Women Warriors | Rosa Mei

During her artist residency from September 16 to November 8, 2013, choreographer/director and professional martial artist Rosa Mei will produce WOMAN WARRIOR, a time-lapse journey of  female fighters from 3500BC to the 21st century.

Using green screen compositing and keying effects, she will transpose her own martial arts moves onto historical images of woman warriors from prehistory to present day.

Virginia Woolf once wrote, “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”  Throughout history war and fighting have been seen as men’s activities, yet women have always been involved in battles and seiges, not to mention duels, prizefights and so on. Women often took part in battles was when their home, castle or town was attacked. They could be part of a town’s militia on the same basis as their male counterparts. A medieval lady would have expected to take charge of defense of the family lands in her husband’s absence. Noble ladies could also lead armies in the field, both in local conflicts and in expeditions such as the crusades. There were also a few women who were ordinary soldiers or sailors in armies through the ages. Some of them disguised themselves as men, but not all.

Rosa Mei has over 20 year experience in martial arts. She is a US gold and silver medalist, former member of the US wushu team and a black belt in aikido. She is the only female disciple of renowned traditional kung fu master Zhang Xinbin, specializing in Tongbei, based on the movements of a white gibbon. Uniquely suited for this project, Mei specializes in martial arts weapons work (single and double hand swords, spear, short and long staff) which will help in this time-lapse recreation since many of the historical women warriors carried axes and swords.

This project is groundbreaking in two ways. In terms of microaesthetics, the movement vocabulary which Mei has developed (a mix of traditional kung fu and popping/animation dance) comes from disciplines which are highly male dominated. In China, there are practically no female disciples of traditional martial arts and in the world of competitive street dance and funk styles, women are less than 5% of the elite dancers.

Secondly, on a macro level, contextually speaking, this is a feminist topic which has yet to be represented in multimedia format. The WOMAN WARRIOR project is an attempt to make the female fighter distinctly UN-anonymous and historically relevant.