During Moving in November 2020, we saw you as a performer in the solo “O Samba do Crioulo Doido” by Brazilian choreographer Luiz de Abreu. We also showed a movie made by you about the working process with Abreu after. What influence has this encounter and performing the work by Abreu had on you and your own choreographic work? In another interview, you said that there is a before and an after of “O Samba do Crioulo Doido”. 

I don’t know if I can say for sure how this work will impact my path. Maybe I can answer that in some years, seeing my path in perspective. Of course, I want to believe that there was a transformation in my way of thinking and working, that I can somehow inherit (or learn with) the sophistication and geniality of Luiz de Abreu. I like to think that something more than a dance piece has been transmitted to me when we were working around O Samba do Crioulo Doido. Somehow this is the way to think about learning and legacy, that’s the history of culture itself.

But those are not more than desires. There are no rules to this transmission, learning, legacy… I don’t know if it works like that at all. If it will happen to me. But I can rely on hard work with honesty and engagement. That is what I have, beyond all speculations if I have changed or not.

So I try to do my best, being fair with this role of being the dancer of O Samba now, considering this piece as a tool of reading the world. Because I consider that there is a responsibility on it. It’s like O Samba is a line, that once I have crossed it, I have an engagement with the discussion that the piece brings, keeping it as deep and sophisticated as possible.

Feijoada transports culture-historical friction deeply inscribed into the self-image of Brazil. In the center of this performance stands a famous dish: feijoada. At the end of the piece, you serve the dish to us. With it, we seem to eat altogether a part of Brazilian history. Could you tell about the urgency behind the development of this work?

When Feijoada was created, we were in the end of the worst part of the sanitary crisis caused by the covid-19. Almost two years with social distance ruling our lives. When the invitation came from Festival d’Automne à Paris to join choreographer Lia Rodrigues’ portrait, I knew I needed to do something where the audience would be invited to be together, to share something more than the experience of seeing a piece, a moment of celebration.

During the pandemic, I remember going to my favorite Brazilian restaurant in Paris and meeting a community of expats (or migrants, depending on whom we are talking about) insuring their mental health by the stomach. That informed me how important food is to creating community and the feeling of belonging. Rooting.

After making a film about the transmission process of O Samba do Crioulo Doido, I still felt the urge to give an artistic response to that experience, a kind of wrap-up of this “samba-do-crioulo-doido” universe. So I had the reenactment of the piece and the film about the transmission process. I wanted to create a piece that would somehow give continuity to one of the discussions that O Samba propose. As a work that flows from another.

I always felt very intrigued by this scene where Luiz dances a Bossa Nova, in which the lyrics are a recipe for a feijoada, sung in French. There are so many layers of appropriation, violence, and joy in that scene, that I wanted to dig into it and explore those elements.
At the same time, I wanted to connect to this kind of basicness of the experience of samba and feijoada that I have in my childhood memories. So there is the most popular formation of musicians playing samba, the circle of ( Roda de ) samba, someone cooking a feijoada while the party is happening, as we use to have in Brazil. And I wanted to say things, I had this urge to share some thoughts by talking to the audience, looking into their eyes, being close to them, to connect to the idea of violence and joy that I see in the scene of O Samba, but in a very close and welcoming way, inviting the audience to a discussion that belongs to everybody.

I always thought Feijoada was an experience with a lot of words, that the choreographic thought on this work would rely on how we would be able to manipulate the atmosphere of the performance throughout the two hours of the show by our presence, our relation to the audience, the ton of the texts we were saying, and so on. I was always interested in what an ex-teacher of mine once called “the choreography of the welcoming”, referring to my very first solo work.

And Feijoada was created in strict collaboration with Ana Laura Nascimento, who is a storyteller, so with very practical relation to the word. And we both had this urge to say things, share questions, address problems, expose and share the discomfort.

In each city/country you show the performance, you intend to work with local performers and a cook from the afro-diasporic community. What does working with artists from the local communities do to the performance and your team?

I don’t know! Helsinki will be our first attempt!

This idea came to us at the very beginning of the work of writing the score of the piece.
What I and Ana Laura had in mind at that point was that by doing this work and showing it in different places, Feijoadawould be a bridge that would connect the Brazilian community through the cities where we would be invited to show the work. Knowing that the Brazilian diaspora is very spread across the world (and especially in Europe, where we all live now), we wanted this work to be a common point between those artists. So we imagined that we would always work with someone who works with Brazilian food in the town and have two local Brazilian performers with us.

We slightly changed our plans by working with Silex Silence, a Cameroonese performer based in France, that is part of our (French) team. We realized that there is a common heritage that connects us, and the histories we share with the audience, even if they come from our Brazilian experience, they can resonate with the experiences of the people from Africa or the diaspora.

So this experience opened our minds to the possibility of having performers from other origins and we count very much on them to be the closest connection between the performance and the local audience. Through language, specific facts, or their thoughts and impressions of the local society. This familiar aspect of the performance is very important for us, so having someone that is closer to the local culture is very precious to the constellation of artists that we have in Feijoada.

Also, I have the impression that it will be a gift for our team as well, to get in touch with local artists and get to know how they live their lives, and how living in this specific place shapes their thoughts and artistic practices. And put all that side by side with our experiences.
This experience needs to be made in partnership with the direction of the festival or venue where we would present because we need some local knowledge to introduce us to the artists and the new cook. Also, it is a kind of idea that demands previous work: writing new texts, e-meetings, rehearsals. It’s not simply rehearsing the piece one day before the show but changing a bit the structure and content of the work. Even if it’s small work, there is work to be done. And the festival needs to be engaged to make this additional work happen.

So we are very excited that Moving in November accepted to partner with us in this adventure to show the piece in the way we conceived it.

Photo: Petri Summanen