Dance Forum in Vitória, Brazil
By Eluza Maria Santos
On September 10th, 11th, and 12th, 2010, the dance community of the state of Espírito Santo (ES) gathered in the capital, Vitória, for the first Fórum ES de Dança. The event was held at Escola de Teatro e Dança FAFI, with a diverse crowd that, from the official opening of the event, promised to be completely engaged and interested in addressing dance issues through round tables, work groups, and performances. The event also included guest speakers and performers from other states in order to discuss dance in ES within a broad perspective. I had the pleasure to be invited to write an “analysis” of the entire forum—my observations of the event, as an artist and scholar—to be included in the proceedings. Here, I share the most poignant of my observations with all of you.
I have to admit that I had never seen such a large and diverse group—both in terms of history (from the youngest to the oldest) and representation (from samba and hip-hop to classical ballet) — gathered in a professional meeting in Vitória. And it became apparent throughout the course of those three days, that the different dance genres represented at the forum needed more openness for, or more acceptance of, the different types of dance as a legitimate form of contemporary dance and performing arts in general. For those in attendance, dance as part of the performing arts encompasses a wide range of movement forms, and “discrimination” should be avoided. But such is not always the case. One of the hip-hop dancers even asked: why don’t ballet schools come to our performances?” Silence was the answer.
The need to understand diversity in dance led me to use the following metaphor for the discussions during the forum: queremos um caldeirão de dança, não uma panelinha (we want a big pot of dance, not a little pan). In Portuguese, panelinha is a popular, slang term for “the few privileged ones.” And discussions around this theme were enriched by the outside guests. Alejandro Ahmed (from Santa Catarina, a state in the south of Brazil), who was the guest for the round table “Dance and its New Challenges,” delighted the participants with his points of view. For him, technique alone produces “mediocre” dance because there is a lot more that goes into the art of bodily movement. He likes to combine the different arts, such as theater, music, literature, etc. in his works. His company right now is comprised of physical educators, actors, and gymnasts.
I am honored to be able to say that I also contributed positively to discussions of this kind. People were intrigued by the fact that I work with two companies, one here in Vitória (Companhia de Artes Eluza Santos) and the other in the United States (Latina Dance Project). However, they thoroughly enjoyed knowing that these two companies include mature artists who have a variety of expertise. In terms of maturity, the youngest artist working with me now is in her mid forties; the oldest one is a grandmother who is actually featured as a soloist in my most recent piece. As for their areas of expertise, they include dance, theater, music, physical therapy, rhythmic gymnastics, video technology, and sociology among others. Comments on this diversity were stimulating since they led the discussions to focus on inclusivity in contemporary dance.
“The Body in Contemporary Art” was also addressed at the forum. Here, too, expanding and diversifying were hot issues. Thoughts on established dance techniques, the body and the intellect, and genuine movement were shared among the participants. Again, what everyone was claiming for was “space” for (and maybe acceptance of) the different ways in which the body can be explored in today’s dance world.
In my point of view, the most beautiful example of this was provided by the guest artist Rui Moreira (from Minas Gerais, a state to the west of Espírito Santo). As the main speaker for the round table on the theme of the body, Rui revealed that the place to search for creativity and originality is within oneself. In this way, the dance techniques available today often feel very far away from him as an artist. He is an African-Brazilian man; he lives in Brazil, and has to do things the Brazilian way. Therefore, his body “dances” what he is—he cannot do it any other way. When he performed at the evening concert, his words were exemplified in his dancing. He was clear in his movements, strong, magnetic, and very theatrical in his performance (which included an improvised text). He, indeed, seemed to have searched within himself to find the movement vocabulary for the work. That vocabulary reminded us of elements of Brazilian popular culture –groundedness (like capoeira), intricate foot work and hip isolations (like many Brazilian popular dances)—yet only Rui could perform those movements the way he did. The moments were genuinely his own.
The forum lasted only three days, but I hope the ideas generated from the event—written as a formal document explaining the needs of the dance community in Espírito Santo—can trigger more interest from the state and federal government. This interest, in turn, should bring lasting support for the art of dance in an all-inclusive way, contributing to its growth. We do know that the proceedings will be sent to the state and federal government—State Secretary of Culture and Ministry of Culture, respectively. We’ll cerainly expect actions on their parts.