The transforming power of arts through the eyes of our collaborators
"Art is revolution."
Q&A with Gisele Calazans
“It's where you can touch people, not necessarily through reasoning – it can come through the pores and make you reflect about something that until then wasn’t in your radar.”
You’ve been invited by the director Natália Mallo for the artistic residence MayBe, with the Glasgow based ballet dancer and choreographer Marc Brew, to create a performance in five days. How was this first encounter? Were you apprehensive?
I was super tense and very instigated by the possibility of working with someone that had a condition for dancing which I had never worked with, a disability. I did some research about him and his work and I was impressed with the things he choreographed. I could see he was grand, a great creator. I got apprehensive for realising he was a guy of big productions, he directs a classic ballet company… I thought "my God!" I have a different dance background, a very different path from these big ballet companies. But meeting him was incredible, he is super nice, generous and there was empathy straight away. Everything was very organic, very collaborative, nothing was imposed.
You also did the residence Remember When within Unlimited. Were there any technical difficulties, for the fact that Marc has a stronger formation in classic ballet, plus being in a wheelchair, whereas you are better known for improvisation?
All of my apprehension fell apart in our first meeting. Despite of our different in training backgrounds, the circumstances of his life, the accident he suffered in his 20’s when he was already a ballet-dancer and the decision to continue to dance, gave him an amazing ability to produce work with a certainty that everything is possible. There wasn’t any barriers, on the contrary. He told me that after he lost his movement from the waist down, he wasn’t attentive to what he couldn’t do anymore, but to what he could do. Our conversation was a lot more about exploring big possibilities of compositions and not about difficulties.
MayBe is about the relationship of a couple. Did the fact that he is a ballet dancer in a wheelchair affect your perception of the narrative, or of him as a character?
What impressed me the most was that sometimes I would even forget he had a disability. He is a choreographer, a creator that has a clear notion of space in a very planned way. It ended up being such a wonderful dynamic that the subject of disability was the least important one; in fact it created a need for attention to certain details, so at certain moments I had to be aware of my movements so his legs wouldn’t get stuck in the chair, for instance, or to give a counterweight on the legs if I felt like he was going to lose balance. I had to be mindful of the lower part of his body for the scene to happen in a fluid way. Yet this has never been a limitation, it’s just a new element. This conception of disability as a limitation is completely social stigma. These so-called limits are in the eyes of the beholder because the possibilities are out there, really. I think everything depends on opportunity.
How did your work benefit from this exchange with the United Kingdom?
In many ways. One was this, becoming more aware and more sensitive to humanity, seeing how we are backwards regarding certain things. Besides attending Unlimited, which was a big opportunity, it opened a human and social outlook for me regarding disability issues. We don’t seem to be aware that people with disabilities don’t coexist with us, they don’t go to the theatre, there aren't even proper sidewalks for them. How do they make friendships, work together, if they people don’t have access to places, if they are excluded from common spaces? We forget they exist, but they are there. And realising there is a platform like Transform which discusses this in an artistic way is amazing, it opened new opportunities for me. I know think about accessibility and its resources when creating a spectacle, in a very pleasant way. I am very grateful for this partnership.
What do you think were your contributions in this exchange?
What a difficult question… I think that the organic aspect of my creation, this quality of a less formal movement. Marc comes from classic ballet, of a strict technique, the design, the shape, and maybe my contribution has been to humanize the shaping of our movements in an organic, emotional way.
Was there a moment or a situation during the projects that moved you or impressed you the most?
The impact over the audience impressed me a lot. People get really emotional, very touched, and you realize how important that is. Thinking of the subject of accessibility is more common in the United Kingdom, but not in Brazil. People get very impressed to see a ballet dancer so alive, creating, in such a complete way, so hard-working. This moves people quite a bit, makes them think ‘what am I doing with my life, why am I not moving, not going after the things I want?’. Marc knows he has an important role on this, he moves people, and makes them realize there isn’t a limit for what they want to be.
How did this experience with Unlimited transform you?
It transformed me in my outlook towards people with disabilities, of disability itself, that nothing is off limits, and that creating can be wonderful. I realized that I can expand my creative process and consider a lot of possibilities that exist in society and reach a wider audience. Nowadays, in Brazil, we don’t even have proper access for disabled people to come see the spectacles, so there's a lot to be discovered about the possibility of them being professionals, of being artists? It’s absolutely insane that people don't realise this.
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