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Hitchcock, Cameo and dance prizes

With a dance piece called Cameo amid the finalists of the prestigious The Place Prize, Brazilian dancer  Mariana Camiloti talks to Jungle about her work, collaboration, and the inspriation of Hitchcock.

This spring the Robin Howard Dance Theatre, one of the most important venues for contemporary dance in London, will host for the fourth time the finals of the much-expected The Place Prize for dance, sponsored by Bloomberg.

This is a biennial competition that supports the creation of new work; it is also the biggest single source of commissions for Britain’s independent choreographers. To give an idea of its significance, the prize has propelled the career and fame of leading choreographers such as Rafael Bonachela, Hofesh Shechter and Bawren Tavaziva, bringing their work to national and international attention.

Out of the 16 new works that were commissioned and premiered last year, four were selected after the semi-finals. The competition’s finals will now take place over 10 dates in the month of April, when the audience will get the chance to vote for their favourite work and award a nightly prize of £1,000. After the final performance on 16 April, an overall winner will be selected by a panel of judges and will win the healthy sum of £25,000.

In this latest edition of The Place Prize, Brazil is well represented amongst its finalists with the participation of dance artist Mariana Camiloti, who is currently collaborating with choreographers Riccardo Buscarini & Antonio de la Fe in the creation of Cameo. Their work, performed as an elegantly noir-ish trio that plays with narrative conventions of framing, sound and cinematic suspense, was highly acclaimed during the semi-finals that happened last September.

In order to communicate this piece outwards to Brazilians and lovers of Brazilian culture in London, fellow dance artist and JungleDrums collaborator Mafê Toledo sat down for a chat with Mariana, and here for you are some highlights of what they shared…

Mafê Toledo: We all know how difficult it is to pursue a career in dance, even more if it involves starting your professional journey in a different country than your native one. Tell us a bit about your earlier steps in dance up to the present, now that you are recognised on the London stages…

Mariana Camiloti: Well, when I finished my contemporary dance training (at University of Campinas, UNICAMP, Brazil) I somehow knew already that I did not want to be “just a dancer” in a “full-time company” as I was trained to be at the (highly-respected ballet school in São Paulo) Cisne Negro since an early age. During my BA, I had amazing teachers who inspired and encouraged me to see dance and art from a new perspective. It was an intense period of discoveries including my passion for collaborative work.

As I started to develop my own dance projects at university, I realised I enjoyed working with smaller and more independent companies in which I found more space to be myself, to take risks and to explore my own movement vocabulary and performance skills.  Still, I wanted to have more practical experience, gain more visibility and refine my dance technique skills, so I knew I would have to do an internship in some established dance company at some point. That was when I decided to study abroad and opted to study at London Contemporary Dance School.

I arrived in London without knowing whether I was going to be accepted or not at the school… It was a difficult transition for me; I had to prove who I was in the audition and deal with cultural differences during the interview. Luckily they offered me a place in the school. One year later I joined Edge (LCDS Post Graduate Dance Company) and without anticipating it, I found myself having the practical experience I had previously aspired to so I was performing and touring in a dance company…

Mafê: In your story, there is something to do with open pathways, like doors that get naturally opened as you pass through them… am I right?

Mariana: Indeed, there is. But there is also a lot of struggle and discoveries I have made through these hassles… The first thing I accomplished after graduation was to finally work collaboratively in an independent dance company. But this did not happen for a while – after three months performing I had a seriously knee injury and had to return to Brazil…. After surgery, I was forced to stop dancing for the first time since I was nine years old – this was definitely a “long” opportunity to reflect, both reviewing my values as a dancer and looking after my body.

I think that period reflects directly on my dance choices nowadays: as a free-lancer, I have been working with installation artists who approach somatic techniques (such as Feldenkrais and Alexander) and getting involved in works that are not extreme physically demanding.

Mafê: And tell us something about your current practice, how you set yourself as a dance practitioner at the moment and how you got involved with the other choreographers from Cameo

Mariana: At this point of my career, I don’t know how to define what my body is anymore, I think I am constantly re-searching and transforming it (in terms of movement style, technique, values etc). The only thing I know is that being onstage (performance presence) is something now very natural for me. So I try to keep active in that direction.

I met Riccardo and Antonio at The Place, and since then we discovered a lot of interests in common… We are good friends and we come from very similar cultures (Italy, Spain, Brazil), which brings us even closer.

Mafê: OK. So we are now at a point that we can talk about Cameo itself… Can you tell us a bit more about the piece?

Mariana: We got inspired by watching Alfred Hitchcock films and by sharing an urgent feeling of making some work in dance. Because we also live in the same house, we would often see each other and ask ourselves what would be the next project we would be involved in. Antonio had the first original idea of researching some notions from the suspense cinema in a dance context. The three of us later developed the idea together when we decided to apply for The Place Prize.

In Hitchcock’s films, for example, we noticed that sound and music very often had a crucial relationship with actions which makes his film’s dramaturgy even stronger. We then went to the studio and started generating some material from improvisation sessions, researching gestures from his films that for us were not natural at all and it would often look a bit like pantomime. At this stage we had to be careful considering the danger of being “fake” or “over exaggerated”.

Throughout the project, we also explored some ideas related to Hitchcock’s way of framing, how he dealt with close-ups, lighting and editing for example. All these are resources from the cinema that we tried to bring to the more “live on stage”. This was a real challenge because in theatre the work is seen through the eyes of a “fixed” audience (not from the camera as it happens in cinema). Because we could not move the audience’s eyes in order to provide different angles and consequently new meanings of the same action, we decided to move the whole scene’s set up… So this is what we tried to do!

Mafê: To finish with, I would like to ask about your professional plans and how you see yourself working in the future…

I would love to get even more involved in collaborative works, live art projects and installations for example. At the moment, I am doing workshop with Rosemary Butcher that involves individual creative research and for the first time I am stepping back from the stage side, making some work on my own for another performer.

I would like to expand my skills in dance directing and be able to see the work from outside… Being able to be not just “in” but also “out” of my works would be a challenge for me, but I am very much willing to pursue it…

By Mafê Toledo
Photos: Benedicte Johnson, The Place Prize / Cameo

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Cameo, a dance piece created and performed by Mariana Camiloti, Riccardo Buscarini & Antonio de la Fe, as part of The Place Prize: The Finals

Check out a video of Cameo here on

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Robin Howard Dance Theatre
6th – 16th April 2011, 8pm
£6 – £17 (Sat 16 April £25 only)
The Place, 17 Duke’s Road, London – WC1H 9PY
Bookings: 020 7121 1100
theplaceprize.com
theplace.org.uk

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