The UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells of Sideways Rain by Alias, an award-winning contemporary dance company based in Geneva is taking place on the 15th and 16th November. Since its creation, ALIAS has produced more than 20 new works and performed in Europe, Africa, Asia and North and South America to critical acclaim. Choreographer Guilherme Botelho’s piece Sideways Rain is a metaphor for the primal energy running through all living things. Performed by 16 dancers, they walk, run, fall, rise, stop and then start again, depicting the evolution of man and the human urge to constantly change and move forwards. Set to a hypnotic score by Mexican artist Fernando Corona, Sideways Rain is a powerfully visual examination of human nature. Volt Café speaks to Guilherme Botelho, originally from São Paulo, a former ballet dancer who conceived ALIAS out of a desire to create dance using a more intuitive approach, teaching his dancers to listen to their bodies, voices and most intimate thoughts to create emotionally resonant work.

Volt Café: When did you start ALIAS and why?
Guilherme Botelho: In 1994. I was a dancer and I started ALIAS because I wanted to take dance somewhere different. Wanted something that emphasized the dancers as people and wanted to show dance that people could identify with. Not something elitist or hermetic, but something where the audience could find something to have a rapport with. Hence the name. I saw so many dancers that had been taught not to express themselves, I wanted them to be free to improvise.

VC: You’re originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil. How did you end up in Switzerland?
GB: I wanted to work with choreographer Oscar Araiz so I went to Geneva and ended up staying. After 5 years I founded ALIAS, which is 18 years old now. The Swiss are very consistent, you don’t go in and out of fashion like in some places. ALIAS is now the largest independent dance company and we’re half funded by public funds. The Swiss see dance and arts in general as a necessity, something that’s important.

VC: You’re quoted as searching for the unexplored, the unsaid, searching for a meaningful beauty. Do you feel we’re in danger of forgetting these noble pursuits in our stressed everyday lives that seem to focus on working and spending our wages?
GB: Yes. I like to see a beauty that wakes me up. Classical dance is a beauty that lulls me to sleep, stops me thinking, makes me yearn for the status quo. Whereas contemporary art makes me feel alive. An artist like Hopper, you look at his work and he makes you wonder what’s going on in that painting. The idea of beauty is very interesting, makes you want to be bigger than you are. It makes you realize that you’re part of a larger picture.

VC: Tell me about your upcoming production Sideways Rain. What do you hope the audience will walk away with after seeing it?
GB: It’s what I call a ‘Screen Piece’ – people project onto it. The structure is very simple, it is about the time passing and the evolution between the individual and the group.. Where are we in life in relation to that? I’d like the inner life of the audience to react to the piece and to be moved by it, for them to evaluate as individuals how they relate to the human race. The idea of doing, acting and re-acting.

VC: The score to Sideways Rain by Mexican artist Fernando Corona is both mesmerizing and perfect for the emotions conveyed. This may sound stupid but what came first – the score or the choreography?
GB: The structure. I had different music I was trying out and his piece was so hypnotic despite the minimal music even the slightest change becomes very strong. The music really underscores the impact of the piece.

VC: What do you look for in a dancer?
GB: Depends on the project, physical aspects are important. I always audition. It is a relationship issue. We are sharing a space so we have to be able to share an artistic intimacy. My work is less theatrical now, more graphic. It takes time to un-learn previously taught mannerisms. It takes time to be honest in movement. If you’ve been trained to look for a particular shape, now look for why you’re looking for this shape. You can be very accomplished yet not show your real self. Even just walking. It can take a lot of work just to get someone to walk naturally, to be what they are rather than a ‘stage walk’.

VC: Who has inspired you and how do you continue to be inspired in the day-to-day life?
GB: Oscar Araiz and Pina Bausch – even though my work is nothing like the latters. Edward Hopper. And dancers I’ve worked with. My parents – their stubborn integrity. I thank them for showing me the importance of persistence, to not go for the easy option. Generally I have too many ideas so my problem is energy. Sometimes I just want a nice little office job although I know I’d hate it! The pressure is the constant talk about money. Sometimes it’s hard. But I have good people around me. I try to have a balance. My 3 children help me get away. Although it’s hard being a good father and also work, you cannot talk about life if you don’t live. I love creating performances, I need projects and I live for the future.

Sideways Rain
Thursday 15th November, Friday 16th November 2012
Sadler’s Wells
Rosebery Avenue
London EC1R 4TN

Words by Anna Bang

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ALIAS, anna bang, Guilherme Botelho, Sadler's Wells, Sideways Rain,