Ana Carolina Rodarte ︎

Image: Tiago Gambogi by Andrew Hastings  

Corporal Glitch post-lockdown

A story of three dancers and their body routine in pandemic times and a glimpse on new movements to a post-vaccine reality.

Compared to previous years, we entered 2021 with quite different gestures. The facial masks covered the curve of our lips, making those that were not used to cover their face, have eyes and hands taking charge of functions previously attributed to the smile. On the streets, the required distance to control the spread of the coronavirus, offered us an imaginary metric tape, quite questionable when in gathering with friends we haven't seen in months. The fear against the possibility of contracting the virus, the government’s neglect towards public health & social assistance policies, all the lives we lost and the high rates of unemployment ended carving curves on our necks. The restless feet transition the troubled sleep transition the look we take on the skin that changes with hormones and emotions transition and, gosh, checking for the thousandth time if the mic is really turned off.

In a state of prophylaxis, restrictions and reinventions, bodies* needed to adapt themselves to different ways of being in a space, what can carve a whole new body language. After all, voluntarily or not, traumas not only shape discourses and images, but also our own beat. The New York Times dance critic, Gia Kourlas, shared that after 9/11, a number of companies embodied an upward gaze in their choreographies; and somehow, the destroyed towers were there.

We already know that the social distancing and lockdown took many of us to try out some TikTok choreo and plenty of virtual classes, but how will these experiences guide our movements from now on? And how has dance, a territory for body expression - and one of the arts most dependent on gatherings and an audience - responded to it? Three dancers have shared their stories.

Gabriela: the teacher makes peace with the screens

Belo Horizonte/MG – Brasil

To the artist and contemporary dance choreographer Gabriela Chiaretti, the same space that confined her, ended serving as an impulse for creation. “I dedicated myself to start experimenting and improvising with the home space, creating a dialogue between my body and my furniture, the architecture of the place I live, the floor textures, or the sunlight that kept surprising me when creating shadows on my movements. It was really exciting and surprising to me. The video-dance universe also showed up as a possibility. And there I was, playing with the camera and composing new moves. I was surprised with this new working tool and with the infinite possibilities of arrangement, of movement, of improvisation, of creation.”
In Belo Horizonte, your hometown, Gabriela teaches at the Grupo Corpo dance school, one of the biggest in Brasil. “I missed that space and my students quite a lot, I missed the energy exchange between our bodies in movement.” After adapting your classes and practice, she found in Art a way to “deal with all we are going through right now”. Back in December, she presented one of the results of this process: a choreography to the music video “Berço do Ar” by musician, composer and percussionist Paulo Santos (Uakti).
For her, who thinks of dance from the perspective of gesture and daily movements, people have turned their gaze inwards, placing health and mental health in the forefront: “The confined body is more restricted, less active and consequently more ill (...) [But] I find myself more optimistic. Dance has gained a different strength on digital platforms. People all around the world, with different bodies and world perspectives are dancing, creating, exercising and in motion. In the artistic scene, as a whole, I can see plenty of challenges ahead. It is essential for us to fight for fairer public policies that recognize the fundamental role of art and culture in social life. ”

