Portrait of Alice Ripoll

Note: I was invited by Catherine Zavodska to interview Alice Ripoll. And this turned out my first writing about dance both in French and English. French version can be found here: https://www.danseaujourdhui.fr/alice-ripoll-portrait-de-choregraphe/

In 2019, Alice Ripoll was a phenomenon in Europe having over 60 tour dates with one third slated in France. Her first appearance in Europe went back to 2015 edition of Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis.

Alice has always been curious about how body moves. Back to her teens, her awareness of dance was no more than Grupo Corpo, a Brazilian contemporary dance company. Quiet and shy, Alice enjoyed exploring movement and posture alone in her room. “It was not dance at all”, she said. She did not learn dance techniques till when she entered the Angel Vianna dance school in Rio. This multi-disciplinary school had a program combining dance and body reeducation/therapy. Prerequisite for admission was her therapeutic techniques learned in psychoanalysis.

Indeed, she found THE place: encountering artists from different fields, exploring dance techniques as well as discovering many choreographers’ works. Alice remembered: “It was a very nice period for dance in Brazil with a lot of great artists such as Bruno Beltrâo, Grupo Cena 11, João Saldanha and Lia Rodrigues.” Regarding choreographers from Europe, she particularly mentioned her excitement when watching videos of Pina Bausch and DV8. She even had chance participating in a workshop with DV8’s film director David Hinton, reward of the prize Rumos Itaú Cultural for the dance video project with Alex Cassal Jornada ao umbigo do mundo.

Becoming choreographer was a coincidence. With Daniela Wiemer and Leticia Nabuco from school, they started creating a piece while another friend, after having watched the work in progress, suggested that one of them watch the others dancing from the outside. Alice stood out and a trio became a duet: Anacrônico was presented during the 2003 edition of Panorama Festival. A DOBRA dance company was born and she has choreographed ever since. Staying at the choreographer’s side seems more “natural” for her than performing. A DOBRA did not last that long as other members quit for personal reason. Slightly feeling lost during that period, the choreographer continued her research on body movement including various collaborations.

In 2009, Cie REC was founded with a group of young hip-hop performers from a favela in Rio. In total they have created 5 pieces with aCORdo the latest. The Portuguese version of Alice’s website details this encounter: in 2007, Alice gave dance classes in an NGO for young people in Chácara do Céu. These young dancers became interested in contemporary dance and decided to continue the first process of creation with Alice even when the NGO ended the partnership. Without sponsor or support, they continued rehearsing in an old church and premiered Cornaca in the 2010 edition of Panorama Festival. 

With Renato Cruz and Sonia Destri, Alice Ripoll was invited by 2014 Entering Dance project.   Developed by the Panorama Cultural Association, ACPAN, the project aims at creating and performing, within communities in the northern zone of Rio, contemporary dance works inspired by urban dance. After the commissioned piece, both dancers and choreographer still want to work together so the Cie Suave company was founded. Essentially, urban dance is freestyle: it came from existing dance styles such as hip hop, popping and breakdance; it owns the spirit of carioca favelas. For Alice, in some ways, urban dance is close to contemporary dance. Dancers are open to inspirations from daily life, theatrical techniques and so on. Meanwhile, they can mix everything easily.

“People are like words; they make sense only if next to each other” These are lyrics from Brazilian rapper Emicida’s song Yasuke (Bendito, Louvado Seja). Alice quoted them when we talked about the omnipresence of body contact in her works. She is aware of it: “It’s something very personal; it’s my interest and when I start moving, I like a lot to do it with contact. Dancing with body contact creates much more possibilities and shows to the world that we need to connect.” 

In Brazil, people are passionate about dancing especially in favelas. However, becoming a professional dancer is not so obvious as in Europe. Living only by dancing seems quite uncommon. Certainly, it is a hard time for art including dance. The choreographer mentioned that certain artists needed to find other opportunities. That urban dance is trending in Europe probably contributes to her remarkable tour in 2019. Fashion comes and goes and for her it is great for these urban dancers to get support and attention as their situation in Brazil is very delicate.

Currently, Alice is completely connected to both Cie REC and Cie Suave for their different energies. She is also satisfied with the fact that dancers evolve with her. For example, Cie REC’s next creation, which will be premiered in May 2020 at Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels, came from an idea of Alan Ferreira, the only remaining dancer from the first creation. “He’s working to become a choreographer,” she believes.

When to Cie Suave, she starts picturing the third creation. Current political context, in Brazil and over the world, will still be her concern. “Art has become inaccessible in the last few years. A lot of people are far from art and can’t feel how important it is to their lives. The language of passinho is powerful because it is democratic and has some characteristics that can communicate with people who have no access to art.” She said. In addition to accessibility, Alice would like to further involve spectators than just watching, exploring the ritual aspect of dance as well as bringing them away from their smartphone, temporarily at least.

Our exchange confirms my assumption: Alice is a positive person. She entirely expresses her talents and beliefs thru choreography. I like the title of Ève Beauvallet’s critic about aCORdo: “Alice Ripoll, l’âme de Rio (the soul of Rio)” . She definitely is. After the success of aCORdo and Cria, which piece can complete them if Alice Ripoll is composed of three colors? She chose the duet that she created and danced with Fernando Klipel Que as saídas sejam múltiplas. Awaiting her “dancing” piece coming to Europe as well as the upcoming creations with Cie REC and Cie Suave, I recommend you the previously mentioned video project  Jornada ao umbigo do mundo, which I consider as her fourth color.

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