Last week, I was lucky enough to meet four Brazilian dancers from Mourad Merzouki’s Käfig dance company, part of the CCN. After watching their rehearsal of ‘Correria Agwa’, a performance I got to see later in the week, I talked to Aguinaldo ‘Anjo’ De Oliveira Lopes, Alexsandro ‘Pitt’ Soares Campanha Da Silva, Hélio Robson Dos Anjos Cavalcanti and Geovane Fidelis Da Conceição.
Almost all the dancers from the current Käfig company previously worked with a Brazilian hip-hop company which came to France in 2006 for the Biennale de la Danse in Lyon.
It was there that these young dancers first met Mourad Merzouki and began their long and fruitful collaboration with him.
In 2008, after returning to the Lyon Biennale, the dancers joined Mourad’s company, Käfig.
How did you start dancing?
“I started dancing in 2008,” says Helio. “I met Pitt and after that I met the Käfig company and continued my story in dance. I’m from hip-hop, breaking and urban dance, but before that I’d done ballroom dancing… so I kind of mixed everything into a new style!”
Geovane told me: “I started dancing in 2004-2005 in Pétropolis, my hometown, which is a small town right next to Rio. There, I started with an amateur group, and then I went to festivals, lots of things like that. In 2008, I auditioned to enter the Käfig company and I’ve been dancing with them ever since!”
“I started in 2003 with my older brother,” explained Anjo. “He was already dancing, and one day he took me to a festival in Rio to see him dance. I loved it, and I started dancing too. I danced with lots of different companies until arriving in Käfig.”
Pitt started dancing in 2002. He grew up listening to music like Michael Jackson and James Brown with his family, dancing and watching others dance at family parties. He was very inspired by this environment in which dance was so vital, and started with b-boying and capoeira.
Each of the dancers has done a little bit of contemporary and ballet. But their real training is hip-hop: in the streets, in workshops …
How important is dance in Brazil?
Geovane said: “I think in Brazil we are gradually starting to professionalise dance, but it’s happening too slowly. Maybe if you work with a singer, or on the TV, people respect you more.
We are maybe the second hip-hop company to come out of Brazil, and that was in 2008, and we are still seen as being too young, too new. Ballet is a lot more respected in Brazil… But, little by little, hip-hop is starting to become more professional.”
Are Brazilian dances an important part of your culture?
“Not really for Brazilians, maybe more for people who come to Brazil. For foreign people it’s ‘Oh, samba!’, but in Brazil it’s really just seen as normal to dance samba, or capoeira, for example.”
“In Brazil it’s very difficult,” explains Pitt, “because there isn’t a lot of money or work, and people who watch you dance will respect you a little, but will say ‘Ok, you dance, but for work, what do you do?’ And you’ll answer: ‘I work as a dancer.’ Then they continue: ‘But what else do you do?’ In France if you say that you’re a dancer, people really respect that – a lot of people go to the theatre to see dance shows. In Brazil, if you say that you’re a dancer, people wonder how you can make a living from it … The culture is very complicated.”
Geovane said: “I think the same person who says ‘That’s not a job’ will go on a trip, maybe to Las Vegas, to see a show, but won’t respect professional dancers in Brazil. We are seen as too unimportant.”
Do you do other styles of dance apart from hip-hop?
The dancers talked to me about African dance, contemporary, jazz and ballroom dancing. One of them does zouk, which is originally from the French Caribbean islands, and is very popular in Rio.
“I think in hip-hop, there are a lot of different styles: it’s very broad and varied, so dancing hip-hop involves many techniques. It’s not just academic. For example, we could start a style right here, right now, all together and invent something new. It’s very lively,” said Geovane.
How did you work with Mourad to create the pieces?
Anjo explains: “For ‘Agwa’, the creation process was very long, it lasted a year, maybe a little more.
Mourad has a very demanding but intelligent way of working. For him, everything happens deep down, and with the music. It also has to be reworked all the time, we had rehearsals, rehearsals and more rehearsals, and that was new for us.
It was a great experience, we learned a lot, but it was also very difficult. We would rehearse for eight hours a day with Mourad. It was hard because we were always talking and trying things; he didn’t arrive with a set project. Everything was created with us, it involved a lot of research!
So we created the choreography with him, each dancer contributed something.”
How do these pieces represent your daily life?
“‘Agwa’ started with waterbottles, not plastic cups. In the rehearsals, because it was always really hot, Mourad was always saying ‘Go and drink a glass of water!’. He then started to find that interesting. So it comes from drinking, but also spending all that energy, which produces sweat.
‘Correria’, the second piece we created, was made because when we started working with the company, there were always people coming and going… Always running (correria means ‘the race’). It’s based on the idea that we have to run all the time: to eat, to work, to go out, to meet our friends …”
“The joy that’s in the show is definitely part of our everyday life, because that’s the way we always are: laughing together, with other people… I think that’s the element of ‘Correria Agwa’ that’s closest to our everyday life,” added Anjo.
Do you have any other projects?
Geovane told me: “Apart from ‘Agwa’ and ‘Correria’, with the CCN, we have done a show called ‘Käfig Brasil’, which we created in Montpellier in 2012. We worked with five different choreographers: one Brazilian, us, and three French people.
Now we have started to work on a new piece for next year. Käfig has already done this show called ‘Boxe Boxe’, and we’re going to redo it but with our style and our energy. The choreography will be the same but with different dancers.”
And outside the CCN?
“When we are not on tour we are free to do other things,” said Geovane. “We can work with singers, with the TV…”
“Yes, we try to do a bit of everything,” explained Anjo. “If there’s work in dance, whether it’s with other companies, with singers or with the TV, anything, we’ll do it. For example, Geovane works in China, Pitt dances for Coca-Cola and with a Brazilian singer, Helio has a social project in Brazil, and I don’t have anything! I actually stopped the Käfig company for two years (I’ve just come back), and during that time I went to Russia with my brother: he has a dance school there. So yeah, we do a bit of everything, what there is to do, we do it!”
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
A lot of the Käfig dancers plan to make a life in France, and Anjo would like to have his own company and become a choreographer.
One thing they definitely all see in their future is dance!