← CDFthek


A text by Elena Zanzu

I received the invitation to write about my performance EZ and my practice. I set the device.

A while ago, I found my notebooks from primary school. The (Italian) grammar notebooks contained exercises about building sentences with direct objects, verbs, subjects, pronouns, independent and subordinate clauses. That wasn’t all: there was something else in these notebooks. Some extra layers, some unwritten rules. Some of which were: make all the sentences about non-human animals / make all the sentences about things whose colour is orange. These instructions were secretly added by me. In that way, the game wasn’t any more about the exercise the teacher had given, it became my game instead, some place I could delve, forgetting that I was doing homework. It was exciting, a reversed cheating, making it more complicated and, in that way, much easier. I don’t even remember myself thinking about the grammar rules, it was all about the game. And at the same time, the rules of the homework were there, entering from an alternative and playful channel. I don’t know if the teacher or the schoolmates ever noticed it.

Adding a challenge makes me feel the heat of the adrenaline, the focus of the kid, and I forget about impostor syndrome and its friends. Today I am not hiding it, I am not really cheating, apparently. I have been invited by Valentina Barone to write (maximum) 12.000 characters, and I will write them in (maximum) 12.000 seconds. That is 200 minutes, which is 3 hours and 20 minutes. The timer has been moving since the character 63.

When I am asked to talk or write about my practice, my body gets tense. Why isn’t my writer friend José Morella being asked to perform his text? Doesn't his novel need a translation into movement? Don’t his words need to be explained with another medium than their own? Do I need to justify my practice with words? And if I want to communicate what I do, do I need to communicate about what I do? I hope this is not an about something. Even if or when some about will appear.

I discovered that talk of Jonathan Burrows on practice during a residency with “The Circus Dialogues (continued)”, where it’s said that, “in practice it only matters that we begin and that we might allow the practice to continue”.1 I began, I am continuing, I am allowing. “Practice is a doing which is not yet art”2 but, as Katye Coe says, it has equal validity as whatever arrives as art.3 I am doing the not yet art. Not the about the art, nor the about the not yet art. Chrysa Parkinson, cited by Burrows, said that “you art when you practice”. I am doing the arting of doing the not yet art. I reread the talk. Pause the timer.

I do my apnea practice, my tying practice, my reading practice, my hypnosis practice, my handstand practice, my musculation practice, my walking apnea practice, my writing practice, my dry apnea practice, my suspension practice, my circular breathing practice, my listening practice, my watching performances practice, my making lists practice, my consent negotiation practice, my twerking practice, my contemplation practice.

In a workshop that John-Paul Zaccarini gave last year at La Central del Circ, at a symposium on dramaturgy that I curated, following his suggestions I ended up describing (one of) my practice(s) like that (I copy):

I resist the temptation to live (for a few minutes)
I lack oxygen
I accumulate carbon dioxide (CO2)
I calm my heart
I calm your heart
I make the blood move from the extremities to the organs
I can black out
I observe people blacking out
I make my lungs bigger
I suffer
I feel alone
I feel close to death
I communicate the loneliness and the closeness to death
I enjoy communicating loneliness and death
I feel alive
I communicate that I and you, are alive
I change the perception of time
I, sometimes, count time
I get to trance
I feel control
I dehydrate

Jean-Michel Guy said I do contemporary fakirism. (I smile).

I am deeply interested in the techniques of (self) control and (self) manipulation. At first, I was attracted by the true and real side of sensorial, emotional and cognitive alterations. This led me toward the techniques of breath control (such as apnea and circular breathing), immobilization (shibari) and other BDSM practices that play with control (of the pain, of the power dynamics, etc.). But lately I am also developing an interest toward the illusion. Letting go of this binary distinction between reality and illusion. I am interested in illusion as a mover of perception. I am attracted to emotional and cognitive movement.


I conceive the manipulations as invitations, as suggestions to move – in as many meanings that can have, somatically, emotionally, cognitively, etc. In EZ I invite (part of) the audience to a dialogue, to the negotiation of a meeting and the building of something together, where the most important aspect of this building is the generation of the relationship.

To invite someone to dialogue is to open up the possibility of receiving a NO, and it is important to welcome that possibility, because this is what makes a YES a YES. The title EZ - a part of being a tribute to my possibly future deadname – is a word that means NO in Basque. I welcome the NO on stage for the YES to be safer.

I started to practice apnea alone, in a residency studio, doing headstands in a bucket full of water. I was attracted by the control and the relaxation that are needed to hold your breath in water. If you stress, your heartbeat increases and you consume more oxygen and generate more carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is saying to your body that you are dying, that you need to breathe. You need to tell yourself that it is ok to stay with this death sensation, that you can live with it.

