Up a Wall
SPA brings Deborah Colker’s Mix to Houston
Society for Performing Arts brings Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker performing their signature work, Mix, on October 12 at Jones Hall. In Mix, an enormous wall becomes a second floor as her über-strong dancer/athletes carry out Colker’s imaginative movement on the vertical plane.
Houston audiences may know the Brazilian dance maverick from OVO, her insect-inspired Cirque du Soliel show. As the first Brazilian artist to win London’s prestigious Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, Colker has distinguished herself as an innovative pioneer in the use of set design and movement. Colker visits with A + C editor Nancy Wozny on Mix and more.
A + C: Can you give us an idea of how the seeds for dancing on a wall came about?
Deborah Colker: I have a huge fascination for relating movement and space. A new space provides new movements; a new space demands the search for a new body. I wanted to subvert this order in which the space is horizontal and the dancers move vertically, to create a new physical order. From the conquest of verticality, we found a new path to dance.
A + C: What can you do on a wall that you cannot do on the floor?
DC: The laws are different. The breathing is different, as well as the relationship between balance, weight and strength. Classical ballet helps a great deal. Yet, the wall also demands a different use of our attention, precision, a new look to the movement.
A + C: How do the dancers use the wall differently than a floor?
DC: The concentration and the discipline necessary for the wall doesn’t allow for a second of distraction. Any hesitation and you are on the floor. We need the strength, but at the same time we need the details of the movements. Nothing can be done in excess. The perfect measure is the quest. The wall demands a different kind of attitude as well. We also need to have arms as strong as the legs and an abdomen as strong as the buttocks.
A + C: The dancers resemble insects in Mix, which is quite wonderful.
DC: We can think of many small creatures: crickets, lizards, fleas, ants, even spiders. And why not mention butterflies?
A + C: What kind of strength are you looking for in dancers?
DC: I look for a dynamic strength, it means strength from the muscles, from the joints, the breathing, being really careful not to confuse strength with tension. We need an explosive strength, but we also need a controlled and concentrated strength.
A + C: Can you describe the daily training regime?
DC: We work for about eight hours a day. We have ballet and contemporary class, and then we work with the movement repertory of the company, from the newer to the older pieces.
A + C: OVO was a huge hit in Houston. Did Mix lay the groundwork for that piece?
DC: Actually Guy Laliberté, the owner of Cirque Du Soleil, was greatly delighted with my wall and came to me because of it. The theme for the piece was nature, and I chose the world of the insects. Other pieces of mine also served as inspiration for OVO. My movement concepts and the relation between space and movement are present in OVO. I started working on it in 2007, and it took over two years to complete. All my research and my artistic ideas had an influence on OVO.
A + C: What intrigues you about using a set?
DC: A set for me is a place. It’s never ornamental. It’s a space to be conquered and, preferably, full of intentions and metaphors, besides physical achievements, which lead us to discover new paths.
A + C: How do you keep the focus on the movement and not the set?
DC: Very often I keep the focus only on the movement, very often, on the relation between movement and space. The space has to be at the service of my ideas.
A + C: Circus and dance are art forms that have been playing with each other since the early days of both. Do you see yourself more in the dance world, the circus world, or in between?
DC: I belong to the world of dance. I built this world, but I like to dialogue with other worlds and other techniques.
October 12, 2012
Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker