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Titans of contemporary dance: dancing (and choreographing) beyond 50 | Culture

by News Room
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“Sometimes people come to see me to see how a lady my age dances on stage. And there is always some comment like ‘it’s great that you can still dance,’ says Sol Picó (Alcoy, 57 years old). “After a certain age she is ignored as a dancer. It is very difficult to see a woman of 50 or over in a dance show that is not of her own creation,” explains Isabel Vázquez (Seville, 59 years old). “I feel that in programming we are less recognized and less valued. We live in a society in which youth is a value and the maturity of women is not,” declares Paloma Díaz (Madrid, 54 years old), also a dancer and choreographer with a long career.

Going against stereotypes also leads to breaking them down, even if it takes longer than desired and requires energy, perseverance and, of course, fatigue. If you are also a woman and over 50, the fight becomes epic. If that woman over 50 dedicates herself to choreographing and dancing to do the impossible, she needs a lot of self-love and love for dance to jump over the wall. Despite the inconveniences, a good handful of those women who revolutionized contemporary dance in the last two decades of the last century in Spain and who today exceed half a century are still on stage disputing archetypes and whatever it takes to emancipate their vocation and profession. “I can be upset, dizzy, then I start dancing and everything goes away,” explains Carmen Werner (Madrid, 70 years old), the eternal dancer. They are women, furthermore, who do not follow dance trends or theatrical fashions.

Sol Picó, in his work ‘Malditas plumas’ (2020).MAY CIRCUS

This weekend, Sol Picó presents at the Teatros del Canal in Madrid Titanas, the art of the encounter, a show conceived and performed together with two other veterans, the Swedish Charlotta Öfverholm and the Japanese Natsuki, which arose, precisely, from the need to see how three women vibrate, dance and coexist at the same vital moment. “Find the art of encounter and the art of community,” she says. With music and sound space by a fourth woman, Judit Farrés, “who generates the amniotic fluid in which we move,” Titan It premiered at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia in 2022. “I didn’t know very well, and I still don’t know, if this topic is of interest in dance programming, but I don’t care. I have always done and will do what I want and I needed to work on it,” explains Picó.

Of course, the 30 years of experience that the Sol Picó Company is completing attest to this and a few other things. For example, having taken dance to the most accessible places. Or dancing as if there were no tomorrow on red pointe shoes, a hallmark of many of her performances. He said: “I am in a moment of adapting to my body and letting it speak. “I have been very stubborn and I have demanded a lot from him, now I dedicate myself to listening to him more even though he is still at his best, because it is my energy.”

La Ribot (Madrid, 61 years old), creator and performer of dance and visual and plastic arts, author of the famous series of Distinguished pieceschoreographies that are also celebrating 30 years, and of bringing dance and performance outside the theatrical circuit. “The ideas have always been coupled with what I could and wanted to do, and somehow that makes you feel that things don’t change and that your physique doesn’t change, even if it’s not true. In my case, the certain states that can condition you, such as sadness at a given moment, have more to do with the mind,” says the Madrid native.

Although La Ribot is not on stage in DIEstinguished, the last work seen in Madrid and which in April travels to the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, has been putting the body at the center of its works and the questions that surround them since the nineties of the last century. Naked, dissident bodies, freed from tutelage. “The body goes with me. And working with like-minded, younger people makes you not feel like you are getting older,” he says. Based in Geneva and with an international career, La Ribot is a regular on billboards almost constantly. Next February 17 she also inaugurates the exhibition LaBOLA overflows in the Max Estrella gallery in Madrid.

La Ribot, in one of its ‘Distinguished Pieces’, in 2019.

“My traumatologist says he doesn’t understand how I can walk. My knees are like choped. But it is thanks to the muscles that I have acquired through dance that I can do it.” This is Mónica Runde (Madrid, 62 years old), an all-round choreographer and dancer (she also designs the sound and audiovisual space of her pieces), who not only continues walking, but dancing on stage almost as when she started, in many aspects, more than 40 years. “My body will take away from me, but not my age. I started dancing very young. Almost in Olympic gymnast mode, with the difference that I have not retired,” says Runde.

He is currently working on the new work We, conceived and performed together with Inés Narváez that will be seen in April at the Pradillo theater in Madrid. A reflection on the history of art written by men and for men and the invisibility of women. “There should be more support for people over 50 who dedicate themselves to dance. In Mexico, for example, there is and a network of work and opportunities has been built for dancers and choreographers of this age,” she points out. The creator will also premiere this 2024 Thus spake Zarathustraa piece for five dancers (her included) that will be seen from May 23 to 26 at the Teatro de la Abadía in Madrid.

“The truth is that I don’t know many active dancers my age, although now I’m happy because I’m preparing a new piece with Marcela Aguilar, a 72-year-old Mexican dancer.” Carmen Werner, a tireless pioneer of contemporary dance in our country, tells it on the other end of the phone. She is called The night and the moon and it is a quartet of performers of a certain age that will be seen in September in Pradillo. “It is true that women are more visible than when I started, but it is still difficult and, of course, the fight is not over.” Werner says that the only injury she has suffered was when she fell from the roof of her house, “it wasn’t even a work accident,” he jokes.

Carmen Werner, in May of last year at her rehearsal space in Aravaca (Madrid). Samuel Sanchez

About the struggle and the praise of failure turns Archipelago of disasters, a work by Isabel Vázquez that is presented this weekend in San Sebastián de los Reyes and Torrejón de Ardoz and, in May, at the Naves del Español de Matadero in the capital. “Sometimes it’s hard to keep hope. In general, dancers over 50 do not work not because they cannot due to their age, but because they are not offered opportunities. It is very rare that there are auditions that look for them″, explains Vázquez. Something that Paloma Díaz also affects, who works to carry out her latest work, Bloody Mary, in which she reflects on the loss of power of mature women. A revision of the story of Snow White which will be seen on April 20 in the La Lechera room in Cádiz. “We are also facing the empty space of lack of distribution. We all fit into the wonderful profession of dance, but not all of us have our place. Programs like younger creators and dancers who can say ‘yes’ to everything.”

“It is important that we stay calm and continue there. Being and promoting being. A young body is wonderful, but maturity gives you the magic and special way of vibrating on stage,” Sol Picó concludes.

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