Marlene Monteiro Freitas presented her solo performance Guintche on October 18th at iDANS. The versatile dancer went through a series of metamorphosis captivating the audience. The artist answered Gurur Ertem’s questions regarding her work.
Gurur Ertem: The persona you create in your work “Guintche”resonates with the image of Josephine Baker – especially with the persona she depicted in Danse Souvage (1927). Baker was an influential figure of her time, a civil rights and anti-racism activist who is said to have subverted the colonial gaze in her dance numbers and erotic dances through parody. What do you think of this affinity? Are there similar concerns in your work?
Marlene Freitas: A journalist once used the adjective “uncanny” in relation to my performance, and indeed I realise that a constant of my work has been the search of uncanniness: the coincidence of becoming another, radically another, while remaining myself, radically myself. I therefore became Prince in (M)imosa, a mechanical dancer in Guintche, In a Seriedade do Animal (we) became hierogliphes while playing Baal from Bertolt Brecht , even recently, a Nereid in a work of Chaignaud+Bengolea. In some circumstances I may incarnate specific persona, but I guess it is this becoming radically another while remaining radically myself that drives me. Not incarnating specific persona in a theatrical and standard sense, but in the sense the persons in Jean Rouch’s Les Maitres Fous incarnate other persona… this clearly interests me.
The erotic-parodic aspects converges into intensifying the performance/show and prompts the audience to project their memories and imagination. Although I have not consciously worked at reviving the persona of Baker, there is, as you recognise, a parallel between my and her performance, and therefore I accept your suggestion.
As to the political line in Baker, I see it, and I identify myself from an aesthetic point of view: she challenged the received ideas about what could fit and not fit into a good performance, how to make an intense performance. I obviously am interested in this aesthetics/politics. As to the identification of specific causes, I am not so sure in relation to either her or me…
You have been admired as a powerful dancer and have been working with numerous influential choreographers such as Emmanuelle Hyuhn and Boris Charmatz. What has marked the shift to being a choreographer? What have been the challenges in this transition?
Most people I have worked with, eventually all, have influenced me. The question is how…One of the choreographers I feel very close to, is Loic Touzé. His way of working and what drives him make sense to me. Having said this, a documentary, an exhibition, a theatre show, what nourishes my imagination, can come from very different fields, not only dance and not only the encounter of one or another choreographer…I have always sought and indeed practiced as choreographer; in average, I have been doing a new work every year. But on the one hand I do not make living on this, on the other I like as much as coreographing, working as a performer, being challenged by other ways of making work. Becoming a choreographer is not exclusively an individual decision nor a matter of resources: it is critical that others see in what you do some interest and relevance…and supports it. If I get a positive feed back from the audience I look forward to practice as choreographer; I do not wish creating work for the history, but for the present, for real people, for rousing their imagination.
You have developed a dance project with the community of Cova da Moura in Lisbon – an illegal construction quarter hosting a working class population consisting mainly of African origin – under the idea that “we will not have dance classes, we will rehearse”. Could you elaborate a bit more on that endeavor and what is at stake for you in engaging in such community dance projects?
The population of that district is predominantly Cape Verdian, where I also come from and that is how I got involved in it. The project had a typical “community” profile: I was starting from the interests and competences of the kids going to these workshops, but also challenging them, by going to established theatres and dance venues in Lisbon, by proposing to work (dance) on the basis of fragments of interviews we did together, etc. Unfortunately I did not make fully developing it due to agenda clashes. If I will have the opportunity of developing another project like this, I will certainly consider it. Also these encounters can be immensely rewarding, and this works on both sides.