Finnish-born Cecilia Moisio twists a straightening iron around her blonde hair like a fork in spaghetti.
“You always have to conform to this certain kind of idea of what people have of you,” the dancer said as she looked in the mirror. “If you’re a blonde woman, you feel that judgment from men around you: ‘You’re a young, blonde woman; what do you have to say?’”
Later on stage, in a ‘50s-style floral dress, white gloves, and a smile, Moisio holds up a sign reading, “Brunettes are fun too.”
This is one of the themes in Juxtapose, a theatre production choreographed by Moisio, featuring fellow performer Erin Harty. With 30-plus years of theatre and dance training experience, the pair have toured their show all over Europe, including France and Austria, and in the United States. Halifax is their first Canadian stop.
Live Art Dance, the organization presenting the performance, describes the event as a satirical and raw “punch in the gut” to established beauty myths and gender norms. Its Facebook post states that Moisio “is not afraid to challenge the status quo.”
“We kind of deconstruct that, break the cliches up and go into destruction,” said Moisio. “It’s something I use in all my pieces, a kind of exhaustion, a very emotional way of dealing with all those topics because they’re very personal for me.”
Moisio says that as a masculine and energetic performer, people have always assumed she’s tough — or a bitch.
“I was always like, ‘OK, that’s fine. That is a part of me but it’s not everything I am.’ It started to irritate me; why can’t you be just what you are?”
Moisio says Western women sometimes take their rights for granted “because we have it good here.”
She hopes to remind them of the struggles women still face, saying, “You see now again in Germany, there were a lot of attacks on women. A woman’s body should be a woman’s own right.”
As a feminist commentary, Moisio’s work confronts subjects ranging from traditional female roles, to feminist stereotypes to the early sexualization of girls.
“Young girls nowadays have it even harder than my generation,” she says. “ We can’t forget these young girls,” she adds, saying they often aren’t educated about the history of the ‘70s feminist movement.
But she doesn’t only want to reach young women.
“I wasn’t really busy thinking about the gender, like, ‘what is the woman?’ It was more just the human fighting to be seen, fighting to just be accepted the way you are. That applies to everyone.”
Moisio hopes that Juxtapose will challenge its audience to look in the mirror and ask tough questions.
“Feminism is just equality. It’s become kind of a dirty word, that you’re difficult and burning bras and man-haters. But I don’t think that’s what it is, I think it’s something we have to keep talking about.”