Does a choreographer’s relationship with dancers have anything to do with punishment and reward?
I believe the fundamental idea in the relation between a choreographer and a dancer is discipline. To me discipline is a form of freedom, not punishment. Discipline is a system of creative possibility. The responsibility for a work happens on two sides, the dancers’ and the choreographer’s. It can be a passionate relationship. I’m a choreographer who is moved and inspired by passion. There are periods when certain dancers don’t inspire me or provoke that passion, and it’s hard. I know they suffer, and so do I. But I have the discipline to pay attention to it, to understand what is happening to me and leave it for a period. If I am patient with this passion that sometimes gets cold, I can work on it so it comes back. We have to bear the responsibility of being aware of what’s happening and change it, and to have the fundamental understanding that when we deal with art, and with dance, we deal with discipline, technique, personality and creativity altogether at the same time.
What do you currently look for when hiring a dancer, and how has that changed since you began making work?
I’m becoming more demanding and strict regarding technique. The more technical command a dancer has, the more possibilities I’ll have to explore movements and ideas in and with that dancer. Of course a dancer’s personality, creativity and physical condition is also important. Even if you want someone just to walk on in a scene, later on you might need them to do millions of other things. So you’ve got to look for someone who can do millions of things, but who can also simply walk.
What does it feel like to have your work as a choreographer seen by a paying audience?
It doesn’t really matter to me if it’s a paying audience or not. I prepare my work thinking of the audience and with a responsibility towards them. Whether they pay or don’t pay, they have the same right to keep an interaction and a communication with what’s being said on stage.
The function of art is to promote discussion and change. As a choreographer I always think that there are various sorts of hunger in the world, a concrete hunger which makes people need to eat, an intellectual hunger which makes them seek knowledge, and a hunger that unites knowledge, emotion and the possibility of freedom, of being a human being that has an extraordinary life linked to beauty and strangeness. That’s the function of art. When we prepare a show and some individual ‘buys’ it, it creates a relationship between those who pay to watch it and us who are doing the work. That’s very nice. I like it that each of those who’ve paid have a right upon what they watch.
What does it feel like to dance on a stage in front of a paying audience?
I feel very well about it. It’s my job. It’s very good that someone recognises enough value in your work to pay to see it. Art has always had this functional aspect of a job. It’s important to keep this always possible.
'Pleasure can have many layers. Its depth and capacity to be intense depends on the level of conscience behind it, and on a person’s capability to control things and the ability to understand and handle the knowledge that comes with it.'
How sexual or perhaps the word is sensual a society is Brasil?
I believe it is both, maybe due to the heat and the geography, maybe due to dance and music. Brazilians are very hot, spicy people, but I guess the question of sex and sexuality in the world is very confusing right now, and even a bit vulgar and boring. People are identified by their sexuality: ‘Who are you?’ ‘I’m gay.’ ‘I’m a man’ or ‘I’m a woman.’ That’s not very good.
What kind of perceptions did you, as a Brazilian, grow up with about sex, love and desire?
They always came mixed up and tied together. I feel that people are more important in a relationship, or in relation to someone or something, than merely for what they are sexually.
What kind of society have you created onstage in Knot?
When I began to work on the theme of desire I found myself facing the subject of domination relationships: the one who dominates and the one who is dominated. I was looking at the relations between power, ambition and the strength of human beings. These are terrible, fascinating and delicate relations. The contract between them must be clear and made by the conscience, with a deep knowledge of one’s self. Human laws and the laws of life need to be established; a new ethic needs to be thought about, an ethical decision or a decision of values, of what is right and wrong, of what should and can be done. As I started to think about all of this I began to develop a philosophical relation with dance. I realized that humans are philosophical beings, who constantly think and re-think their values and their possibilities in life. These are some of the thoughts behind Knot.
What special understanding do you, as an artist involved in dance, have of the body and the relation between body and mind?
The body is our instrument to connect and communicate with what’s inside and outside of us. Of course we understand mind as thought, as the part of the body that acquires intellectual knowledge. But all bodies can and should be intelligent bodies that think, provoke and feel emotions, make choices and determine things.
What are your thoughts on pleasure and pain?
Pleasure to me is linked to knowledge, control and conscience, just as pain is. Many times we hear from our parents that growing up has its aches and pains. To change from childhood to adolescence to adulthood is painful. Even the growth of the bones and the stretching of muscles causes pain. But it’s pain with profits and losses, an important and signifying pain with an important and signifying result.
The same applies to pleasure. Pleasure can have many layers. Its depth and capacity to be intense depends on the level of conscience behind it, and on a person’s capability to control things and the ability to understand and handle the knowledge that comes with it. I believe art deals a lot with these two aspects, pain and pleasure. Art talks all the time about control, of emotions, sensibility, form, space. This results in pleasure and obviously in pain, too.
Who has the power in Knot?
In the domination relationships we establish in Knot, it is both those who dominate and those who are dominated who share the power of conscience and assent. In Knot we deal with sex, body, mind, art, sensibility, knowledge and memory, and with showing human beings who intend to relate with depth to the world. The power is with the ones who ride this road with intelligence, freedom, emotion and pleasure. But ultimately it is art itself that has the power, because Knot is a dance show. It’s the aesthetic result of the extraordinary possibilities for life, ethics and revolution we are talking about through the medium of dance.
Is Knot strictly a dance for adults or can children see it too?
For sure kids can and should see it. The world in its exhibitionism, on newsstands, in the streets, in movies, on TV, is much more disorganised in terms of information and aesthetic knowledge for kids. Kids have a free imagination without perceived limits. Knot works and contributes to their imagination in a positive and constructive way.
Did you talk to your children about sex?
It’s never been something mandatory. In modern times families break up. I separated from the father of my two children, Clara and Miguel, fifteen years ago and have since related to other people. It’s about living the sexuality, not necessarily talking about it. I’ve never been someone who keeps talking about sex. Instead I let sexuality and eroticism be a part of my life. I’ve always liked physical contact. Humans breathe sexuality all the time. With both Miguel and Clara both, during their childhood and adolescence, I was very relaxed about sex. If in a movie, on TV or even in a book we came across a sex scene we talked about it because it’s part of the world. Nowadays we talk more and more about it. We see the possibility of sex and sexuality in the world more and more today. Both heterosexuality and homosexuality are very much discussed by the young generations, and I take part in that with my children.
'I always think that there are various sorts of hunger in the world - a concrete hunger which makes people need to eat, an intellectual hunger which makes them seek knowledge, and a hunger that unites knowledge, emotion and the possibility of freedom, of being a human being that has an extraordinary life linked to beauty and strangeness. That’s the function of art.'