Interview with Shamanic Striptease, Daniel P Cunningham
Daniel P Cunningham | Salvation: Shamanic Striptease
1 April | 9pm | £12
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We persuaded Daniel P Cunningham to keep his clothes on for a while and answer some questions about his coming Hackney Showroom performance of Salvation: Shamanic Striptease!
Tell us about ‘Salvation: Shamanic Striptease’
Salvation: Shamanic Striptease explores sexual desires as a conductor of spiritual longing. It mingles lap-dancing with incantations evoking ethnic, cultural and sexual liberation. Audiences should expect to witness a transformational ritual, a rite that is used to accept the past so that the future is bright. Spectators will take part (if they wish) in a healing ritual that gives them the chance to leave feeling free – or some may say ‘healed’. Someone in the audience will ‘make it rain’, as I shake my arse, and a few audience members will receive an ecstatic lap-dance/ healing. There are loud beats and lots of naked skin!
The work uses performance and workshop practices that invite urban mixed communities (different ages, genders, sexualities, and cultures) to engage with queerness through work that explores my gay, white, african, immigrant status. It’s pro-tolerance and opposes prejudice in all forms (including ‘policing’ of the gay world and its privileging of white masculine men, and intolerance of people whose histories cross cultural lines) it invites people to rejoice in being who they are, whole without fault.
How did the show come about?
The process of Salvation: Shamanic Striptease started 3 years ago in a private practice that Mark James Hamilton and I were engaged in – which included me learning various physical practices that Mark had been given by his gurus in India, Scotland and New Zealand. I needed a collaborator who I could move at great speeds with and who I trusted would look after me through the process. I’ve worked with various companies over the years but this artistic collaboration is what I seeked in terms of making my transition from ensemble member to solo performance artist.
We began to make the work public in September 2016 in the form of workshops, film and live performance. Shamanic Striptease exposes my body, voice and memories as a healing process extended to audiences. It uses ‘black’ and ‘white’ movement vocabularies to interrogate my white African identity. The legacies of Apartheid and Mandela’s Rainbow flow through me where they intercept my queer sexuality.
Implicit in our work is a celebration of physicality at its fullest and proof that alcohol and drugs are not necessary for ecstatic joy. Our work carries out the messages of safe-sex, drug-free, pro-health, equality and diversity.
What or who inspires you to make shows like S:SS?
This artistic project is the most important of my life so far, a crucial moment in my artistic process. I’m mostly inspired by my homeland South Africa, Durban in Kwa-Zulu Natal, where I grew up. The people and experiences that I carry with me today are present in the performance. The question of spiritual longing is present in the artistic process – and deeply engrained in our practice. There are so many aspects that inspire the work, but a few that spring to mind are The Matrix, male strip, Lil Kim, Blade 1, Biblical scripture, evangelical rites, rave, shamanism, queerness, Robert Magabe, Nelson Mandela and my mama. And most importantly, this work wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for my dearest friend Prudence who passed away when I was only a boy. She was older than I, she taught me to shake my arse and not give a fuck. She dances with me in this performance.
What are your favourite places to go to in London?
My favourite night out by far is Channel One Sound’s monthly gig at Village Underground. The sound is so intense, it penetrates my body and its my kinda church! Also, The Glory, RVT, Sink The Pink.
The Krishna temple in Soho does good food, also Brick Lane bagels are the best! Eating with friends is the best, so I normally go with my girls or mans who like food as much as I do.
I dance Five Rhythms on a Friday night led by Bodhi Hunt, its called ‘Dance out Loud’, its how I like to spend my Fridays, sober dancing with sweaty sexy humans – I’ve been a raver since my early teens, so I appreciate the music and movement aspects.