THE YONIS are a contemporary movement girl band.
Based in London, they perform with an expressive feminist flair, using their bodies to deliver instrumental messages. They combine untraditional venues and bold colours to redefine the diverse London dance-scene, changing their structure with it.
Our Millennial Pink issue seemed like the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into The Yonis unique take on life.
"The Yonis feels to all of us like an anchor in the millennial madness, it is a way of feeling connected to a movement when locality isn’t essential."
How were The Yonis born?
Haley Jayne Gash and Charlotte Mclean have always wanted to be in a girl band. Their love for gigging led them to create their own girl band, except with bodies as instruments. They decided they would reclaim what the term ‘girl band’ means to them.
The Yonis first project was a collaboration with director Sam Bassett; we shot individual solos in Haley’s living room, dancing freely to music that inspired our movement. This helped us to define our image and understand who we are as a group and as individuals.
Where do you gals place yourselves within the London dance scene?
We feel like the contemporary dance scene can be very insular, so our goal has always been to dance in untraditional spaces and to break the fourth wall. We want to perform for audiences who might not normally come across contemporary dance, and London has provided us with many opportunities to take up space and connect with lots of different people. We don’t feel like we have a ‘place’ which makes London the perfect place for us as we can mirror it’s diverse and eclectic style. We have left our colourful yoni footprint in a range of places including warehouses, streets, lecture rooms, festivals and cabaret events. We inject our colour into the spaces we take up, and when we perform together we are empowered by the strength that comes from many individuals supporting each other and believing in the work that we produce.
We scrolled through your Instagram and were immediately captivated by the empowering female message coming through. Does feminism / female empowerment play a big role in inspiring your dancing?
We wanted to create a space for people who identify as women to come together and make the work that is important to them. Even in the arts there is often more amplification of male voices and the yonis are an antidote to this; we explore the world through a female gaze and amplify each other. Feminism is at the heart of what we do and informs how we use our bodies and voices every day.
Our current issue is themed Millennial Pink. Would you describe your group as quite a ‘millennial’ concept?
We are living in the millennium whether we like it or not; it’s inevitable that what we are is influenced by the world around us. The internet lets us share and connect with others our age, and we have relied on social media to express our identity from the beginning, which is a millennial concept. It has always been important for The Yonis to take charge of the role that social media plays in our overall message. The Yonis feels to all of us like an anchor in the millennial madness, it is a way of feeling connected to a movement when locality isn’t essential.
Favourite music to dance to?
We have performed to all kinds of music and share all of our music discoveries with each other which influences our conversation, dancing and environment. It’s hard to say we have a favourite type because everyone has such different personal music tastes. It also depends what venue we perform in, our embodied exhibitions have different music than our warehouse gigs for example.
How do you go through the process of choreography for certain gigs and performances?
From the very beginning we have been keen to share the work load of driving The Yonis train, not only to make sure no-one is getting overwhelmed, but also to ensure that everyone gets a chance to have their creative voice heard and their ideas explored. Our way of working follows a sociocratic style; generally, the rule is that we are all on the alert for new opportunities, and whoever brings one to the table can become the ‘leader’ for that particular project, but everyone must then agree on the decisions being made. That way everyone gets a chance not only to be part of the creative side but also to write applications, promote, send emails and network for The Yonis… all the necessary things to keep ticking onwards. Our favourite thing is to be all together in the studio, but sometimes we have to make do with ‘kitchen table strategy meetings’, which we merge together with general chatting, drinking tea/wine and lots of laughing. For example, it has taken us three full days to answer these questions as we have been together for the full weekend writing, reflecting and coming back to them.
Favourite Yonis performance to date?
Our latest performance at Chisenhale Dance Space in London involved 22 women brushing their teeth. This has definitely been our favourite performance to date because we had so many Yonis involved! It was the first time we performed in a theatre so we wanted to have lots of yonis and not dance! We brushed our teeth and spat the toothpaste out. We wanted to give a strong visual image that goes against the conventional use of a theatre space.
Equally, when we performed at Brain Child Festival, we danced along side a live 8 piece brass band, and moved with and around the audience. This performance felt most at home with The Yonis, being among the colours, loud music and feel-good energy of the festival. Kaivalya spotted us dancing and asked us to join - since then she has joined us for many of our performances. If you want to dance with us we want to dance with you!
Catch The Yonis perform at The Yard Theatre, 19.04.18.