Jaana Pirskanen: “Everyone has the right to be seen and heard as a sensual being despite their age.”

Performance artist and psychologist Jaana Pirskanen will lead the Sensuous Workshop for 60+ Londoners this November. The participants will explore their sensuality through drag and burlesque. Similar workshop is also arranged in Helsinki this autumn and a photography and video exhibition will be put together of them both. Pirskanen tells us about the workshops.

What Sensuous Workshop is about?

“We will dive into sensuality by building characters, who are like your inner superheros. I’ll help the participants to create the character, it’s gestures and the look. In the end of the workshop photographer Vilma Rimpelä will take portrays and videos, which are styled together. The idea is that the participants’ voice and vision are heard, so I’m not defining the result beforehands. It is important that people get to define their gender, sexuality and other identities themselves.”

What kind of characters can be created?

“We will focus on things we could be. Drag is about freedom, so there are no limits for the character. Of course it is good to be sensitive when it comes to for example cultural appropriation. The contemporary drag respects gender diversity, and one of the main principles is that your gender doesn’t limit the character you can create. You don’t have to mimic anyone unless it inspires you. You can take your clothes off for the portray but you can also do burlesque without undressing.”

What is sensuality?

“The way of performing sensuality and sexuality is different for everyone. Sensuality doesn’t necessarily mean that you to show some skin. The portrays can be daring or pornographic, but they can be sensual in a more delicate way. The project’s message is not that everyone has to be sexually active. Our message is, that everyone has the right to be seen and heard as a sensual being, despite their age.”

Why you chose drag and burlesque?

“Burlesque and drag are the dearest tools for me, because they combine dance, theatre and lavish aesthetics. Despite the preconceptions, they are not all about superficial looks. When you look at your body and think about sensuality, you’re in touch with core issues. Being seen as yourself and feeling wanted are central elements of sexuality. Theatricality is also a liberative way to express emotions. The character may be strong and funny, even though there is pain underneath.”

What would you like to say to someone who is hesitating to participate?

“For me, it is important to create a safe space. Everyone’s boundaries, gender, identity and appearance are respected. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, and the exercises can be done in the way what feels good for you. The participants don’t have to have any experience in performing or dancing. The most important thing is that everyone feel good and relaxed. As it best, participants feel empowered and discover new ways of expressing themselves.”

The Finnish Institute in London has supported the Sensuous Workshop.

Sensuous Workshop, Dance Research Studio, 23 Orsman Road, London N1 5RA. https://www.facebook.com/events/271410003486506/. 20.–28.11.2018. Admission: free. If you want to participate in the workshop, please send an email to sensuouspeople@gmail.com.

Text: Anna Suoninen, Photo: Aino-Sofia Niklas-Salminen.


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