the visit of Cesc Gelabert, one of the great international dance figures of recent decadesto present a children’s show in Open space Quinta de los Molinos, was an important step in the journey of this cultural center experienced with enthusiasm by its artistic director, Beatriz de Torres, and her team, in the days leading up to the premiere. They could not believe that the Barcelona dancer was creating choreography in his small room intended for a few performances, the places of which sold out shortly after his presence was announced.
Gelabert exudes wisdom with her slender figure and quiet gait. He uses calm speech and spouts sentences that reflect his thoughts, but he keeps joking, with a mischievous smile, about the Barca combination of sofa and cushions in the #PlayQuinta room, where we interviewed for 20 minutes. .
“To dance is to inhabit the body with emotion and spirit -it is said-. All you can perceive who is you and what is not you. Mind, imagination, spirit or soul. To dance is that everything is present. If something is not present, you are not dancing. Dance does not give meaning to life, it is given by the spirit, and today we have many clouds and we have no time to listen to our spirit. We don’t really know where we are going. Dance is an instrument that can help you live better or be a better person”.
The harmony with which he moves his hands seems to be the decantation of the gesture throughout his career, delicately transmitted to his fingertips. “The human body is a microcosm that represents the world, it is a map of the world with 207 bones. As I dance, I think about how subtle I am with the body. We are the result of all the movements we have made throughout life“.
He is one of the most influential figures in Spanish contemporary dance. In 1972 he created the first choreography and in 1973 the first solo. Between 1978 and 1980, he lived and worked in New York. He is the founder and director of the Gelabert-Azzopardi Companyia de Dansa since 1985. He has choreographed for Mikhail Baryshnikov, Balletto di Toscana, Tanztheater Komische Oper or Kukai. Cesc Gelabert has received numerous awards, including: National Dance Prize (1996), Dance Prize of Catalonia, Gold Medal of Cultural Merit from the City of Barcelona, Gold Medal of Fine Arts, Max Awards , The Heraldo 2004 Angel Award or DAAD Berlin, among others.
Never before had Cesc Gelabert created a piece specifically for children. “It’s a non-narrative choreography. It is based on joy, on clear movements and on the insistence on repetitions. Ideally, children should be able to repeat all the movements because they understand them. In fact, it’s not very different from the choreographies I usually do. I try to share with children a world where they can dance freely.”
“I always thought the best audience would be either children or Baryshnikov”. With these functions in Madrid, Gelabert will be able to say that he has granted his wish, since the legendary dancer and choreographer Mijail Baryshnikov -for some the technical perfection of the dance- he already made a choreography for her years ago that we can see in this video:
we talked about the innocent gaze of the child, on the astonishment reflected in the eyes that notice something for the first time: a movement, a figure, an object. “Children are not subject to meaningful fragments of life. The beautiful thing is that I have the opportunity to work with children who are open to recognizing their bodies, a body that changes over time. I’m not a specialist in education, I only work on intuition and I could hardly talk about anything, only dance a little” he says modestly.
Gelabert lets the paradoxes of our lives come to light, opening a mute and amused laugh: “I’m tired of being asked what it means what I do. When they dance a soleá, they don’t ask my flamenco friends: “Hey, what does this soleá mean? You don’t ask a winemaker either what this or that wine means, but no one stops drinking wine because they don’t know what it means.”.
“How is it that in high school the desks are not moved and the class dances?”
About his frustrated desires and the work that currently occupies him, after fifty years of career, he tells us: “I would have always liked to dance only three pieces, the same throughout my life. Recently, for example, I danced Bujaralozby Carles Santos -who died in 2017-, whom I have been performing since 1982, alongside his Bösendorfer piano in Vinaroz“.
“Now I give some lessons to professional dancers. I devote myself more to teaching school teachers or nurses. I would like dance to be at the heart of education and work. How is it that in high school the desks are not moved and that there is dancing in class?” He even fantasizes about the most unusual scenarios, only within reach of the subversive imagination of Godard in the 1960s: “…or at the office!” People who have sat in front of other people for 20 years without ever having played around or danced together. Society hasn’t internalized dance and it’s a shame they don’t have more dance cultureno words to accurately describe it.”
“I only feel like part of the Culture to help people stay in touch”
“Human beings are global in body, emotion and spirit. I don’t feel more than part of the Culture and only want to contribute to people contact. When you start to inhabit this world you realize that we are all quite similar, that everything is interconnected and then you start to value others. It would be nice if our life consisted of going through fragments of shared movement. It’s always the same, the culture, the collective…”.
Gelabert does not forget any of the people who contributed to this project: “Lydia Azzopardi did the wardrobe and also Calliope Paniaguawho has the florist Florida house in Madrid, he built me a backpack of flowers that turns me into a hedgehog or a belly”.
“Then there is the music. I recycle the music that my friend composed Charles Mirandasadly now deceased, for a show called The gardener (the gardener), and also use two pieces of Eric Satie and an Polka of Igor Stravinsky. The lighting is done by Fermín Blanco. But the main culprit of everything is Beatriz,” he says, smiling at Beatriz de Torres, artistic director of Espacio Abierto, who attends the captivated interview.
“The important thing is to be at the service of others. I have devoted my whole life to it”
“What I want is for the dance to be alive, inhabited and pushed towards the spirit. I don’t dance for myself, now the most important thing is to feel that I share it with the public. In life, the most important thing is to know that others are more important than us. We don’t paint anything! The important thing is to be of service to others. I’ve dedicated my whole life to it and I would like society to move in that direction as well.”
Before the show, the dancer thought about what would happen if he invited the children to dance. “I will try in the end. I do not know… The idea is to give them a paper flower and invite them to join in the dance, to see if I’m lucky”. The eloquent answer to this question are the photos that show the reaction of children and adults, the movement that transformed the show into a collective, tender and fleeting experience.
To cross the vegetation that extends in the Quinta de los Molinos is to detach oneself at every step from what permeates urban life. Leave behind the noise of the cars, the damned radios, the dirt of the sidewalks and enter a fragrant wild oasis where it is not difficult to get lost and you almost wish it were like that. If the Quinta de los Molinos is a reserve of oxygen purified by rosemary, almond trees and olive trees; Espacio Abierto preserves the difficult combination between education, art and games, in an exemplary program that in the creation of Cesc Gelabert he found the perfect expression of this spirit.
Before starting the conversation, Gelabert gave us a few distilled phrases about dancing and this wonderful experience with children. Here, I leave his words and the paper flower that symbolizes the invitation to share a fragment of his life.