MARLENE MONTEIRO FREiTAS
Rachel: We both saw your show last night and we really enjoyed it.
Liv: Yeah, it was such a pleasure to see something that genuinely surprised me, genuinely reframed things, because we’ve become such a jaded audience I think, because we see so much work.
R: We were at your post-show talk too, and you said something I found really interesting, in relation to the show, which was ‘It’s not about the pleasure of recognition.’ I think a lot of art, dance included, is about the pleasure of recognition.
Marlene: I think sometimes I say things like this and the next day when I hear them I’m not so sure [laughs]… I think what I meant was more that with the things I work on, I am not concerned with whether people recognise exactly why things are there in this way or that way. But there is a recognition of something, there is an impression, there is a sensation, but it’s not about recognising a reference. For example, the step on the stage comes from the Pygmalion myth - when the feet pass over the edge of the plinth, it means coming to life, so from this idea we worked on the feet in the show. So there are things that are completely linked with ideas of the work that are almost literal sometimes, but because we work it in the way we do, to displace things a bit, you don’t directly recognise them. The idea is to put things together in order for the public to project their own images, their own sensations, fears, desires and this I think is a kind of recognition.
This projection is wanted, this relation with the piece is desired, but not precisely to a representation of the reference, or representation of the idea of the piece. It’s not a representation, it’s a show. I think a show is beyond a presentation. I like when we go on stage and we are warm. I hate when the theatre is cold or when there is air conditioning, so we are sweating on stage and the public is cold, this kind of screen of the temperature I really don’t like. I like when we go on stage ready for something. Being on stage is also about feeling the presence of the public, it’s an energetic exchange. It’s a living fiction. To live it you cannot represent it, or present it. It’s written, it’s prepared, but we need to be there at the moment.
L: I think one of the lovely textures of the piece is it is ‘out’, you are looking out at the audience. I think it’s become very fashionable in dance to be looking away somewhere else, but from the beginning, when the first female dancer comes on, she’s there with us and you really feel penetrated.
M: I like this idea, ‘penetration’.
R: Just to talk a little about the material that you work with, like the idea of the statue plinths, which you don’t want to be recognisable to the audience to leave space for their own images - it sounds like there doesn’t have to be any actual, logical connection between what the audience projects and the material you worked with.
M: Yeah, this is important. But for me it’s not about masking, we’re not working on the opposite sense. The tools we use and the idea of a fiction open up a lot of possibilities. One thing is the relations we open up in daily life between cause and consequence, with gravity, with before and after, with many things. In a fiction you don’t need to obey any of that, anything is possible. Something that helps to build this fiction is that things are not placed in a way we recognise… it’s a bit counterintuitive sometimes. Cause and consequence are not really there in the way we’re used to. I always use the example of dreams, because in dreams we do that. Like in my dream, I take this cup of coffee and look at it and I cry and you don’t understand it, but it’s ok because it’s my dream, it’s my stuff. Or the rhythm of it doesn’t need to correspond to the rhythm that we recognise. Neither the state, neither the rhythm, so this opens up things.
PAGES FROM MARLENE'S SKETCHBOOK
R: But even though it’s a fictional world that doesn’t have to follow a logical narrative according to our reality, it’s consistent with itself.
L: Yes, the rules of that world seem to be quite concrete or quite specific. Between the seven of you on stage there’s a very clear understanding of how that world works.
M: And of where we are.
R: And the audience can also access the world, even though it’s a new language to us.
L: It’s an extraordinary group of performers as well. And since 2014 when you first made the piece, has it developed or changed?
M: It’s very written so not in that sense, but for me it’s very important to continue filling in, to put things inside… filling it up like a sausage, tense and packed. The more I write the piece, the more I feel I have freedom. This is basic to stay, but the more things are connected, one movement or gesture to another, I feel like I have more depth, not to make the show wider but deeper, so we are always filling in with things.
L: Do you think your work is political? I mean political in terms of as a woman or as a Cape Verdean, as a resident of Portugal?
M: Political in the sense of a theme, not so much. It’s not really where my curiosity is placed choreographically. I wouldn’t know how to work on that, on a political theme. There is order and there is chaos, there are transgressions – I think if you work on metamorphosis, you work on transgression and maybe that stands for the political, I don’t know, there is probably something in this relation with order and what is not inside of order, but it’s not really something I focus on.
R: We were wondering about how you started in dance, because you didn’t train formally as a dancer in Cape Verde, you grew up dancing in groups and it was part of the culture. Then later you studied at P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels. What was the experience, the transition of growing up with dance in your body in a very natural way, where it’s part of the culture, it’s in the community around you and then going into a formal training environment?
M: I desired that a lot. In Cape Verde I was self-trained. You’re with a group and you practice things. The first time I saw live classical ballet, I was shocked because it seemed super easy. But then when I tried, I was out of rhythm, for the first time in my life. But I desired it a lot, I really wanted this kind of conventional dance training. I fully went for it. In Cape Verde my group was a group of young people, and all the choreography we did was guided by music. It could be classical, hip hop, samba, salsa… so I had these kinds of things in me, but when you’re in a school, it’s not only the physical training but you learn composition, you see shows. In P.A.R.T.S., what was important was I could have the tools to look at dance and work on dance. Of course, having technical training facilitates things because you are prepared, your body is ready to try things, but the main thing was really how the school also proposed tools so you could go away from a specific vocabulary and work on something else. It’s a school that gives you lots of tools so you can step back and look into things autonomously.
L: Yes, and you’ve certainly found that autonomy in your work.