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What do philosophy, a snake and a Mahler composition have to do with dance?

Published 28 Sep 2016 at 10:16 by Daphne Prochowski

Choreographer and dancer Samir Calixto (Brazil, 1978) is inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy. But you don’t need to be a knower of philosophy to enjoy the dance performance M. “People shouldn’t be worried they won’t understand it, it’s all about the experience.”

Samir Calixto incorporates insights by Nietzsche in his dance performance, M. Nietzsche often spoke of dance and the body as instruments for change. A famous quote of his reads, “There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy”. According to Samir, this thought rings true to everybody:”If you work out you will notice not only a change in your body, but also in your mind. You become more alert and aware. A change always starts in your body, the rest will follow.”

What can we expect from your upcoming performance M?
“M is a performance by 5 dancers that is based on one poem from Nietzsche, Midnight Song. It talks about this journey of transformation from one state of being dormant to a state of awareness. The dance reveals every layer of our state of humanity. This takes place in the white world I’ve created on stage, a mysterious no man’s land. The piece will be danced on the music of Mahler. He used the poem Midnight Song in his third symphony. I use a modern soundtrack of this musical piece for my dance. M is for man, Mahler, for mystic.”

Is philosophy a big source of inspiration for you?
“In dance, it is very easy to dance something pretty, do something conceptional or do something very technical. But this is not what inspires me. As human beings we are not only hearts, we are not only minds, we are not only bodies. When we are doing something with the body, I think it is extremely important to experience it on every level. That is why I love this philosophy, Nietzsche said we are all three. This is how I think about dance, the human as a whole inspires me.”

You use exciting elements in this performance, like a snake. Why?
“This is about changing the perception that people have on things. The snake seems a dangerous animal, but in some cultures it represents wisdom. In the texts of Nietzsche, the snake is also a representation of wisdom. The relationship we have with the snake on stage is very respectful. This asks you to reevaluate the relationship between human and animal. It was a tough decision for me to make. I’m strongly against animal cruelty, and I’m a vegetarian. But the snake is extremely well taken care of. Reptile shelter Pret Met Rep (‘Fun With Rep’) ensures the animal is taken care of. That’s really important to me.”

You talk about transformation a lot. Why is this important and in what ways can we recognize it in your dance?
“What you see is in the performance is the transformation of the dancers. When you dance a whole hour, you change. You become more alert, more aware, you become alive. The interesting thing is that you will see those dancers transform in front of your very eyes, in attitude and in concentration. It’s a demanding piece for the dancers – physically and emotionally. It’s a ritualistic dance that’s so intense that it will move you. I think people are often worried that a choreography will be extremely conceptual and that they won’t understand it. But this performance is accessible to everyone.”

We Are Public members can attend the performance M in Theater Bellevue on 4 October.

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