Your story in a few lines
The story is quite long but I make it short. I was born in Algeria and when my parents came to France I was around 4/5 years old; since that age I grew up in France, in a city close to Paris. I studied French literature and at the same time I started to dance. I never took dance classes because first of all I couldn’t when I was young and then, after, it was no longer possible because I needed to find my own way – as an Algerian living in France between two cultures, I had my own way to perceive the body. Each choreographer has his own philosophy and his vision of the body and is very important to stay faithful to it and do not take things randomly. I was starting my own company and in the same time I was doing my studies because I was in love with literature and with poetry and I was thinking that this way of thinking, writing scenes of life, was having a very great impact on my work. I do not think I work as much as a choreographer, I’m very sensitive on stage on how all the elements are combined together, how they interact, I really need to feel a very strong dramaturgy in all the pieces. After the studies I went to Paris.
Your dance is like poems. You act as a composer, by accompanying the viewer and help him/her to fulfill the feelings, and better, to understand what he/she is feeling and to put on his/her own magic.
This is very important to me, I became conscious very soon and very early that I do not want to share ideas on stage, I do not want to tell them how to think and what to think. I want a different connection with the audience. What I want is to create a certain kind of empty space – it’s not completely empty – and to use this space to connect the dancers, the space, all the elements and the audience. And when this happens, the public starts to connect with its own inner space and its imagination starts to work. This is what I seek: to use its imagination, to see things in this emptiness. For that the dancer has to work hard to do not be in a limit with this imagination or with the perception of the audience. Once we create this common space – and therefore when we allow the imagination of the dancer and of the audience and the one of moment together – I achieve the main goal in creating a piece.
Your dance is also seeming to use the same composition of poetry, the technique of the metrics even if you’re not attached to the baroque ones; you prefer instead the minimal and genuine one. Which value poetry has in your work when do you start writing? And do you perhaps share a book or same lines with your dancers?
I don’t work on any support like poems or literature, I think mine is a very instinctive way of writing on stage by using all the elements as the light, the sound and the empty space, the body. The hardest thing to connect, actually, is the body because all the other elements can be easily reworked as much as you think they’re bringing you somewhere. When I read a book, I watch a movie or see a piece I need to think that I’m going somewhere and not being just there, reading or watching. And making the dancer connected to this element is something that sometimes is mystic for some of them, but for me is absolutely concrete. He just allows the sound, the light, the empty space to get into him, of course conscious about that. The sound has its own dramaturgy, the light either, they have to work together. The structure is lying on a music partition. The other problem when I end my composition is ‘how we keep it alive?’ This is very much possible because you design always also lighting and music for every piece… I just work with two of my technicians who make everything possible, but yes, I write everything: the dramaturgy, the sound, the lighting and the body. Because it is one thing, not because I want to control everything. It is like a book: how it could be if I write a page and then you write another?
Which has your most important professional achievement since the company is on (1989) and which is the more important as intimate self?
You know, my parents did not allow me to dance at the beginning. It was a very difficult path. As any parents, they were thinking it was a loss of time as a profession, maybe when I reached the point when my parents realized how serious, how deep, how important is to have this kind of look and reflection about life. I received last year a very important decoration from the ministry (Chevalier des Arts and des Lettres). Bringing them there, so they knew what was my way and they were so proud of that: this was a very important achievement – on a personal side. I was proud that they saw dance was a real necessity for me. On a professional side, I would say, when you are an autodidact, you build your rules and you have your own expectations and your own needs. Whatever the audience says and whatever the professionals say, I have my own goals and as a self-educated person I realized that I pushed them so far, so far….like I’m trying to reach something that I will be never able to achieve. I’m proud that with the things I had intuitions of at the beginning – the invisible that could be that strong and the imagination that can go through the body and both the body and the invisible can get connected – I reached the point, I’m so glad of that. When you start, you’re not sure of what you’re doing. Now I would say I have enough experiences and that I can share that dimension I’ve reached. I’m proud of having being able to materialize what I was animated of. The fact of having incarnated that made me so deeply satisfied: I’m not arrived at the objective but I finally see things incarnating.
What do you give to your city – Paris – and vice versa?
