Festival TransAmeriques: Guilherme Botelho’s work is simple, only in the abstract

Montreal Gazette

Festival TransAmeriques: Guilherme Botelho’s work is simple, only in the abstract

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In Sideways Rain, choreographed by Guilherme Botelho, 14 dancers mainly walk on stage from one side and walk off the other at staggered intervals.

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Dancers from the Swiss troupe Alias perform Sideways Rain, choreographed by Guilherme Botelho.

BY VICTOR SWOBODA, GAZETTE DANCE CRITIC MAY 12, 2012
Thirteen dance or dance-related shows are in the latest edition of Festival TransAmériques, which begins on May 24 and runs through June 9. Since its debut in 2007, this annual festival of theatre arts has become such a hot ticket that seats to some shows were scarce weeks ago. This must point in part to the Montreal public’s fervent interest in dance that challenges aesthetic concepts.

First, a brief breakdown of who’s coming from both the local scene and abroad.

Among the Montreal choreographers staging shows are Benoît Lachambre with Clara Furey, Danièle Desnoyers, Nicolas Cantin, Mélanie Demers, Isabelle van Grimde, Daniel Léveillé and Stéphane Gladyszewski. The latter is back with another short duet utilizing his visual projections that are sensitive to body heat. The rest of Canada is represented by just one dancemaker: Vancouver’s Dana Gingras.

From abroad come Taoufiq Izeddiou, a contemporary dance pioneer from Morocco in a solo work, and two Europeans – Belgium’s Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, who will present two separate ensemble works for dancing singers, and Switzerland’s Guilherme Botelho and his Alias company in a group piece, Sideways Rain.

Alias made its North American debut at Montreal’s Festival International de Nouvelle Danse in 1999, when de Keersmaeker was also featured. In the past decade, Alias has toured far and wide, though Montreal has seen the Geneva-based group only one other time.

This year, Montreal is suddenly seeing a surfeit of alumni dancers-turned-choreographers from Switzerland’s Geneva Ballet. A few months ago, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens performed a double bill by Stijn Celis. This month, the company is performing the world premiere of Didy Veldman’s The Little Prince. (The sold-out final performance takes place Saturday, at Théâtre Maisonneuve of Place des Arts.)

And now Botelho is coming. Let it be noted that Celis, Veldman and Botelho were all hired and encouraged to choreograph at Geneva Ballet in the 1980s by company artistic director Gradimir Pankov, who, of course, today leads Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Veldman and Botelho co-founded Alias in 1994 and collaborated on a work, En manque.

Botelho’s choreographic path has followed a course different from those of his two former colleagues. Celis and Veldman are hired guns who travel far and wide creating for various companies (several different works for Les Grands alone). Botelho, meanwhile, has stayed almost exclusively with Alias. Working with his own group allows him the chance to spend three or four months creating a new work. The notion of parachuting into a dance company for a few weeks of intense creation fills him with dread.

“I have a very personal approach, which explains why I don’t work often with other companies,” he said during a recent telephone interview from Geneva, his French showing hardly a trace of accent from his native Brazilian Portuguese. “I developed the company on the basis of each dancer’s personality. It was important for me at the beginning that the dancers’ personalities live in their onstage characters.”

Botelho admitted that in recent years he has taken a different approach – less personality driven, more physically formal. Sideways Rain might be an extreme example of this. It’s an hour-long abstract work in which 14 dancers mainly walk on stage from one side and walk off the other side at staggered intervals. Occasionally, a dancer will roll across the floor. The idea sounds too simple to be worthy of interest, but during the course of the work, the entrances and exits, which vary in rhythm and number of participants, create a symbol of time, life and destiny.

“If you see just a few minutes of it, you can say, yes, it’s nice and pretty. But if you see the whole work, you’re compelled to add the words that are absent from the ‘text.’ You fill in the gaps with your own words. It’s as though I’m showing a blurry photo.”

Botelho compared it to the feeling of a river that carries one along, or of time passing, or of evolution. He’s still surprised that after each performance, someone will describe images in the show that he never imagined.

“Politics. War. One can project one’s own story. It offers a direction, certainly, as to which story, but the images come out of our own experience.”

Festival TransAmériques begins on May 24 and runs to June 9.

Alias performs May 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. at Théâtre Jean Duceppe of Place des Arts. Tickets cost $40 to $45; $35 to $40 for seniors and those under 30. For more information or for reservations, call 514-844-3822 or visit fta.qc.ca

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Posted on May 13, 2012, in Morocco News and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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