18 — 21.05.2004
Too Legit to Quit (quintet) / Do popping ao pop ou vice-versa (duo) / Eu e meu coreógrafo no 63 (solo)
English | ⧖ 1h20
Dance is a language spoken by the body with its own lively and chaotic slang. What happens when this slang starts to philosophise, yield to a different theory and ponder on its meaning without betraying itself? An expert in street dance (hip hop and break) from a very young age, Bruno Beltrão was one of its most famous exponents in Brazil before becoming interested in contemporary dance and philosophy. With dancers from his Rio-based Grupo de Rua de Niterói, this young choreographer is bringing three shows to Brussels (a solo, a duet and a quintet) using energy from the street to fire up stories where different "translations" cunningly play with their interpretation. Great fun.
Rio de Janeiro, March 2004,
an interview conducted by e-mail with Bruno Beltrão about his work*
Why have you specifically chosen dance as a means of expression?
Choreography was not something that I chose from the outset. I’d always wanted to make films because I was fascinated by the specifics of cinema: editing, 3D manipulation to create special effects, technology as a fundamental tool of creation and the different new worlds that could be created. From the age of nine I used to “produce” films with my friends at weekends. We wrote scripts, acted, directed, did the lighting and built sets. I wanted to be an actor and be like Steven Spielberg. Then I started going to a club nearby and found that dance offered me completely new possibilities. I got involved gradually and started to see that dance could be a professional option.
After a while, interesting situations began to crop up more frequently, for example travelling or receiving financial support to study dance, which made me continue with dance. It was never the one and only way in which I wanted to express myself, but in time I found that dance could fulfil my fundamental desire. Since discovering philosophy, what motivates me most is thinking, conceptualising and reflecting, categorising, analysing, synthesising, deducing and systematising, delving deep into a subject, looking at it from different angles, putting myself in different positions. It was an important moment for me when I realised that I could do this with dance and, more specifically, with street dance.
But I must confess that I always feel that this can be explained by returning to the strong desire I had originally to make movies.
What did you want to express? What was it that you urgently want to tell?
I think that in all our creations it is possible to perceive that we are investigating our subject from a distance. On stage there is no traditional hip-hop, as we know it. We try to look it from the outside and formulate judgments about it. I believe that we all have – and I don’t know if this is the best term for it – a main structure in our minds that allows each of us to learn and comprehend the world in a specific way. In this very particular way, we translate this information to the body and work out the issues presented. Everyone is interested in different subjects and issues, and the way of dealing with these issues reveals a personal signature.
Maybe I can conclude that more than any specific subject – hip-hop, television, the relationship and coherence between oral syntax and movement – I am looking for a different perspective, a distant overview that reveals internal contradictions and inconsistencies between what is spoken and what is done. I have fun trying to discover these things but I have no idea about how to apply it to life in a broader way.
What is the most important personal baggage you have brought with you from your years of street dance?
I can assume that there is this distance between hip-hop and me today because I was close to it once and involved in it. So the most important baggage was to have experienced it from the inside and been part of its network. The paradigms, the icons, the values, the notions of good and what is appealing in this network were once mine too.
What was the most fundamental discovery you made studying philosophy?
My friend and mentor Roberto Pereira in the Faculdade de Dança Universidade in Rio introduced me to philosophy. I could never have imagined that alongside ‘making art’ it would be an activity with which I have so much in common and to which I dedicate so much time. With Roberto I started discovering its specificities and the discipline it requires. The way philosophy identifies problems and believes there is a possible solution to them is also the way in which I try to get close, find solutions and make decisions and personal, aesthetic, political, social choices, even choices about love! Actually I found out that something that I always liked doing matched a specific way for man to learn and comprehend the world around him. But in fact I only practise philosophy for a short while. Beforehand I had the impression that I was philosophising all the time. Today I know that it is not something you can do full time. It would be unbearable. It is a very delicate place where our perception weakens, our thoughts twist and our foundations are shaken.
Philosophy appears to me like a memo note. When I start believing too much in something, the note shows up transforming everything ahead into a crisis.
To philosophise is to be curious about things and always searching for fundamentals in what you observe. Philosophising keeps us moving, not physically but in a constant intellectual, pleasurable and tiring movement. It is a never-ending conceptual exercise and I believe I am becoming an aficionado at creating and formulating concepts.
How would you define your research through dance?
Since 2001 when we started research with hip-hop, our work has been taking something that is closed and solid, and irrigating it with new kinds of information to achieve results different from those already known. This is an invigorating aspect of our research. Our situation is totally connected to the fact that there is a finished subject and we are trying to understand, analyse and transform it. Through this point of view it is also a research that believes in the meeting between the street and the philosophy and particular aspects of hip-hop dance with what is thought about and researched concerning dance nowadays.
Hip-hop launched a rich and innovative vocabulary. Now we have to bring a crisis into hip-hop. By analysing, distancing and dissecting this vocabulary, I believe that new aesthetic discoveries can be made.
I also identify a way for organising the scene that produces an ironic result most of the time. When putting these objects and values in crisis I realise the ironic way we have of organising them. It’s funny thinking that this is not necessarily a premeditated characteristic, but when I think about it we are questioning and trying to bring crisis to specific situations, beliefs and occurrences through irony.
What was it that you experienced exactly to trigger off the idea behind the creations you will be bringing to Brussels?
Before the duo Do popping ao pop ou vice-versa we had this very strong urge to compose pieces that could give hip hop a new face. But it was just a desire and we didn’t know where to find the right tools to make it happen. I was tired of everything coming from traditional mass means of communication, tired of the superficiality with which things were treated, including hip-hop. My experience at dance school was definitely the main emphasis. A much bigger universe was opened up by it, the net expanded, the references increased for us to breathe more freely. An important example in this duo was my still narrow notion of contemporary dance that allowed me new possibilities of composition for the company. In this duo there is an abuse of repetition, silence and attempts to deconstruct the sentence of street dance. They were familiar resources in dance but not explored within hip-hop.
