Work Behind the Work | Natalia Fernandes, Dancer + Choreographer
As I have mentioned in so many words, one of my main motivations behind creating and reimagining this blog is to connect ideas, places and people from all corners of life, even those who seem too far or too random to reach. With that in mind, I think it is about time we started hearing voices from those other than myself.
Let me finally introduce a new interview/showcase series, Work Behind the Work.
It only seems appropriate that the first creative mind to make an appearance here is the woman who inspired the title of this series in the first place. Natalia Fernandes is a Brazilian dancer + choreographer who has worked and danced across the world, starting from different cities in Brazil, to Berlin, Amman, Jordan, New York, to Madrid, and, of course, a stint in Tangier where we met by what felt like kismet.
Natalia sent me an email out of the blue a couple of months before arriving in Morocco, because apparently my name is one of the few that comes up when you google “contemporary dance Tangier.” I was thrilled to hear from another awesome-sounding woman in my profession and leapt at the chance to meet. Once we had talked face to face about dance, art, literature, life and everything in between, she invited me to be a part of a concept project she had begun when in Amman called The Oldest Thing in the World. From there, an inspiring artistic collaboration was born in which she directed me in creating my own solo, Creature of Habit, answering her question- what is the oldest thing in the world? In turn, we exchanged feedback on her own solo, This is Not Mine, that she had been working on for a year or so and we performed them together first in Tangier in the spring of 2015, then on a tour around Casablanca, El Jadida and Fes.
What I loved about working with Natalia was her lack of emphasis on product and her whole-hearted plunge into process. Where does the desire to move come from originally? Where can we grow from little seeds of ideas? How can basic movement phrases be developed and evolve into something more beautiful/bizarre/meaningful? She was always saying to me,
“It’s not the work itself, Ruby. It’s the work behind the work that matters.”
This not only influenced the title for this little blog series, but it has shaped the entire way that I look at and approach choreography. It has also made me interested in other creative processes. Instead of asking artists and makers about the work itself, what if we dug deeper to find the wheels that turn, driving them to create in the first place? Let’s tune into that heartbeat of creativity.
Natalia’s fascination with the human form and it’s possibilities is at the heartbeat of her work and that sense of curiosity is infectious to those who work with her and view her process. She explores fearlessly, pushing the boundaries of shape, dynamic, and norms within the dance world. I am so thrilled to have her as the first guest artist showcased in Work Behind the Work. I sent her a list of questions that I hope probe that elusive pulse behind creativity, and here is what she reflects:
What is your first memory of actively creating something?
Since I have been mostly a performer, I was always creating together with the choreographer and that is why firstly, I love to dance for others. But, to answer this question as a creator, I would say my first memory was in Amman, Jordan, in 2014. I had other experiences with my own creations before, but this one I think was when I first felt the genuine need to make something myself.
When beginning a new project, what is the very first step you take?
I need to understand why I am starting a new project.. Asking myself questions helps me to be able to realize what the first step will be.
What outside interests feed into the work you do in your chosen career? How so?
A lot of them... but literature is a huge influence for me. I love to read. It is a personal necessity and a base for my creation.
What do you do when you are in a creative lull? Those moments when inspiration just does not come naturally?
I study with even more rigor.
What is your biggest doubt in terms of your work and how do you overcome it?
I guess each work introduces new doubts. With no question, there is no movement. There is always something to overcome.
Thinking about being a performer in our world these days, an important doubt to consider is, how can we survive? In each country I have found different problems to overcome as a performance artist. However, finding ways to discuss the human form and its possibilities is extremely necessary. We must remember that we are bodies and this is the way we interact with the world. With no body there is no world for us.
When others see/experience/use your finished product or your work, how do you wish for them to feel or react? Do you value this reaction? Why or why not?
It is interesting to listen and create dialogue with the reaction of the audience. For me I feel it is an important way to rethink my practice. But, I also think is very important to not listen to anyone sometimes. Be honest with yourself and your real needs, even your mistakes.
Is there an underlying message/value/idea that you wish to convey in all of the work you have made so far? If so, how would you describe it?
My experience with creation in dance is very recent, but I feel that I have a deep need to understand the body and give it the chance to think about the world. Avoiding rationality and letting muscles and bones express. It does not matter which country I am in, a person is a body, and apart from religion, faith or culture, at the core, we are all just bodies.
You can find out more about Natalia Fernandes, her work, and what she is up to at the moment via her professional website: http://natfefa.wixsite.com/
*Note: this is a series that I will be developing as it moves forward in time. Perhaps it will include oral interviews, recordings, and maybe even video in the future. If you would like to nominate a creative soul that you know to be included (even yourself!), contact me here.