‘Art’s duty is to make us dream while we’re awake,’ says Cesc Gelabert

“I’d like to be a piece of wood, which, when given to a child, would turn into a horse, or anything else he wishes… Dance should always be an act which brings us closer to ourselves. If the audience doesn’t see art, then art does not exist. Art is the connection between me and the public,» says Cesc Gelabert. By no means an ordinary man, the Catalan choreographer (and former architect) is one of contemporary dance’s leading personalities. Honest, uncomplicated, strict and sensitive, he is, above all, a true artist. Marking his debut in Greece, Gelabert will go on stage at the Ninth International Kalamata Dance Festival, performing at the Municipal Regional Theater tomorrow and Sunday. The program for both nights features his troupe Gelabert-Azzopardi cia de Dansa, together with a solo titled «Preludis.» Sensual and mystical, with touches of Mediterranean light, Gelabert’s artistic secret lies in the spirituality with which he courageously enters secret passages of the subconscious. Following a busy period in Germany, Gelabert founded Gelabert-Azzopardi cia de Dansa together with British solo dancer Lydia Azzopardi in Barcelona in 1986, while the solo dance he will be performing in Kalamata this weekend is the culmination of 30 years on stage – both as an interpreter and a choreographer. The solo piece ruminates on the body as a tool as well as the relationship between man and time, rendered in a stage design that is dominated by a clock designed by Frederic Amat, a close collaborator of Gelabert’s. It unfolds around five preludes by different composers, interpreted live on stage by pianist Jordi Camell. A few days before traveling to Greece, the choreographer spoke to Kathimerini. What is «Preludis» about? One can only explain a choreography through dance, but I’ll try. To begin with, a work is based on two levels. The first level deals with an important question: the definition of the dancer. When is a dance act in harmony? When do I dance well? What do each and every one of us accept as the right way of dancing, of existing? The human instrument is very much like a cello’s five chords; they all have to work together. The same applies to human beings: We have the body, our consciousness, the heart, the senses, and the mind. A dancer must work on these five elements simultaneously, and that is what I’m symbolizing by dividing the piece into five parts. The second level is time – the idea of evolution. How do we evolve? How do we learn? On stage, a huge clock with 12 points of reference connects the piece with the great cycle of life, the astrological cycle, the cycle of time, the Buddhist wheel of life and so on. The work is very simple, clean, austere and abstract. I feel sincere when I interpret it. If I can say something with five steps, why use 10? I’m looking for the essence… What did you discover in the work of the composers? In Bach I discovered the mind, in Chopin I saw feelings and in Debussy the senses. I spent hours listening to and choosing the music; it was a unique experience. How do you feel about dance, both as a dancer and a choreographer, after 30 years on stage? I can compare dance to food or explain it in terms that are musical, artistic or to do with color… My colleagues and I are responsible for safeguarding the heritage of this knowledge: the link between the body, the heart and the mind. In our day and time, artists have to keep this connection. More and more, I see things more openly. I don’t consider myself as that important. The piece which I’m presenting is not that easy. You, as members of the audience have to create an universe. There is so much control… Life and society have their own dreams for us, and we are constantly zapping. We are losing the ability to forge – through silence and from within ourselves – our purpose. This piece of work is a study of all those elements which I would like to see, 30 years later, as a choreographer and a dancer. What are your views on the relationship between artists and spirituality? For me, art’s duty is to help us dream while we’re awake; a conscious dream. As an artist, I’m always trying to help the public to get in touch with themselves and with others: for them to be more aware, more sensitive, while developing all along. This doesn’t go against the idea that art has to be pleasant and amusing. Unfortunately, we are living in materialistic times and big groups come under tremendous pressure in order to make profits. If we are not careful, we will start producing great entertainment packages – and nothing else. What did you gain from your experience as an architect? As far as my education goes, it was very helpful, especially in my work as a choreographer. I believe that the arts are interconnected. Artists, and people in general, need a broad education. What, in your opinion, would be the ideal training for a dancer? Today, knowledge and cultural heritage are very accessible. As dancers, we must be able to absorb all these languages, to be flexible instruments, with our body, our bones, our joints and our emotions all working in unison. We have inherited numerous techniques. We have a choice between getting completely mixed up, or using all this knowledge to reach a new level – and deep understanding. The language of the movement I use is not important. What matters is my perception of art.

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