Holly Rush, creator of Superhero Alter Ego, talks about why superheroes are relevant again and unusual career paths.
Q: Tell us a bit about your career to date
Holly Rush: My career is full of ups and downs and lucky and unlucky movements! Originally, I thought I wanted to be a conventional contemporary dancer. I went to train in 2010 at the CAT scheme in Manchester then moved to London to train at Laban in 2012. I was never very successful in auditioning for other people’s work. So, I decided to broaden out my practice and experience by creating work of my own.
I took one of my final year pieces, My Town, Your Town to Manchester to be performed at Antwerp Mansion. I loved the idea of taking work into spaces that are not built traditionally for conventional theatre. This pushed me to work on different theatre disciplines such as clowning, movement directing, physical theatre and spoken word.
In 2015 I had the amazing opportunity to movement direct for National Youth Theatre and I collaborated with my brother who wrote a spoken word piece. We performed at Turn 2016 and we carried on collaborating to perform at other small venues and festivals, experimenting with our form of fusing movement with creative writing. I also started working on a semi-autobiographic solo piece, My Crocodiles, which I guess I will always be revisiting until I retire! With the help of The Artist Asylum, The Orang Collectif, the CAT scheme in Manchester and Camberwell Arts Festival I got to work on and perform this solo in the most interesting places such as night clubs, festivals and in a house! The more intimate the better!
Along the way I have met and worked with inspiring people who have opened my eyes to the different possibilities of what performance can be. However, in 2018 I was still in London working full time at a café not earning much money from my creative practice so I decided to work on my teaching experience and have a break from auditioning and creating. In 2019 the London life was taking its toll and I decided to leave and move back to Salford. But, just before, I had my first rehearsal for Superhero Alter Ego, as the idea was sparking up!
Since then, I have carried on my research into the superhero theme by reading comic book scholars and more comics, luckily fitting in one last rehearsal just before the lockdown. I also had the opportunity to work with Ellan Hathaway Dance Company, teaching online classes for their Odyssey project which started at the beginning of the lockdown.
It has been a very quiet year, but I have been very lucky to have been furloughed from my bar work and to carry on my research. I successfully applied for the Push 2021 commission which is where I am today. Surprisingly, the pandemic has given me the time to focus 100% on my research and devising, for that I feel very grateful for.
Q: What does selection for Push mean to you?
HR: The selection has been a big confidence booster. It has encouraged me to see this as a new opportunity to really focus and to push my form, in new ways that I never would have thought about just a few months ago; a time to experiment and get back to my creative ways. Delving into new research, new ideas and honing more into my own interests and values which will benefit me in the years to come.
Q: How has the last year affected your practice as an artist?
HR: It has been a time for reflection; thinking about my strengths, weaknesses and what it is what inspires me. This has been through the amazing support the dance and art community has been offering through free workshops, mentoring, webinars and lots of classes online. It is very inspiring to see how this community has come together to push the arts in these strange times.
It has not been easy, I miss seeing my friends, work colleagues and other fellow artists, and having money, which has definitely had a toll on my own mental health. However, I am very grateful for the free time the pandemic has given me to focus which I have never had before. I have learned new skills such as video editing and going back to my own designing art background. I have honed my interests and found inspiration through storytelling, gaming, anime and fusing this with my new favourite dance style, Waacking. I have given myself time to delve into research in these different genres through reading, drawing, workshopping and just watching lots of films! It has definitely given me confidence to fully find my own voice for my practice.
Right now, I am making the best of a bad situation, which has made me learn how to apply my skills to different things and become a versatile creator. I do not see myself as just a dance performer but as an artist as a whole.
Q: What do you hope the audience will take away from your show?
HR: The work is very much open for interpretation and it is not about portraying a message. It is really the pure enjoyment of the storytelling in a new form inspired by superhero comic books. It is ironically using social media to make a metaphorical comment which is the main underlying theme of this story. There are so many themes I wanted to touch on however it can not be too complex! There is a subversion of the superhero genre in the work which is very One Punch Man inspired.
Superhero mythology is something that reflects the real world. And the original superheroes were made at a time of pure uncertainty during the war in the 1930’s. It was a way of storytelling for form of escapism but also inspiration to carry on, stay positive and to think about one’s own virtues.
Q: What comes next for you after Push?
HR: I would love to workshop the work within the community, specifically young people. I have been researching something called character education, using mythological stories to help build character, find aspirations and values. I thought ‘this will be perfect to do with superheroes!’
I want it to involve the movement and spoken word devising methods to get people to create their own hero. It will also be a major part of my research which is looking into the hero psyche and reflecting the Superhero storytelling genre.
Superhero Alter Ego is a Push 2021 commission, and will be available online via the HOME website later this year. For more details about HOME’s upcoming programme, sign up to our newsletter, here.