After the experience of practicing apnea alone, I started to read about it. And I discovered that the first rule in apnea is to never practice alone. I went to the sea and to the swimming pool, and I opened the studio to others. Now I am a certified freediving practitioner. The practice of apnea is the practice of loneliness while you are not alone, where someone is accompanying your solo trip, ready to rescue you.

This relation between solitude and interdependency is also at the core of EZ. Especially in the relationship with the audience volunteers that enter the stage. EZ is about the curiosity and the fragility of opening to others, inviting to a dialogue, building a relationship, negotiating boundaries, taking care. And it is a ritual, with its own sacrifices.

It seems to me that the relation between solitude and interdependency is also crucial in the making of a solo performance, which is not entirely solo, even when you lock yourself alone in a studio for a long period of time.


As a white, young, able-bodied person, I didn’t feel comfortable occupying the stage. Getting older and more visibly trans, it is now that feels interesting for me to bring my body on stage.

I had long desired to practice the classical circus technique of hair suspension. But I wanted to keep my hair short. This seemed incompatible. Eventually, I decided to tie my head and I searched for a way to build a kind of head harness that would allow me to enter a practice close to hair suspension. For the body, the two practices of hair suspension and (tied) head suspension are similar. For the head, they are not. While hair suspension generates an elongation of the whole body, (tied) head suspension adds to the elongation, a compression of the skull and of the facial nerves. After performing, my skull bones need a while to regain space and my nervous system is shaken.

In my attraction to extreme practices, I had forgotten to make space for the sustainability and care of one - the (human) bodies involved. The non-human participants of EZ – among which are ropes, pulleys, microphones – are sustainable and long-lasting, and the amount of water on stage is the calculated necessary minimum for submerging my head and holding my breath in a counterweight. But my body is sacrificed. The sacrifice of the body is an offering. It is part of the invitation. It situates it.


I have been told by programmers that it is difficult to promote EZ, because, if you haven’t seen it, its strong images generate an imaginary of violence that can be scary. But in EZ there is no violence. What there is, is care, even when pain manifests without shame.

When I invite a volunteer on stage, I am curious and excited for the new meeting to happen. The volunteers surprise me every time. Generally, they want to help. But the way they interpret helping varies. Some interpret it as generating (what they regard as) dance/circus movements and/or postures, to make it beautiful. Some would choose to do nothing, unless there is a direct request, to not disturb. Some will become hyperactive, to really help. Each time that someone looks at me with the same curiosity I look at them, a ‘we’ appears, with the question of how to take care of each other spreading in all directions.

As said above, NO is a possible answer. It happened once that no volunteer showed up. It was a work in progress at the end of a residency with Adele Madau (sound), Anna Boix Álvarez (light) and Saar Rombout (rigging). I was sick and I could barely be there, but it was the only technical residency I obtained for EZ, and we needed to try the lights. When I asked for a volunteer, there was silence. Eventually, friend and dramaturg Carla Rovira stepped in to allow the lights to be tested.

Saying YES is no obligation to continue saying YES. A NO can appear at any moment. A volunteer can accept the invitation and change their mind right afterward. This is not just accepted, it is welcomed. It is part of the conversation to communicate boundaries and to listen to them. It is something to be grateful for.

One of my favourite moments in performing EZ is toward the end, when I lie on the floor and look at the audience’s eyes. Sometimes it takes a while until they understand what the invitation is about, and sometimes it is immediate. I can see it in their eyes. I am hypnotised by their eyes. So they are. Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes we laugh at the absurdity and grotesqueness of the scene. And the negotiation occurs, within themselves, with the others, with me.

Last week, in Prague, after the performance, an audience member in tears said that “philosophers need five books to say what in EZ is made so evident”. Un-hierarchizing the systems of communication. Self-referentiality. Time’s up.

1 Burrows, Jonathan: What would be another word for it? Talk on practice written for DOCH. Stockholm, 2018.

2 Burrows, Jonathan: What would be another word for it? 2018.

3 Coe, Katye: She Dancing. Talk for NottDance. Nottingham, 2017.

Watch the trailer of the performance EZ and the video interview A Catalan Journey.

Cookie Notice

These include essential cookies that are necessary for the operation of the site, for comfort settings or to display personalized content. You can decide for yourself which categories you want to allow. Please note that based on your settings, not all functions of the website may be available.

Cookie Notice

These include essential cookies that are necessary for the operation of the site, for comfort settings or to display personalized content. You can decide for yourself which categories you want to allow. Please note that based on your settings, not all functions of the website may be available.

Your cookie preferences have been saved.