Cruel is an open-ended series of narrative elements that only becomes complete under the gaze of a spectator. Bodies in movement that invite deciphering - a fresh match between Chance and Need. Ordinary stories that invariably repeat themselves in people’s lives, that involve love, lovers, family- bonds that bind and unbind. Almost always, these are cruel stories.
“The stories are there, so they may be apprehended by each viewer, in each person’s particular way”, underlines the choreographer from Rio, when talking about ‘Cruel’, which featured collaborations with Fernando Muniz on the development of narrative elements, and the theatre director Gilberto Gawronski on searching for dramatic movements.
It was during Knot, a performance that premiered in Germany in 2005 and toured across Brazil, that Deborah felt a change coming in her language: a stronger presence of dramaturgy, metaphor and meaning. Today, she understands, this was a point of no return.
Thespian culture has been imprinted in Deborah Colker’s work for, at least, from the beginning of her career. In 1984 the choreographer developed her first drama performance, stage-directing The Irresistible Adventure, a play by Domingos de Oliveira, starred by Dina Sfat, a great Brazilian actress. After this, she was movement director in several plays. Therefore it was an old idea of Deborah’s and of Elias João, company executive director and long-time partner, to bring this theatrical experience to Company performances. “Thus, in order to work these references through theater, which is what we did in Cruel, in the absence of any libretto, was to lay intention and meaning upon the movements”, Deborah pointed out.
In a collective construction that took about a year and a half, other elements were incorporated into the project, including texts by profane Fausto Fawcett and a story by Fernando Muniz. “All these contributions, in the end, were inputs for this creative process, and were absorbed through dance, creating a patchwork of situations that present themselves, one after another”, Deborah explained. “But what you see is not soap opera, not a play. This is dancing”, the choreographer remarked.
The performance, therefore, unfolds through four moments across two acts.
The first scene, ‘preparing for a ball’, brings gestures, situations and objects from everyday life.
We are introduced to the characters that will subsequently live through the several “situations”
that cross the stage.
Around a vast round chandelier center stage, to the tune of the sharp vivacity of a Vivaldi waltz, the heartfelt longing of Nelson Gonçalves, and the light, lowdown, husky poetry in the voice of Julie London, the great ball takes place in a atmosphere of reminiscence, through lyrical movements and pas-de-deux; living memories of the grand romances lived in great halls - ravishing passion, being uplifted, carried away at meeting one’s better half – but are we at a graduation ceremony? A wedding?
Gradually, small shifts and changes in mood and intensity denounce the course of time. A huge mobile table comes into the scene, 5 meters long. Around it, family relations develop; the close, tender moments, the days of drifting apart, which mark the ever ongoing change of affections in family life.
With this humongous object ruling the scene, Deborah Colker keeps faithful to a constant in her work: the primordial relation between space and movement - and how space interferes with movement. “It is always the special setting that suggests to me new relations with movement”, confesses Deborah. A vertical stage (Velox), a large wheel (Rota), the structure of a house encroaching and taking over a stage (Casa), hundreds of vases in a lattice across the floor (4 por 4) were just a few of the choreographer’s successful spatial gambles, over these nearly 15 years ahead of the Company.
In the second act of Cruel, an array of vast moving mirrors lends a surreal tone to the show. Body fragments slip across the structures, as people mingle into, and are confused with, one another. To this background of fugacious light and reflection each person is most utterly alone, experiencing the sum total of one’s personal life history. “Before the mirror, you stand alone. Your history looks back at you, reflected in your image”, comments the choreographer. Her new bets are laid on that place where violence and love meet, where cruelty and sensitivity stumbles. This is where amusement and tragedy - romance and pain – brush across each other: that singular place where two people meet.