In August I was invited to Thessaloniki for an audition by João Cidade in the framework of the “Pocket Dance Festival“. He had already collaborated with some of my colleagues so I felt like asking them some info about this guy that I only saw his work online back then. I was told that he is portuguese choreographer based in Berlin, I was told about his cleverness, his talent and about being a very kind person but also a demanding one. I discovered all those later in the creation of
“While Others Go Wild # 3“.
During the project the new team had to find each other very quick, so very quickly I realized myself that João had a system to work with his dancers and the project itself. Slowly more and more questions came into my mind about the work and how it all started so after a very long time I thought again
“OK, here I can see an interview coming up.”
Indeed, in the 2nd week of creation I found myself and João sitting there at a so called artistic cafe “ΝΕΟΝ ”, a bit further from our rehearsal space Studio 29A , between some Greek music backround and some bus fuzz having a talk.
And here we go again ,with the first interview after 7 years.
by Barbara Bardaka
Why do you choose dance to implement your ideas?
Dance is something familiar to me and something that interests me a lot, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in other forms of art. I let my ideas dictate how I will develop them, and dance is the first thing that comes to my mind to explore an idea through movement : how this idea interacts with the bodies and how the bodies interact between them. If it doesn’t work I’ll look for another way. Sometimes I have to
wait because I might want to express it in some other way that is currently beyond my reach, for example with an installation or a sculpture. Then I need to know more about these fields before attempting to do so.
What were your first steps in dance?
My first steps weren’t actually in dance. I’ve always had a liking for performing arts but it wasn’t always clear to me what exactly I wanted to do. I remember watching a tv series where students were studying at a performing arts school and I liked that idea, but there was nothing like it in my town. There was only one amateur theatre group. A friend of mine was part of that group and at one point they had a show that he couldn’t attend. He had to find a quick solution, so he asked me to replace him. Without any experience in a week I had to memorise all his lines and marks on the stage. Eventually everything went well so I was asked by the team to stay in the group. That’s how it all started, in my hometown. A few years later, I started a program of afternoon amateur classes where I got in touch with contemporary danceand circus. I had a varied and brief introduction to all these and eventually decided to study performing arts in Lisbon, in a school like from the TV series, but much more interesting!
In addition to dancing, you are involved in tattooing and drawing. How did this come about?
Drawing was something I always did as a kid and I was good at it. Prior to my performance studies and because of my family’s objections, the plan was to study Fine Arts because my parents were convinced that somehow this could lead me to Architecture and therefore make a shitload of money. When I had to choose an educating direction in high school, I wanted to pursue an artistic one, but there wasn’t enough people in my year to open the course, so I had to choose the one of Science, which didn’t work. However, drawing was something I always did over the years. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with it, I was just drawing.
Human contact and body aesthetics are very important things to me and maybe that is why I ended up tattooing. Paint on a canvas is different to paint on a person’s skin. The energy you get is different. Of course if a canvas work is good it automatically returns an energy, but through the body it is much more immediate. I like not always having control but staying in touch with something alive, which can interfere with and alter the work itself.
“While the Others Go Wild” acts as a living organism with changing rates but a consistent idea. How do you manage all the above?
What I love about this project is that I constantly put myself in the process of seeing how I can make this piece better during the changes. There are limitations fuelled by the concept itself. As a choreographer I work in collaboration with dancers in an atmosphere where they are allowed to create within the limitations I set up and then these creations become my own constrains. Finally we all work together to connect things organically. All projects are done in a short period of time with large or small group of dancers where we all connect instantly. From day one we are called upon to open up, which usually takes time in a creative process, but the way this particular project is built enhances direct and very quick connection.
What choreographic system are you developing in this project?
Ideally the choreographic system should be kept secret for those who will be involved in this project later because it is full of surprises! There is a choice between different people in terms of movement, quality and dance background and my goal is to find a way to connect them to each other and to myself. The number of people may be different each time the project takes place but I usually choose around 7 performers.
