This week I2 interviewed Marina Abib, dancer and co-founder of the dance company Soma, a Brazilian duo that develops choreographic research based on traditional Brazilian culture with a strong expression of its founders individualities. Marina is currently preparing a European tour with her new solo work, which will be presented in Brighton at the Swallowsfeet festival in March 2016
In our informal chat, Marina talks us through Soma’s trajectory since 2008, their encounters in London and future plans. of course, she also talks about the pleasure of dancing.
I2: Tell us a little about the experience of creating a show and dancing “Just the Two of Us”. How does artistic “self directing“ works?
M: Until “A Última Estrada“ (The Last Road) all of Soma’s shows were created, directed and interpreted by Maria Eugenia and me. In the beginning we two did it all, not because we necessarily wanted to, but because we didn’t find the experimenting possibilities we were looking for with anyone else. Now that I think about it, I feel that we were actually in a much more intimate time of discovering, constructing and consolidating, and that is why we found in each other the interlocution and the partnership for this path. But we always had amazing dancers/partners/etc who have influenced/supported/encouraged us in different ways and with different projects.
In “A Última Estrada“ we realized that we had come to a point where, alone, we. could not get beyond. We had high expectations with this work and when we invited Cristiano Meirelles to direct us, our first demand was: “We need someone who will direct us. We will try to do it our own way but now we need someone to say “No – try it this way!” Wwe couldn’t have made a better choice!
“Self-directing“ is an intense job. The creative process always goes through surprising places – delightful and satisfactory and also insecurities and questioning. Not having an “outsider’s look“ to help us and guide us through these moments of anguish or indecisions is very difficult. I believe that a worked danced and directed by me is much more limited in the sense of its possibilities. I realized, more and more, how much I enjoy being surprised whenever I allow myself to dialogue and learn!with another.
With Soma, we were lucky to have found each other, both professionally and personally. Maria Eugenia and I are complementary and we respect each other. I believe this is key for the viability of a work danced, directed and created by us both. We invented all sorts to create this “outsider’s look“. We always filmed everything, we had meetings to create and programme the rehearsals minute-to-minute; we took notes of each idea that came up and, little by little we would show it to other people. From their feedback we would reconsider, remake or disagree!
I2: Is the duo format restrictive?
M: I don’t think that dancing as a duo is a restricted form. I believe our possibilities are endless independent of the form. I think the greatest challenge is to find a way to be constantly rediscovering oneself, in order to not become constrained.
I2: Soma’s work is profoundly rooted in Brazilian popular culture. In your European tours, has this work been received differently than it is in Brazil?
M: I like to use the word traditional. Traditional Brazilian culture. I like this word because it helps to explain why the work is not really received differently outside of Brazil. If you look in the dictionary for the word tradition it also means remembering. Etymologically, remembering means “to go again through the heart“. Having the traditional Brazilian culture as a foundation means to have a wonderful reference of formats ( movements, music, aesthetics, poetry) but, mainly, it means to work from recognition of oneself, our own potencies and truths.
A story that really marked my experience in Europe was when we presented our work at London’s Trinity Laban Conservatoire. It was a presentation just for students. Afterwards, there was a Q&A session and the first thing we heard was praise. One of the students thanked us because seeing us dance made her remember why she had chosen dance, why she had searched for a school like Trinity Laban and why she now danced! I believe it was the meaning embedded in the format of our dancing, that touched her.
I2: It seems that there is always a playful characteristic to all of Soma’s shows, even in “A Última Estrada”, which is a little more narrative. Could you tell me more about how this is inserted in the Soma method?
M: Yes, I think that is true, even though it might not be intentional. The affinity we have allows us to play with the structures that we create ; the choreographic and dramaturgical structures.
Inside what we have been (and still are) building on – of what we call, “method“, playing is the central concept of one of the pillars we call “preparedness state“. Playing is like a suspended moment, where time and space are experimented in a different way from everyday life, with an end in itself. Playing demands one to be 100% present in what is proposed. A continuous state of readiness.
In our performances we always make sure, that we play before going on stage! Above all, we must have fun!
I2: What and who are some of your current inspirations ?
M: The sea, the dancer Akram Khan, the pedagogue Maria Amelia Pereira and the celebrations of the traditional Brazilian culture.
I2: What are the main challenges for dance in Brazil?
M: The main challenge, which might not be just for dance, is to find ways to sustain your company financially. There is a strong dependence on public funding bids. The companies, whenever they are selected for one public bid, have a work period in which payment is guaranteed, but right after that they already have to think about the next one, getting into acontinuous cycle of research that is readapted to what is better fitted to one or another bid. I believe that public and private financing in Brazil has developed a lot, but it is still not a sustainable model for unique and continued artistic productions.
I2: What are the next projects we can expect from you?
M: Our most recent Project is called Soma ao Som. It’s an improv show with live music. At/during each performance we invite musicians to improvise with us. The themes, musicand dance formats are suggested by the audience via different games. Besides this new work from Soma, each of us is also developing personal projects or partnerships with other artists.