Tiago: the artivist body hugs a good laughter

Margate/ Thanet, Kent – England

Crossing the many disappointments of this world, Tiago created an activism of his own, turning tension into an impulse to a good laugh, and the body into an ambientalist manifesto. Dancer, actor, performer and choreographer, Tiago Gambogi (UK/BR) co-directs the dance-theater group f.a.b. - The Detonators. His work is extensive and multi-territorial, but yet, he has not included works to a pandemic reality such as the one we are currently experiencing. “I'm in Margate, England, with Maggi, my life and work partner, in a beach town on the south east coast of England. (...) The United Kingdom, like Brasil and many other countries, made many mistakes since the beginning of this pandemic. Yesterday there were long lines of trucks that could not go to France due to the mutation of the virus, suspected to be going on here. In a bit, our friends will be bringing food to Polish and Czech truck drivers, who cannot get out of their trucks”.
The restrictions of space, that, according to the dancer and choreographer, affect the strength, the stretching and the memory of the movements, also worked as a trigger to expand himself physically and mentally: “Dancing is the ultimate expression of being alive - the beauty of the body-machine in motion. For me, dance also becomes an essential tool to reflect on what is happening in the world, as much as it is about the poetry of bodies on a stage. We performed online, seeked for ways to meet and dialogue, pressured our governments with our activism. The restriction of movement gives us an even greater desire to move”.
Active in online events such as Intercultural Roots and cabarets with theatrical performances, Tiago met artists from all over the world during the social distancing. As part of a production from Manaus, Sexta Que Dança, by Francis Baiardi, he created a performance entitled “Pé de Busca: Lírio do Deserto” to think of a modus vivendis in a better sync with nature. His eyes, however, did not stop staring at what was going on inside. “The somatic movement, which comes from energies and stimulations that we carry within, was one of the focuses of my research. I believe that by 'staying at home', the focus on the movement has also become internalized. I tried several approaches - using Feldenkrais, Butoh, Body-Mind-Centering and others. ”
Voting for a future where access to the internet is democratized and artists are supported, Tiago sees possibilities in the midst of the fog of our days - amidst laughter, he feels the energy of Iemanjá even in the cold rain that showers the English coast. “Dance will probably be one of the last forms of art to return fully. (...) The growth of video-dance creations and online partnerships are positive factors that came from the pandemic and I believe that dance will benefit from this knowledge in the future”.
And, in order to not do bad to the tradition, he passes on the hat: “It is time to jump in, a grand quantum jeté for an era in which we are connected to ourselves and our communities through positive values and that truly nourish the Planet. Onward, axé, evoé, namaste and everything in between”.

Otávio: the open porous of terra brasilis

Salvador/São Paulo – Brasil

Otávio Portela was on a tour in the south of France when he was surprised by the lockdown in Europe. In the next day, he was ready to board on his way back to Brasil with his crew, São Paulo Companhia de Dança, directed by Inês Bogéa. Otávio is from Salvador, but since 9 years have found in the capital São Paulo, a space to express his art. “From March to June we were in total quarantine, taking ballet, contemporary and pilates classes at home. When the city of São Paulo became more flexible with the restriction measures, we started a gradual return to the activities at the company's headquarters. Following all the safety protocols, we started to resume the production of some works that started in the beginning of the year”.
Brasilian Government’s neglect towards public health policies, however, ended the show earlier than expected: “During the pandemic we produced a lot of audiovisual content to feed the company’s social media platforms and promote some art in the midst of the chaos, as much as we could. But currently, we are returning to home-office practices in view of the whole situation of the pandemic that, unfortunately, continues to rise in the country”.
Otávio’s gestures are wide, almost out of sight, which makes even the frame of his posts on social media, a little too small for what he does. But he, like many of us, rearranged himself. “[There are] people who live in small spaces and without the minimum structure for hosting their own body practice. We started to adapt our body. We are realizing how much our body adapts and how much it reflects on the physical conditions we are in right now. ” For him, this meant taking a certain distance from the stages and living rooms, and the adoption of alternative practices, such as fabric.
From the reconfiguration of our bodies to the one at our homes, Otávio sees in this gap, an increasing interest from the people towards practices that put themselves to move - “a look towards yourself” -, which has triggered the creation of educational spaces for dance practices in the virtual environment. “I believe that we are going through a moment of encounter with these new ways of being and relating with our own bodies. Echos are on their way. ”

The changes that have been going through us for months now, not only imposed new sociocultural perspectives for bodies*, but also new environments and estimulations. It is notable that other gestures emerge from here, but it is also necessary that those who undertake the study of corporealities receive proper support for the burden they will assume from now on. After all, without the performing seasons, many companies are out of budget. Schools and studios, which depend on student attendance, are rethinking the contract with teachers. And yet in the face of all the apprehension in the world, the body insists on wanting to be a party.