17th May 2021
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Guilherme Botelho – Dance and the Quest for Meaning

Guilherme Botelho - Dance and the Quest for Meaning
By Liam Klenk

Guilherme Botelho, director and choreographer in Geneva, arrived from Brazil 37 years ago. After 10 years as a dancer for the Ballet de Grand Theatre du Geneve he started his own dance company, Alias. His creations are a quest for meaning.

Dance means everything to Guilherme. However, one reason he started his own dance company was so he could stop dancing. After 10 years of performing for the Geneva ballet he questioned the authenticity of what he was doing. His dancing felt superficial. The choreographies he was asked to do did not feel like they were part of himself.

This is why he named his company Alias. It means “in another way”… and another way was what Guilherme sought.

Guilherme Botelho

Thus, 26 years ago, in 1994, Alias performed for the first time.

Since then, the company performs successfully in Geneva and all over Switzerland. Alias also tours a lot. Often in neighbouring European countries. Yet, sometimes even as far as Argentina.

Alias is an independent dance company. We briefly touch on the subject of being independent and Guilherme mentions the paradox this inevitably holds.

“I prefer creating art independently versus institutionally. However, when you are independent you are in fact more dependent. On funding, a successful run, etc.”

At first Guilherme worked with up to 5 dancers. Nowadays, he often has up to 15 dancers involved in his creations.

Alias Dance Company

The first 10 years of Alias can best be described as physical theater. Then, Guilherme’s choreographies became more abstract.

The last 10 years, the charismatic director describes as “Graphic Theater.” His piece Sideways Rain for example has people continuously moving from one side of the stage to the other. It is hypnotic, like watching a river. In fact, Guilherme thought of this choreography while sitting at a riverbank.

“People project a lot of meaning,” he says. “This piece makes them think of refugees for example. The flow of humanity from one place to another. Watching people move back and forth on stage also inspires thoughts about destiny, our life journey.”

More than anything, Guilherme wants to make the personality of his dancers part of the material.

He questions our ways of thinking as human beings, the way our habits make us blind. His goal is to unveil ourselves to us.

As we talk, Guilherme pauses frequently. Meaning and authenticity are clearly important to him. I wait and listen. To his meaningful thoughts as well as to the just as meaningful silences in between.

“There is a beauty that makes me sleep.” He ponders. “I like beauty that pushes me to think.”

Alias on stage

“For many years, I’ve worked with the psychological side of humans. The difference between watching and contemplating. Lately, I am giving more details, history, and I let the audience fill in the gaps.”

“Lately, my choreographies are also constructed quite simply. Then we add complexity.”

In Normal, the dancers fall and stand up 732 times. Again, this opens room for thought. There is deep meaning in the simplicity of this picture. The audience is challenged to think.

“For me, the choreography has to make sense dramaturgically. Dancing often lacks meaning. There is no point in just showing an audience beautiful movement. As in, look what we can do. Of course we can be touched by something beautiful. But it is always better to be touched by something nourishing.”

“I want the choreography to be accessible to the audience. At the same time, I want to shake them up a bit.”

“What always attracts me are things that are hidden.”

A couple of years ago Alias did a street piece in Geneva’s train station. They secretly installed a sound system in the building. Two tango dancers were dressed as police, patrolling the area. Suddenly the music started and they danced an amazing, powerful tango.

People didn’t understand what was going on at first. They thought they were dreaming. All of a sudden the symbolic figures of rules, structure, sternness, and power turned into figures of sensuality, creative energy, and beauty.

For Guilherme, this piece was about the element of surprise, about unveiling something hidden.

Once more he emphasizes, “You can be entertained, or you are enriched. To entertain is not enough.”

“So many things are called contemporary dance nowadays. There are no more boundaries. However, it is all about expression. To be able to express something as a dancer you need to have experienced it yourself, or you need to at least have imagined it, wanted it deeply.”

“One feels when the dancer carries the movement with what he or she is.”

Alias in Geneva

Photo credit: Portrait Guilherme Botelho by Isabelle Meister Performance photographs by Grégory Batardon

More infos on https://www.alias-cie.com/


More from Liam Klenk:

Don’t Wear That Hat: Theatre Superstitions & their Origins

Jan Freese – Set Designer in Berlin, Zurich, Vienna, and Paris

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