real nerd about it. Although I definitely have my trance like, lose myself in the moment default, I try to really listen to what the piece is or can be and then develop performative techniques for that specific show.
In my career I've done everything from strict entertainment like TV shows, music videos, night club gigs, dancing on tables at old men's birthday parties to more conceptual and experimental stuff like touring around the world performing orgasm choirs (To come- extended by Mette Ingvartsen) and sitting cleaning a skeleton for 6 hours at Moderna museet (Marina Abramovic). And the fact that I have practiced for a long time and explored many different ways of performing, gives me a wide range of performative tools.
I'm skillful in using my gaze in different ways and I have a certain love for transforming performative states. The fantasy of where I am, who I am, who I'm doing it for, how things feel in the body. I like to explore how subtle changes of performative state very quickly can switch the whole energy in a room, as it affects how the audience views a specific action. The “how to do it” of performance is as important as the “what to do”. For the dancing I would say my super power is that I can be softer than soft.
BamBam Frost, odödlig topp/immortal summit, MDT
C-P: I was quite blown away by the collaborative piece you presented with Lydia Östberg Diakité last year. There was so much energy and fierceness in that room (the studio at MDT). For me, it was very evocative. My mind was running wild throughout the entire performance. How did that work come about? B.F: First of all I just want to say that my dear friend and colleague Lydia is truly amazing. I'm so lucky and happy that we have found each other in this business and world! A creative genius, huge inspiration and a fantastic friend. We have worked together for a while now, but never had we created a piece together from scratch. It sure was time, we really wanted to explore what this pleasurable collaboration could create. Lydia and I share many things, amongst that is an ongoing interest in pop cultural and sport icons. This interest led us to our main theme - greatness and illusions of grandeur. In the process we talked a lot about the fixation of bigger, better, faster, stronger. About who is pushed to excellence, and who can afford to fail. In the work we wanted to play on the borderline between greatness and failure, violence and care, provocation and play. So, we created a series of movement practices that in different ways embodied our thoughts, questions and proposals. The work was developed in close collaboration with our artistic team, where the bean bags that were thrown around, the white bright light, the composition of the long electric guitar and saxophone solos - all contributed to the intense but also ambivalent energy we wanted to create.
Next year we will get back to working with and touring the piece, I'm looking forward to keep sharing this work. After the show an audience member said- “this was toxic masculinity at its best”. That made us happy.
BamBam Frost and Lydia Ö. Diakité, odödlig topp/immortal summit, MDT
C-P: As somebody anchored in contemporary art but with an interest in dance, I oftentimes feel that there’s a big gap between the dance and the art scene despite being so related and connected. What are your thoughts on this?
B.F: The gap is really quite ridiculous and I would definitely agree that these artforms are very connected. Can it be that since dance still is in conflict with the perception of it being only for entertainment, there's a big audience that never even find their way to the theater to experience contemporary choreography? Or is it that ideas of it needing to be entertaining limits the viewer to recognize all the other things that are also happening, and then can't connect? Don't get me wrong, I love entertainment, but dance and choreography can be so many different things. Like any artistic expression really. Well, I don't really have an answer, but I share your question.
One common thing I hear is that people think that contemporary choreography as an artform is “very difficult to understand”. In Sweden I think it's about the lack of practice, we do not have a general tradition of going to the theater to see dance. Further south In europe my experience is totally different. Also I ask myself how come there's this fixation with understanding things in a language one knows, when really a performance has the potential to speak to you on so many different levels. If you can't recognize the concept of a piece, there's always this very generous body to body communication that dance offers. And when it's good you just feel it.
BamBam Frost and Lydia Ö. Diakité, odödlig topp/immortal summit, MDT
C-P: A while ago, I interviewed one of your peers; the wonderful Ofelia Jarl Ortega and we then talked about her experiences of not performing in her own work for the first time. How do you find performing for others vs. working with your own material?
B.F: There's something unique in using one's body as a tool in one's own work, I've grown into really enjoying it. That the tool is the same as the sponge of information, knowledge and lived experiences that the work takes off from. Sometimes I feel like there's direct communication within the bodily system, some kind of logic figuring out concepts/ideas/stuff beyond language. Then movements, states, energies, esthetics happen, and one tries to find language to support what the system is guiding you to do. It's a process like that, I enjoy being in constant dialogue with test audiences during the process. I guess both digging from deep within and the outside perspective is needed for me to be able to contextualize the work I'm doing.
When performing for others I have a bit of a different journey, always learning a lot as it takes me to places I might now have gone myself. I enjoy just focusing on performing and having the responsibility of creating the whole piece. It feels like a holistic way of working, alternating performing my own work with performing for others.
But this time around, I'm doing like the brilliant Ofelia did the other year, creating and choreographing a piece where I'm not performing myself. It's the first time I'm not in my work and actually the rehearsal period starts tomorrow. It's like I mentioned earlier, titled dream beam and it premieres in November at MDT. Damn, I always feel like a beginner when I enter a new process and I'm always nervous. Maybe that just means that it's really important to me? I think what I'm most nervous about is the balance of leading the work, knowing what to do, knowing what i want and being in the unknown, the messy, the frustration and the trust together with other people. But I believe in practicing doing things together and I like to throw myself into what I think is intriguing. This time I get to work with four amazing performers that I'm all in awe of! It feels like pure luxury, also I'm just super excited to get the chance to practice the craft of choreography from the outside.
C-P: Lastly, what will you be up to for the rest of the year?
First off is dream beam at MDT and after that my solo-ish piece YES will be playing at Dansens Hus in Stockholm. To end the year I'll engage in a residency at the Swedish Art Council together with Lydia. Planting seeds for future works, both individual and collaborations. One more thing I'm squeezing into this fall is performing in Seoul in South Korea with To come - extended by Mette Ingvartsen.
I can't possibly downplay my excitement for that (!). Thanks for this C-print, I hope to see all of you at the theaters!
'dream beam' opens at MDT on Nov 10 and 'YES' plays at Dansens Hus, Stockholm, Dec 8-9, 2022.
1; 3-5: Märta Thisner
2: Maceo Frost
6: dream beam collage by BamBam Frost based on illustrations by Lydia Östberg Diakité, Adam Seid Tahir, Doreen Ndagire and BamBam Frost.