Tilde Björfors and Cirkus Cirkör’s production Epifónima finds its inspiration in women’s voices, endeavors, ways of creating and organizing themselves. Its role models range from the goddess Ishtar, via Hildegard of Bingen, the Beguine movement and the Swedish cultural digest R to today’s activists such as Fatemeh Khavari and Tarana Burke. We want to highlight and honor the courage and values necessary to bring about change. In humble admiration, we link ourselves to the long chain of women who have paved the way to where we are today, affording us the opportunity to look toward the future.

Epifónima, which means ”exclamation” in Greek, is a natural extension of Tilde Björfors’ recent productions Borders, Limits and Movements, all centered around the themes of boundaries, limitations and migration.

”In my practical as well as my artistic work with boundaries, it has become increasingly clear to me that the next step, what’s necessary in order to tackle the challenges facing the world, is for us to lift up and make use of the values that are traditionally regarded as ”female” , and that currently command a low status”. 

Tilde Björfors

”Clearly, we have already witnessed the havoc that war wreaks and the deadlock it leads to! In this production, we want to explore what happens if we break up the traditional hierarchies, think in circles rather than right angles, look one another in the eye instead of up and down, walk side by side rather than single file.  

Tilde Björfors

The right to a voice

The production’s music will be composed by Rebekka Karijord, who previously wrote the music for Cirkus Cirkör’s Wear it like a crown. The composition will primarily build on rhythms and women’s voices that Rebekka has gathered from the four corners of the earth and that will be blended with the ensemble’s own voices.

Epifónima produceras i samarbete med Östgötateatern och skapas både i Cirkörhuset i Alby samt i residens i Norrköping i aug/sept 2018

Role models

1The goddess Ishtar (aka Inanna) A mythical figure of ancient Mesopotamia . She is a complex, composite creature who represents war, aggression and the thirst for power, but also symbolizes love and erotic allure.

2Hildegard of Bingen (1198–1179) Abbess of two monasteries – Disibodenberg and Rupertsberg – in what is today Germany. Hildegard is the central mystic of the Middle Ages. She collected her visions in the book Liber Scivias and also composed music that continues to be played to this day. Hildegard was the first women whose authority allowed her to travel and preach around Europe and who acted as a counsellor to both queens and emperors.

3The Beguine Movement A religious movement of women who lived in non-hierarchal communities. They did not reside in traditional convents, but in cities where they were self-sufficient and also handled many municipal social functions, such as aiding the poor and sick. Because of their resistance to the Christian Church’s traditional structures, they were persecuted and in some places banned entirely.   

4Swedish cultural digest R (1970-2010) a Swedish socio-political culture magazine owned by four Swedish social advocacy organizations (RFHL, RSMH, Krum, Alro) involved in mental health issues, addiction and crime. Investigative journalism was the magazine’s hallmark, showcased in theme issues published about five times per year its.

5Fatemeh Khavari Initiator and spokesperson for Ung i Sverige (Young in Sweden) which, among other things, lead 2017’s sit-in to stop Sweden’s deportations to Afghanistan. Fatemeh’s struggle for refugee rights, as well as her choice to respond to hatred with love, has inspired children and young people far beyond Sweden’s borders.

6Tarana Burke American activist who advocates for the rights and well-being of young women. In 2006 she initiated the online campaign #MeToo in order to draw attention to the sexual harassment of women. In the fall of 2017, #MeToo exploded into a worldwide movement, spurring millions of women to tell the stories of what they had been subjected to.

Creative team and ensemble

In Epifónima the ensemble will work across boundaries as co-creators together with the creative team behind the production.  The performance is an all-embracing artwork created by everyone involved.

Lisa Angberg, handstand, contortion
Eirini Apostolatou,  acrobatics, dance
Jonna Bergelin, costume design
Kajsa Bohlin, akrobatik, roue cyr
Tilde Björfors, director
Marta Forsberg , sound design
Susanna Hedin, Lumination of Sweden, lighting design
Joel Jedström, set design
Rebekka Karijord, composer
Sarah Lett, roue cyr
Kajsa Lindgren, sound design
Lucie Maisha N'Duhirahe, aerial acrobatics
Ashtar Muallem, acrobatics, silks
Jesper Nikolajeff, set design
Fanny Senocq, set design
Karolina Wojtowicz, chinese pole, hair hanging

A word from the director

Less than 100 years have passed since women in Sweden were given the right to vote. Indeed, in our ensemble, there are women who still do not have voting rights in their homelands. Thanks to centuries of struggle, it is now possible for us to bring to life this production with an essentially all-female creative team, and it is our great pleasure to share it with you.

In my and Cirkör’s work with risks/possibilities, boundary crossing and migration, it has become clear to me how often women are responsible for carrying things forward long-term. Out of this realization grew our desire to create a show inspired by the ways in which women have succeeded in driving and building societal functions. Throughout history, from the Beguine movement via Hildegard of Bingen to Sweden’s feminist Group 8 (founded in 1968), there is a common theme, a shared view of leadership as a central organizing principle rather than the patriarchal pyramid.

When MeToo erupted like a volcano of bottled up anger, it became even more evident how much baggage both the body of society as well as our individual bodies had been lugging around. This intensified our work. We want change. NOW! Thus, while we were busy creating this production, we were equally occupied with HOW we were making it happen. Could we break apart built-in hierarchies and structures? For us, the work process had become as important as the show itself. I had two lists that I checked every night*. More or less every day I found that I had both failed and succeeded in my scrutiny, but if we are to rise to the challenges facing our times, we must own that the methods we have used thus far have not worked. It is high time for us to lift up those values that currently command a low status, both in our wallets, society and politics.

Every privilege and opportunity that I have today was made possible by those who came before me. Not long ago, women were not allowed to vote and other women, from the wrong social class, were prohibited from wearing coats with silk linings. Not a single change would have been possible without struggle. Welcome!

Epifonima Manifesto

(Developed by the ensemble during labs and rehearsals)

  • The desire for change. Both small changes and big picture – personal, organizational, structural. No clinging to things –– but rather letting go! Understanding that everything is mutable even when it feels as if history is repeating itself. Change begins within each of us.
  • Don’t look away /react/act.
  • See your own greatness/claim space/do not belittle yourself. Use all of your potential and power.
  • Make space for others/never diminish anyone else/offer support. Celebrate those who came before you and those who are working here and now.
  • Never give up! Keep striving! The women’s movement is a spiral, each generation takes the struggle one step further/up. Even when there are setbacks and we move backward, we are moving forward.
  • Together/side by side/helping one another/eye to eye.
  • Everything is connected/part of the whole/ cause and effect – long-term values.

Tilde Björfors, Professor of Contemporary Circus, Cirkus Cirkör’s Creative Director and one of its founders.