afternoon dust

dance & aesthetics, mostly

Ideal, and remote: Interview with Daniel Abreu


'Perro' by Gabriel Vasquez (Creative Commons Licence)

“You had leaned over the still pool of some Greek woodland and seen in the water’s silent silver the marvel of your own face. And it had all been what art should be–unconscious, ideal, and remote.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, quoted in the programme notes for Cie. Daniel Abreu’s Equilibrio

The stage is full of trees. They stand tall, ancient and immobile, or maybe swaying a little. But are they trees, or are they people? Or perhaps microphone stands? A woman slowly prowls on all fours, hunting. A woman rushes in, looks around, hunting. And what is that sublime music?

This is George Balanchine’s Serenade (1935). Or maybe it is Cie. Daniel Abreu’s Equilibrio (2010). This is the beginning, or the end. A journey through nature, or a becoming nature, an already-being nature. A cerebral animal. A migratory bird. Something human, or perhaps not.

Serenade states its case plainly, but there is something about Equilibrio that seems to fall into muteness, like the mute stare of a dog, a silence that conceals the world. A world that is always just a little bit further on, through the trees, a rustling of leaves, a perfect balance, a perfect equilibrium.

Afternoon Dust: A lot of your work seems to concern animality — animal movements, animal behaviours. What interests you about this way of thinking? Do animals dance?

Daniel Abreu: We are animals with a big capacity to think, this is one of the main differences and of course it is something that everybody knows. But when I think in bodies, I am thinking in movements, so I don´t find any difference between animals or persons. We are moving by instincts too. And this is what I am interested in. All my work is based on psychological issues, and the best way to explain all the concepts that I am interested in is to go to the basic ideas, to the simple world, to simple movements. This is why all my work could seem to concern animality.

In the animal world there are many suggestive ideas and movements for the dance world.

Everything and everyone is dancing. We are moving all the time, we only need the intention, and the intention lies not only with the ones who are moving, [but also with those] who are watching — if you want to see something dancing, you will see it. It is a nice entertainment: listen to music and look at all around you as a choreography… you could discover a new familiar world.

AD: There’s a lot of spoken text in Equilibrio, but rather than explain what is going on, the words seem to add more mystery, to bury meaning even deeper. How do you approach the use of text in your work?

DA: This piece, Equilibrio, is one of my favourite works, because it has more of a psychological story than normal. The dancers are talking about what they desire, about dreams or nightmares, about things that happened in the past…

The texts are not trying to explain the scene, they are telling you that there’s something more to what you see on stage. They are talking about what we need to be happy, and when we try to speak about happiness, if we try to do it in a deep way, we will never find the words or the feelings… this is why I use the texts in this piece. Maybe to talk about happiness we have to speak about our past, or our future, we could give ideas about what it could be, but it is very difficult to find the appropriate words.

We had performed this piece with the text in English, but finally we decided to do it in Spanish, because the idea of the text is in the images. I am not interested in telling a simple story, I am trying to find a way to connect with a sense of balance, of happiness, the rich and the poor world, the scarcity and the abundance…

The piece starts by showing pictures about a silly world, someone who needs a cat to be happy, and the piece finishes with the idea of a tiger or a cat, looking for something to eat or to be free…

AD: You often use nudity in your work. Does it bother you when people read your pieces as being only concerned with eroticism?

DA: It doesn’t bother me when people think of my pieces as erotic dance works, although I don´t want to sell them as such when it is not true. I do not do porn or erotic dance and I don´t know how to do it.

I don´t use nudity in that way, and if I did use it like that you wouldn´t have to imagine it, I would tell you in a straight way. When the audience go to see my work, I can´t control what people have in their heads, and of course, if they see something erotic, they talk more about that than about my work.

The big problem is when all these questions turn into fights, whether we are erotic or not or whatever, and I don´t want to fight about these kind of things.

The body is what we are and for me my only intention when I show a naked body is to show a beautiful naked body, with a lot of respect for the dancer, for the audience and of course for my work. When I decide to create a scene without clothes it is because the meaning or the argument is stronger than when we do it dressed.

I ask why people fear the naked. Every day all of us have a shower without clothes, and nothing happens. We touch our bodies and nothing strange happens. We love bodies and we work with bodies, there is no other intention than to show what we are doing, dance.

The skin is very important in my work, and this is what I aim for.

AD: What issues or concerns do you think the dance community need to be talking about at the moment, in Spain and internationally?

DA: I am sorry I don´t like this kind of question… I prefer not to give my opinion on this kind of thing.

Thank you, Daniel!

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