Deborah Colker on Knot: the creative and collaborative process


Posted on

The Inspiration

The greatest inspiration was desire. Desire isn’t a choice, it’s a human condition. We are born desiring and spend our lives trying to learn how to deal with it. We investigated the deepest, most secret, terrible and violent, and also the most delicate, desires which are usually on the tip of our noses. When we approach desire, we get near to the subjects of domination, submission and power relations.

I got choreographically and dramaturgically tied up with the idea of desire. Transforming such deep perceptions into movement was a difficult task. For the first time ever I felt myself growing not only as a choreographer but also as a director. I wanted to search for new ways of moving, with fluency and sexuality.

The Philosophy

When I began the creation process of Knot I felt the company needed to be fueled by some other kind of activity that was not physical. I felt it was important that we study and develop some intelligent activity together. I talked to Flavio, my brother, who told me of Fernando Muniz, a professor of philosophy whose speciality is Greece. I spoke with Fernando and told him I felt tired of energising the dancers through myself alone, and also about the dance’s theme of desire. Through this collaboration I’ve had the opportunity to realise that knowledge makes us human beings better, happier and more capable of expressing ourselves. The company keeps taking philosophy lessons. Studying the Greeks is studying where much of art got its start. Even though I knew our challenge with Knot was aesthetic, philosophy did and still does help a lot.

The Title

During rehearsals we worked with, and without, ropes. All the time I was saying, ‘You’ve got to tie yourselves up…You’ve got to tie each of you to yourselves and to one another.’ It was then that I thought, ‘Knots are the movements of desire.’ In Portuguese the name of the show is Nó (Knot). When we are born the first thing we are given is a name. So a name is very important, whether it’s what we’re going to be called or what a show is called.

The Music

Dance has its own strength and so has music. Sometimes one is working for the other and sometimes they are opposite sides of the same coin, but bound together and making the entire creation more plural. During the creation of my choreography music has some independence. It also works as atmosphere, environment, texture, rhythm and, in Knot, as the dynamics for desire. Berna Ceppas and I created the soundtrack for Knot together. We love each other and fight a lot in our creative processes. In the end we are not afraid of trying things out and making mistakes. He has very good taste as an artist and knows a lot about music. Ultimately he knew exactly what I wanted to communicate to the audience.

The Set

It all took several months of work, trying all the possibilities but always bearing in mind that we should never deviate from our focus of desire. We knew we had to construct a dramaturgy for this space. It is a huge space in which it could be difficult to move. We needed a simple script, intelligent and practical, that expressed exactly what we wanted this show to say. You can’t imagine how much work it took us to find out how to get in and out of the box, or how to deal with 120 ropes on stage!

The Aftermath

Working on Knot since the beginning of 2003 has caused a great change in my life. It was an intense period of sensuality and sexuality, and also of a perception of this sexuality. I believe there was also a change in the physical relation among the dancers afterwards.

I think I went a step forward as a director in conceiving this show. Working on choreography is fundamental to me, but directing is something else. I also believe that this show Knot came from the deepest depths of my being.

Making Space

For me, dance explores and investigates the relation between movement and space. The set is the space; it’s the place where I find new spaces to search for new movements. These spaces bring me questions of mathematics and gravity. Why not search for a new space? Subverting a space means trying new things. I am a choreographer who’s fascinated by provoking spaces, gathering them together with an idea and discovering a new movement language.

Gringo [Cardia] and I have had a partnership since the beginning of my choreography. My work with him has developed through research. Each work leads to another. Our first great question together was the wall in Mix. Why must the stage be horizontal and the dancers on the vertical? Why can’t we change that? Afterwards, in Rota [seen in the UK on a 2004 Dance Consortium tour], we searched for a new kind of vertical stage movement. We experimented with physics, weight and the poetry of the eternal movement of a wheel. Then, in Casa, we looked for more vertical movement with a superimposition of the ground and small spaces that kept changing: walls that turned into ceilings that turned into floors that turned into doors…. Having exhausted the discussion of the vertical, we decided to look for a new horizontal space in which restriction and control were fundamental. The result was the risk and delicacy of the vases in 4 por 4.

After working for two and a half years on Knot I feel I’ve opened a new road. I needed a show which belonged to the world of fetishism but was at the same time related to nature, mankind’s first space ever, and that also suggested the confinement of desire. I needed a space for desire. Here my work with Gringo required a dramaturgy, a philosophical relation with the space. We’ve gathered together a tree of ropes, which is a metaphor for knowledge and desire; at the end of the first act the ropes become an entire forest. With the display box in Act Two I was able to have an urban and nocturnal space.