In Spanish their name translates to "female fox" or "vixen," but for alt/art trio Zorras, the meaning is pure performance magic. Whether it’s the words of spoken artist Sandra Alland, the intricate guitar work of Y Josephine, or the mesmerizing video images created by Ariada Battich, Zorras lives up to its foxy namesake with stories ripe with sexuality, gender and sly humour.
Sandra Alland (left) and Y Josephine are Zorras.
The trio is as much creative conduit as it is mutual admiration society. Alland and Josephine became ardent supporters of each other’s work while sharing the bill at an Edinburgh performance festival in 2007. “It’s funny,” says Alland, an Xtra contributor and former Torontonian now living in Edinburgh, “we approached each other immediately with the same idea that we’d like to work together.”
The duo quickly graduated from combining their previous works to co-creating pieces that highlighted each woman’s artistic strengths. A Zorras performance embraces collaboration, giving each member equal time in the spotlight – a rarity in any creative partnership.
As their spoken word and music combination grew, so did Alland’s desire to add a visual element to Zorras’s shows. Enter Ariadna Battich, an Italian-Argentine video artist who completed the multimedia triumvirate.
“Our aim is to have all three elements working together,” Alland says. “A lot of the time with visuals, people just put some eye-candy in the background. For us, sometimes the video gets to solo, just like a musician would.”
Alland’s spoken word reminds me of Meryn Cadell circa 1990, her warm and musing voice rising and falling through stories like "20 Seconds Difference." The piece mourns the former vibrancy of reckless youth – things like smuggling avocados out of (UK grocery chain) Tesco in one’s underpants. “She was all smashed glass and swing dancing,” Alland intones. “When she ordered at the chippy, they went silent, dreaming of exotic vegetables. Not deep fried.”
Josephine’s guitar work pays homage to her Venezuelan roots and runs from delicate plucking to frenetic strumming as it keeps perfect pace with Alland’s adept storytelling. It’s a fantastic combination that makes for compelling listening of their 2009 CD We Apologize for Any Inconvenience.
Even as the group tackles issues like homophobia, racism and misogyny, they manage to keep a strong thread of humour running through their show, which ranges from wry and ironic to laugh-out-loud funny. And there’s also plenty of sexy stuff in these vixens’ act.
“The word zorras is also used quite a lot to mean slut,” says Alland, laughing. “If you Google it, you’ll find quite a lot of porn as well as poetry. But poetry and porn is a good combo, really.”