News: Toni Jodar - Modern Dance Speaks!

Thursday 1 November 2012

Catalonian dance Toni Jodar brings his unique show Modern Dance Speaks! to the Lilian Baylis Studio next week (Wed 7 & Thu 8 November) – in which he explains, illustrates and performs the history of dance – from Isadora Duncan to tanztheater….

How did your Modern Dance Speaks! come about?
When I was touring as a dancer, I realized that the audience, once they had left the theatre, remained outside commenting on the show. I loved listening to them and If I could, I always contributed to the dialogue.
I noticed that there was a lack of knowledge about contemporary and modern dance; people had a lot of questions. When I was telling them that every movement we were doing had a meaning, that it was not something isolated from the social and artistic context, everything started to make sense and their interest increased. When the cultivation of new audiences started to become a priority, I was asked to prepare a workshop on that idea. It was then that I started to explain dance in a historical context. It was a good way to explain dance history – and at the same time keep on being an older dancer on stage.

Do you feel dance has a communication problem? Shouldn’t the movement be able to speak for itself?
Dance is a strong communicator itself. It is universal. However, it is interesting to have historical references to put it into context. I’m trying to incorporate a few tools so that the audience can empathize with the movement language. With that information they get principles, criteria, autonomy and confidence. We want them to feel more powerful.

How & where does ‘modern dance’ start?
I am a dancer, not a dance historian. I use all my experience in workshops and on stages to explain dance in a pedagogical, easy and colloquial way. In my piece, the beginnings of the modern dance date back to Isadora Duncan’s free way of dancing, to the first signs of the German expressionist dance, the analytics of the Laban movement and the theatrical wit of Loie Füller.

How do you feel about dance which uses speech? Is that a more effective art form – or is dance which uses movement only ‘purer’?
I live dance the same way in all its different expressions. Dance is dance in all its possible languages. Nowadays, we talk more about transversality, fusion, cultural and artistic spread than about essence and purity of one style or another. Dance is such a rich and changeable art reflecting new cultural and social trends.

Where does your story of modern dance end?
I finish with dance-theatre and the hybrid of artistic vocabulary – visual, multimedia, digital, online, etc.

Who/what do you think are important in the development of dance as an art form today?
To me, the dialogues between choreographers such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Akram Khan, the experiences and thoughts of William Forsythe and the dance-theatre of DV8, the ‘non-dance’ from Xavier le Roy, Jerome Bel and Joao Fiadeiro, where dance is limitless and open to all possibilities.

Who has been the most influential dancer [dance movement] on you?
When I first started, the artist who influenced me the most was Albert Vidal, a teacher from the Jacques Lecoq school and actor from Teatro La Comuna de Darío Fo and Ana Maleras was the one who encouraged me to carry on in the dance field.
At the same time during the 1970s, many professors, specially Americans, came to Barcelona. Later in the ’80s, a group of professionals from Barcelona left to New York to study.
During my education, I was highly influenced by Walter Nicks and Vanoy Aikens and two dancers from Katherine Dunham’s company. Basically I came to dance and movement through the Afro-American jazz and theatre.
I am a very Mediterranean dancer and so are two of the artists with whom I have collaborated the most, Cesc Gelabert and vanguard musician Carlos Santos.
My interest in working with different techniques and languages has led to some very diverse experiences, for instance with La Fura dels Baus and Comediants.

You’ve already had a 25 year career in dance. We hear a lot about the disadvantages of getting older – but what about the advantages of being an older dancer?
I am a senior dancer who wishes to remain on stage and I have found a good way to continue. I think that it is also good for the audience to share the experience and maturity of older dancers. At this stage of my career I’ve got more to give and enjoy than ever, so it’s not a good idea to retire. It is true that physically the body has some limits but you can find other ways to share things. The stage still feels like my home, a comfortable place to be.

Do you continue to dance in other, conventional productions as well?
At the moment, I use the movement kept in my body’s memory, for example, in 2010, I could dance for 15 minutes in the reshowing of an emblematic piece Belmonte , by Gelabert-Azzopardi. I still do perform sometimes both alone, or with other artists. I love being on stage and every time I have the opportunity I take it.

Have you performed in London before?
It is the first time I am going to perform in London – and with one of my personal pieces. I have been to Edinburgh before – with Carlos Santos Company and Gelabert Azzopardi.

Modern Dance Speaks!
7 & 8 November, Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells

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