What Paris is giving me? I do not always think there is an answer to any question… I do not live that much in Paris because I travel so much for work. Paris is just synonym of my family and that’s it. The certain feeling to be ‘at home’ (except to be in my apartment) is something very complex when you’re born in a country, living in another and traveling so much all over the world. You have to realize that ‘home’ is where you’re. I feel more comfortable of course when I get back to Paris, but it’s really strange. What Paris is giving to me? Energy, for sure. It’s always more and always beyond. It’s a smart city, I grew up in Reims and the reason for which I quit it for Paris was for professional reasons: Reims was the kind of very calm town where people were having a very regular life, I could have been there and have subsidies for my job. But I needed to be challenged and to be in a place where it is hard. So, Paris: I always create hard situations where I can find my freedom. And Paris gave me that.
A talent you have, the one you miss
I’m very instinctive but that goes with the fact that I listen a lot, better to be said that I observe a lot, this comes from my father. I have a very instinctive way of work and sometime is difficult because is fast. Of course I’m not patient at all, at work I would love to work less in emergencies because is very tiring for me. When you’re instinctive you always work in that way….
The book and the music with you now (this talk happens in a cafè in Venice, during a break in her performance calendar at the Dance Biennale)?
I do not have any book with me now, I travel on a budget company and we are not allowed to bring a big luggage. I do not read a lot since few years because I started to read very young and I’ve read so much and reached a point (this goes very well along with what I was saying at the beginning of this conversation) that I was tired to hear stories. For stories I mean novels, literature. I wanted more to be connected with life, real life. So the only things I read now are biographies and poetry. When it comes to stories, I no longer have space for that. Music: I need to listen to any kind of music at the same time. Because it is conditioning your energy, your state of mind, your feelings…If you keep on listening to only some genre this will work over you. I go from a music to another just to extend my inner space and my perception. Classic music makes you see the life in a certain way, while gospel in a different one: I need always to have a sort of gymnastic with the sound. If you take a look to my Ipod….
I didn’t choose this music, it has been imposing itself with unusual force. Usually I work on many kinds of music, during the creation. With this one I was working on an image with it and it couldn’t go out and pick another one! Its component is rich of joy, generosity but at the same time is melancholic. I take a music not because it goes well with the dance but because it’s in dialogue and creates patterns. The author of the music of Sur le Fil is Herman Dune (a French duo, originally a trio, formed on 1999). Of course I used a trace of the song we’ve sampled and re-structured. It is very reworked. I used only the refrains. Normally I design a soundtrack mixing many sources of music: this time not, I insisted only with one song – such a prominent element, as told, that imposed itself on the creation.
Which is your favourite food or drink?
Oh my God, I am so bad in this questions because I started to loose any idea about … For sure I like all the drinks with ginger or lemon. Most of the time I eat organic food, bla bla, and Chinese or Japanese…
Where do you yourself in the next ten years? In Paris, going back, still in the dance?
Regarding the city I do not know, I will surely be where my family is. Regarding the dance, it’s not a question of body and of age. It is more like writing for me. It is like constantly going out from the limits of the body and of the mind. The more I get older, the more it will be interesting to observe how to get rid of limits. I’m convinced that when you use your imagination and your inner strength there is nothing to do with age. Dance is that. It is an inner freedom, the more you get the more you set yourself free. I’m fighting with two dancers working with me because they come from the Conservatory, where things are taught in a different way. I want to make them rich of inner freedom because not any teacher told them that dance was all about inner freedom. And about dramaturgy: they are writing the piece on scene, they have to be writers and look for their freedom. I’m sad that in the dance education they speak only about the body and not how to get out of it. Just like medicine: they do not have time and energy to get there, because it’s hard. The hardest path… to find. To make the forty minutes of performance you saw, we took one year and half, now they want to make everything fast… Sometimes contemporary dance is not natural. I have to find a way to fight that, and to find the right way that is able to get shared. I do not want an alienating dance. My dance is always minimal because I have to find the freedom with and within the audience.
What did you learn from your life so far?
I learned that the most interesting thing on the stage is not to know. How can we practice not to know – once we know? This took me many years to find it out. I also realized that whatever you throw concepts to people, they always have to experience it. They of course receive the information with their mind, but they have also the emotional and physical ‘life’ and they know only when it goes through the flesh. Until that, they do not know. It is not life. I hate many things in dance but this is what I love: we learn with the flesh. We know because it is in you. You feel it.
Belaza’s company will perform in Melbourne with Le Cri (October 13-16, 2016); in Riga with Homus Novus (November 8-9, 2016); in Frankfurt with La Traversé-Sur le Mur (November 12-13, 2016); in Marseille and Roubaix (November 24-26, 2016); in Bruxelles (December 17, 2016); in Cognac (March 25, 2017).
To be updated on the next dates of Nacera Belaza’s Dance Company: http://www.cie-nacerabelaza.com/