Encantado by Lia Rodrigues. A ragged line of dancers swathed with exuberant multicoloured cloths and fabrics swirling all around them


Lia Rodrigues, body and soul

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Encantado by Lia Rodrigues. Photo © Sammi Landweer
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Based in a Rio favela and fêted in Paris, Lia Rodrigues brings different yet connected works to this year’s Festival d’Automne

Some would say she’s the head of the Brazilian dance scene. In Paris, where she’s been celebrated for almost thirty years – as she danced in Maguy Marin’s May B (1981) – she has definitely earned her stripes. Born and raised in São Paulo, Lia Rodrigues lived and worked in Paris during the 1980s before returning to Brazil to create her company. In 2004, she moved it to the Favela da Maré, in Rio de Janeiro, where she developed a strong educational and artistic programme for the locals, culminating in the creation of the Escola Livre de Danças da Maré in 2011. In the meantime, Paris fell in love with her work and began to cover her with honours and offers, from making her Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (2005) to producing her works and associating her with Chaillot, Théâtre National de la Danse and Le CENTQUATRE (from 2017).

This year, the renowned Festival d’Automne granted her a ‘portrait’: a focus on her whole career. For the audience, it was an occasion to (re)discover her artistic and educational works, as well as the Brazilian artists she invited as a constellation of dance spirits around her. And she knows a lot about spirits.

Among the works presented during the portrait, Nororoca and her newest creation Encantado revealed the powerful and inspiring nature of Rodrigues’ choreographic composition structure. No scenery, no sophisticated light games, no overwhelming music, just bodies of all kinds, stage props and the ancestral energy of dance.

Action picture of 12 assorted dancers in coloured shorts and tops, all on their backs in mid-motion, as if they had just fallen. Carte Blanche company in Nororoca by Lia Rodrigues. Photo © Yaniv Cohen
Carte Blanche company in Nororoca by Lia Rodrigues. Photo © Yaniv Cohen

Nororoca is an ‘augmented’ version of Pororoca (2009), reworked for the dancers of the Norwegian company Carte Blanche. The pororoca is the name given to the clash between Amazon freshwater and Atlantic seawater: when the tide rises, it pushes back the river in a gigantic never-ending wave with a deafening growl. Perfect metaphor for an elemental encounter between dancers; furthermore between the Brazil-rooted piece and the European company. At first, fourteen dancers noisily enter the stage, arms full of junk – tables and cables, rags and bags – that they drop all around. During an hour, the energy never stops, as the dancers express all the mess they have inside, leaving technique aside to focus on lines, waves, jumps, screams and intensity. Is it a riot, a carnival, a ritual, a game? Are they even human, or are they just moving atoms? The joyful and grinning figures gather and hug, run and flee, oppose and compose. You have to spot a pointé or a mastered lift to remember you’re watching dancers. Here is Rodrigues’ signature: formal radicality and physical displays grasping your attention.

Made for her own company in Brazil, Encantado – literally ‘enchanted’ – alludes to Brazilian magical beings, energies running in nature to turn rocks, forests and rivers into sacred places. At first, in silence and in the dark, the eleven dancers slowly unroll a stage-wide carpet made of dozens of rectangles of fabric disposed the ones on the others. They leave, and as light rises, return one by one, naked, simply walking. As they reach the fabric, they seize it, crawl underneath, roll around in it… Here come the spirits. With all these flowered blankets, zebra sheets and deep red shawls, they cover themselves, creating icons, silhouettes, monsters and animals, like a child could draw them, like a genius could design them. We forget we’re facing dancers in clothes: we’re now in an enchanted meadow, watching an annual gathering of supernatural essences.

The piece sometimes plays with mainstream culture, portraying a fashion runway for example, or mocking the machinations of human power. Made of random fabrics, the carnivalesque performance also invokes the favela, its ability to do so much with so little, as well as the indigenous peoples of Brazil, their animism and intense ceremonies. The music is actually made of excerpts of songs of the Guarani people, played during the August 2021 protests in Brasília to recognise their endangered ancestral territories. Beautiful, inspired, significant, Encantado is the perfect example of Lia Rodrigues’ talent to remind us of the pure beauty of natural connections, against artificiality.

Nororoca and Encantado are two sides of one political message: just as the collision of natural forces produce elemental phenomena, we have to care about our inner natural poetry. Furthermore, Rodrigues invites bodies of (almost) all kinds – of all ages, colours and shapes – on stage, as a celebration of everyone, all together, as marvellous individuals making a fantastic community. That’s what we need after all we’ve been through.

The bottom line: Elemental forces, natural phenomena and the human form are charged with spirit in the work of Lia Rodrigues
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Paris, France
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Choreography: Lia Rodrigues / Assistant; Amália Lima / With dancers from Carte Blanche: Adrian Bartczak, Aslak Aune Nygård, Caroline Eckly, Daniel Mariblanca, Dawid Lorenc, Guro Rimeslåtten, Irene Vesterhus Theisen, Karen Lynne Bjerknesli, Mathias Stoltenberg, Noam Eidelman Shatil, Ole Martin Meland, Sebastian Biong, Tilly Sordat, Timothy Bartlett / Lighting: Nicolas Boudier / Production: Carte Blanche / Support: Fondation d’entreprise Hermès / Partnership: France Culture

Creation: Lia Rodrigues / Danced and devised in direct collaboration with: Leonardo Nunes, Carolina Repetto, Valentina Fittipaldi, Andrey Da Silva, Larissa Lima, Ricardo Xavier, Joana Lima, David Abreu, Matheus Macena, Tiago Oliveira, Raquel Alexandre / Creative assistant: Amalia Lima / Dramaturgy: Silvia Soter / Artistic collaboration and images: Sammi Landweer / Lighting design: Nicolas Boudier / Light production: Baptistine Méral, Magali Foubert / Sound editor & mix: Alexandre Seabra / Production and diffusion: Colette de Turville / Assisted by: Astrid Toledo / Administration: Jacques Segueilla / Production (Brazil): Gabi Gonçalves/Corpo Rastreado
Co-production: Scène nationale Carré-Colonnes / Le TAP – Théâtre Auditorium de Poitiers / Scène nationale du Sud-Aquitain / La Coursive – Scène nationale de La Rochelle / L’empreinte, Scène nationale Brive-Tulle / Théâtre d’Angoulême Scène Nationale / Le Moulin du Roc, Scène nationale à Niort / La Scène Nationale d’Aubusson / Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels) / Theaterfestival (Basel) / HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin) / Festival Oriente Occidente (Rovereto) / Theater Freiburg / l’OARA – Office Artistique de la Région Nouvelle Aquitaine / Julidans (Amsterdam) / Teatro Municipal do Porto / Festival DDD, dias de dança / Lia Rodrigues Companhia de Danças
Supported by: Redes da Maré et Centro de Artes da Maré / Chaillot – Théâtre national de la Danse (Paris) / Le CENTQUATRE-PARIS / Festival d’Automne à Paris

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