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illyr and Xavia



illyr is a working class, POC interdisciplinary artist. They explore their experiences in an autobiographical process of insight looking at queer identity, commodification of marginalised bodies and trauma in the wake of bereavement. These themes are realised through music, song, dance, live art, film and theatre with each discipline influencing the other to create multi-faceted pieces inside a larger body of work.


They studied at Rambert and work as a freelancer dancer and choreographer and have performed internationally across fashion, art, music, film and commercials working with Nowness, Dazed, Holly Blakey, Mica Levi, South London Gallery and Goldfrapp.


Xavia is a queer, London based artist, contemporary dancer and a former World Champion Gymnast. Xavia looks at how their past has generated and created false perceptions of reality and how by unfolding their subconscious they can be conscious in a self-created queerphobia. They currently study at LCDS and have worked as a freelance professional dancer for Dazed, Burberry, Gucci and Holly Blakey.




Q: When did you both start the charity fundraiser night ‘DragonT’ and why was it set up?


Xavia/illyr: We were both shocked that young LGBTQIA+ people make up 24% of the homeless youth in Britain and funds and services are still being cut. We wanted to create awareness about the rise of people experiencing homelessness and give back to the queer community in the homeless sector.


Xavia (they/them): Over the past year I’d started getting to know Mark, who was experiencing homelessness near my local station. Spending more time in central London, I became aware of how many people this truly affected. I started working on DragonT and Tylor quickly came on board and we began building our first event. It raised 2k for the Outside Project.


 But DragonT is more than just a night, it’s a confidence, persona, umbrella term to expand...  




Q: How did you start collaborating together on performance art? Could you tell me more about the process involved?


Xavia/illyr: Relationships are the transfer of knowledge and that's what happened when we started dating. It's a relatively new thing. We took mushrooms in Hackney Marshes and started making a film of our 24 hours in quarantine. We dance, we create, we love and we build things together.



Q: You've recently performed together for the ‘Luis De Javier’ runway show, which was choreographed by you illyr. What differences go into programming a performance happening at a night like ‘DragonT’ compared to a fashion show, in what ways do you adapt your outcome?


illyr: I've always worked as a freelance choreographer and dancer. In these instances I feel like it's important to step outside yourself and deliver what is right for the client while falling in the boundaries of what you practice.


It was really great to work for Luis because I got to lean on my Ballroom and Latin training and Lewis’s acrobatic gymnastics and this is something we want to explore more together. ​



Q: How do you both reflect on your own identities and art practices when performing together?   


Xavia/illyr: We feel our identities and worlds have intertwined, it’s been important to create space for us to grow individually and together. The other's presence gives us the courage to try things we wouldn’t do alone.  


In our solo work we have been an eye for each other and inspire each other to finish and take risks. We help one another anyhow how we can.  




Q: Who influences you both? What are you both inspired by?

​Xavia: The human narrative is what influences and inspires me to create. ​I’m fixated on the different perceptions of this reality and the way the individual copes and moves through or against their story. Queer identity has increasingly become more prevalent in what I’m advocating and stimulated by. Assimilating to conventional standards due to systemic homophobia inspired me to search inside myself  and become aware of what moulds I’m still stuck in.



​illyr: My work is an autobiographical process of insight. I create from my own narrative and lean on references to realise it. Whether that's filmmakers, choreographers, singers, photographers. Researching is one of my favourite parts of the process.




Q: And lastly what will be your first moves once the pandemic ends?


illyr: I choreographed the art film that was currently screening at South London Gallery. We had two weeks of development and had planned an event to close this show. We won't be able to do this in the same way but we will be doing this together as soon as we can. As well as our residency with Tutto Questire Sentire in Brussels.


Xavia : My first move will be to integrate the sense of quarantine stillness into a faster pace of life. I’m working on the movement direction for the short film ‘leave me behind’ by illyr, which is still mid-production. Hopefully I’ll be returning to university in September and also collaborating with artists in the flesh.

Published: 10/06/2020 by Queerdirect

Edits by Tamar Clarke-Brown 

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