Initially, I bring some “core” ideas from the original version of the piece that focus on group games to connect the team and later individual tasks in order to bring out each dancer’s personality and their perception of the term ‘collaboration’. So, we work on each idea individually aiming to end up in a form. The result of this process will be my own choreographic restriction which I am forbidden to change. After all, the only solution is to work together for an organic result.
What kind of physicality are you looking for?
I’m looking for the functionality of the movement rather than the beauty of it. The movement I work with starts with my research on the spine and ends up with a fluid sensation but also dense at the same time. Although it often comes from the idea of the liquid element, it carries a heavy sense, something that in my opinion translates into a very powerful quality.
What do the images of “While the others Go wild” describe?
It is important for me to maintain some ambiguity as to the concept. Not all ideas are used in all versions of the piece and some of them are transformed from version to version changing their meaning. For example, in the first version there is the image of two men hugging and breathing onto each other’s mouths and their bodies wrapped in a microphone cable. For me, such an image is very symbolic of communication in relationships, which is a form of collaboration. This is an idea I have used in other versions where the meaning changes radically, but always around the idea of collaboration. For someone else, this picture may mean something different. In the end, it can be just a game between dancers, something that the project is based on: a game where you have to work with others to achieve something. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a “Social Experiment”.
Why did you choose to work on the term “collaboration”?
Zawirowania Dance Theatre had invited me to Warsaw to do a research. There they gave me complete freedom, something that can be extremely dangerous because sometimes you don’t know where to start. I didn’t know the dancers I would meet there so I didn’t know exactly what to do. But I was sure something would come through these people. So during my train journey, I was thinking about what games to
play with them to get to understand them better. I only knew that we had to create something and present it at the end of the research. In addition I would bring my own dancers I already knew and I was curious to see the relationships that would be created. The material that emerged in the early days was so rich that I said “All this is about team interaction and how they work together!” This is how the concept of collaboration began to concern me, how we operate through it, and how each person individually addresses this term.
On the description of the project you mention that we work together to achieve “Something Greater”. What could this be?
This is again ambiguous. It may refer to the concept of communication: through better communication we can create better cooperation or vice versa in order to achieve something . If there is success in cooperation, the result will always be something great, something better. Trying to concentrate on communication and
coexistence people will always understand each other better and eventually we may be led to a better world. Of course I’m not a very optimistic person, so the project also focuses on the fact that we don’t get the best we can because we fail in the way we collaborate.
What are the balances that define “collaboration” in this project?
There are many points of balance in this work. One of them is the balance between success and failure so that the ideas I propose can be expressed as successful or failed collaborations or even something in between. Another form of balance is that one between care and carelessness. Sometimes we treat it as a meaningless game and sometimes as something that really concerns us and this creates a constant
tension in this work.
How does each city where the project is implemented affect the outcome?
The work is built in such a way that the environment automatically influences the outcome. I have some creative process guidelines that allow the dancers to bring in the studio ideas that are inspired by real life. There is a time in rehearsal where I urge them to go out on the street and observe the environment, and this may inspire them to bring in the studio ideas about what we are working on.
I also believe that the energy of the city influences the work. If I work with people who live in this city or travel to work together, they stay in it for at least 2-3 weeks and that’s how we incorporate the city’s vibe. The intense work in the studio and the city vibe comes together and brings a new energy. It is obvious that the energy of the project in Germany is completely different from what I did in Spain and completely different from what I did in Greece. It’s not something I’m looking for but it happen automatically because of the structure of the project.
Fantasies for the future?
YES, more Social Experiments that will lead to creation!
I work very hard not to see choreography as something reoccurring. I want to be honest and open with myself and what I want to do at that moment. I don’t want to work the same way every time because that’s not how my ideas work. I don’t want to say, “I’m João, this is how I work, this is what my work in general is about, this is my aesthetic, and this is how it will stay.” I let the concepts show me the way to how
my work will take shape.
This interview happened in the frame of “Pocket Dance Festival” in Thessaloniki during the period 22nd of August and 12th of September. Thank you for this opportunity to bring us together!
Special Thanks to Maria Papachristodoulou for her help on the Greek editing and her graphic designs on the printed version of this interview and to Bar Groisman for the English supervisoring .