Words by Diane Parkes.
São Paulo Dance Company, one of Latin America’s leading dance ensembles, is making its UK and Ireland debut this February. Founded in 2008, SPDC has produced more than 100 classical and contemporary works and performed to more than 900,000 people in nearly 20 countries. Now British and Irish audiences can enjoy their expertise when the company presents a triple bill of contemporary works by some of the world’s leading Spanish and Latin American choreographers.
Artistic director Inês Bogéa is keen to share São Paulo’s electric energy. “São Paulo is a dance company with a very special Brazilian accent,” Inês says. “We have the passion for dance, we have the energy of Brazil and we love to share that with audiences around the world.”
Inés, who was the founding director when the company was created by the Brazilian state government 15 years ago, says music and dance are integral to life in her country.
“Movement and the sensation of dance is so much a part of our culture, we celebrate life through dance,” she says. “We dance around the kitchen when we are cooking, we dance at a party with our friends, we dance because we are happy and we also dance when sometimes we are sad.
“I think we bring our culture inside our body, it’s impossible for us to express ourselves without body movement. For instance, if you were to say hello to someone in Brazil, normally without knowing each other, we hug each other. And we talk with gestures and movement.
“We have a temperature which is hot, we have sun for most parts of the year, and I think this affects our emotions.”
And she says São Paulo, which is Brazil’s largest city, brings an added dimension.
“São Paolo is a very big city, there are people from all around the world. We have different cultures inside our city and I think São Paulo Dance Company reflects these different ways of living and ways of seeing our world.”
The tour features a triple bill – Anthem by Spanish choreographer Goyo Montero, Gnawa by Spain’s Nacho Duato and Agora by Cassi Abranches, who was born in São Paulo and has recently choreographed part of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Black Sabbath – The Ballet.
“The three works talk about rituals in different ways,” says Inês. “Anthem looks at how we are connected through a common purpose that leads us to recognise ourselves as the same group. Gnawa talks about the rituals of people who live in the North of Africa and their connections with the natural world. And in Agora we are talking about time, memories and the reverberation of Brazilian dance.
“In the programme that we are bringing to the UK, the choreographers are trying to reflect on stage what we are all feeling in this moment of our lives. They create a unique world through the movements, the connections with the music and the images that they evoke.”
Inês has been keen to work with both Brazilian and international choreographers, bringing new ideas and ways of expression to the company.
“As a director I try to be connected with our world and make the company interesting for the dancers, for the team and of course for the audience,” she explains. “We create at least two pieces from Brazilian choreographers each year. It is important for our artform to have a dialogue with our people. So we need to open a space to listen and devise ways of showing how we see the world.
“And I also invite some foreign choreographers to make work for us as I think this is another way for the company to be learning from other experts. Normally the choreographers say that our company is very open to this dialogue and the dancers are interested and understand the different languages and movements that the choreographers propose for us.
“In our dancers, I’m looking for individuality and the capacity to express themselves through dancing. Of course, the technical skill is important but I think it’s more important to want to share your ideas through dancing.”
Inês first began training as a dancer at 13, having previously been a top child gymnast and practised the Brazilian martial art capoeira. She has toured the UK with Brazil’s Grupo Corpo in the past but this is the first time she is bringing São Paolo Dance Company to the UK and Ireland.
“I have very good memories of when I danced in Britain with Grupo Corpo,” she recalls. “We were there for five weeks and the audiences were very warm. I hope that on this tour the audiences enjoy themselves and feel connected with the energy, emotions and beauty of the dancers.
“An audience is a very important part of a performance. We can feel the energy of the audience from the first step on the stage.”
The 14-venue tour is presented by Dance Consortium, a group of 19 venues across the UK and Ireland who have come together to bring leading contemporary dance companies from across the globe to local audiences.
And Inês is keen to experience the towns and cities where São Paulo Dance Company will be performing.
“I am curious about all of the places we are visiting,” she says. “This is a world to discover together and it’s good that we can also learn a little bit about UK culture and how life is there.
“We are open to sharing ideas and sensations and we aim to meet people and understand different ways of looking at our world and our time. So we are looking forward to showing audiences a little bit of our culture and, through the dance, we will all feel the energy of Brazil.”
A 14-venue Dance Consortium tour of Ireland and the UK opens at Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin on 5 & 6 February, comes to Sadler’s Wells, London on 9 & 10 February and tours until 23 March. More information here: https://danceconsortium.com/touring/sao-paulo-dance-company/
Header image by Iari Davies.