The solo piece Eu e meu coreógrafo no 63 happened after a few specific experiences. The first was my personal admiration for Eduardo Hermanson’s character “Willow”. His special way of organising his thoughts, his curious and distinct way of moving, his personal issues, some of them quite unusual for a boy of his age, made me continuously question the relationship between all these situations and how life could be transformed into a rich and open dance. We were chatting in a hotel room in São Paulo and I began recording everything he was saying without him knowing and then I put his dance and these words together in the same environment. An experience to try and show the audience how to establish connections between what he does with his body and the way he expresses his ideas in words.
In Too Legit to Quit a new moment was beginning for us. We were already travelling with the solo and the duo and I had the chance of watching Jerôme Bel’s The Show Must Go On. In it I had the opportunity of seeing those elements from the pop world – which bothered me a lot before the duo – organised in a critical, celebrated and humorous way. I wanted to work with hip-hop in the same manner, identifying elements, exposing contradictions. We tried to elaborate a critical position on stage.
How is the performing arts scene organised in your country?
Politically Brazil is living through a transition never seen before. In spite of that, nothing really significant has been done in public cultural policies so far. The main support for the arts is still the programme of tax incentives for private companies. This programme is organised as follows: the government taxes citizens and companies to provide essential services to the population in exchange, such as health, education and security. The programme allows part of these taxes paid by companies to sponsor cultural projects. There is a commission to decide which projects can receive this sponsorship, so artists and producers look for the money for their own pieces. It is indirect cultural support because it allows companies to decide where the money is going. We then have a cultural support system dictated by ‘big wigs’ who are incapable of embracing artistic productions outside the mainstream.
The main question in Brazil now is: who is really receiving this support and using the money? There are two main situations in the country: the extreme regionalism concentrating basically in Rio and São Paulo, and favouring famous artists to fulfil the big companies’ marketing expectations.
In this context other artistic focuses like research and support for up-and-coming creators rarely get any attention. The programme does not differentiate between new and established creators.
Where do you fit in this scene?
Our company is based in Niterói near Rio de Janeiro. Nowadays we are organising professional dancers, teachers and choreographers in the city to build a clear and efficient cultural policy for dance. It’s an attitude we are obliged to have as it rarely comes from political leadership in the arts. In Brazil there is a dominant paradigm disguised in electoral speeches praying that art will be taken care of once issues like hunger, unemployment, health and violence are solved. There are not many political figures who can find a good balance between their ambitions and vanities and a creative and visionary view of culture as a powerful means of social transformation. We now understand the importance of requesting these projects in an organised way because after all we are the ones really interested in an adequate political, economical and physical structure for dance.
What is Rio’s artistic dynamic like?
Still taking this political approach, something very important has happened in Rio. Thanks to a movement by the artistic class, we saw a series of structural achievements in dance in the 1990s that have resulted in a much more dynamic landscape today. Research support, sponsorship for several companies, the Choreographic Centre, “Gesto” magazine and the festival Panorama Rioarte de Dança were practical results of this unstoppable fight by artists like the choreographer Lia Rodrigues who stopped being victims of a difficult political framework in order to assume an active position defending artistic interests.
In your opinion, what role should dance ideally have in contemporary society?
When we talk about dance based on physics and movement, I believe it plays its role of drawing our perception away from the dictatorship of immediate comprehension, short and objective messages and the idea of utility things should have. We live under the paradigm of ideals of satisfaction, facility and utility. It is a characteristic of dance to be able to force new strategies of comprehension not necessarily sustained in the production role normally used to organise contents. The relationship between a spectacle and the audience forces the spectator to learn something specific that only dance can offer.
What do you value most in human nature?
The capacity to learn.
* Thanks to Mariana Beltrão for her invaluable help.
Creatie choreografie & regie : Bruno Beltrão
Research bewegingen & performers/Recherche mouvements & performers/Movements researchers & performers : Ugo Alexandre, Eduardo Hermanson, Eduardo Reis, Alexandra Lima, N.N.
Sound-track/Bande sonore/Soundtrack : Rock Steady Crew, Mc Hammer, James Brown
Choreografen/Chorégraphes/Choreographers : Bruno Beltrão, Rodrigo Bernardi, Marta Nunes
Research bewegingen & performers/Recherche mouvements & performers/Movements researchers & performers : Eduardo Hermanson, Eduardo Reis
Sound-track/Bande sonore/Soundtrack : Bruno Beltrão
Choreografen/Chorégraphes/Choreographers : Rodrigo Bernardi, Bruno Beltrão
Choreografie-assistente/Assistante chorégraphie/Assistant Choreographer : Marta Nunes
Research bewegingen & performer/Recherche mouvements & performer/Movements researchers & performer : Eduardo Hermanson
Sound-track/Bande sonore/Soundtrack : Eduardo Hermanson, Bruno Beltrão
Video/Vidéo : Bruno Beltrão
Regieassistente/Assistante mise en scène/Assistent to the Director : Gabriela Monnerat
Lichtontwerp/Eclairage/Lighting Designer : Renato Machado
Producer/Producteur : Ana de Castro
Design & foto/photo : Thiago Hortala, Bruno Beltrão
Met dank aan/Remerciements à/Special Thanks to : João Marcos Beltrão, Norma Cássia Beltrão
Met de steun van/Avec le soutien de/Supported by : Prefeitura de Niterói, SESC Niterói
Presentatie/Présentation/Presentation : Théâtre Les Tanneurs, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts