UNDERSTORY (text originally made for and published at www.under-story.com)
It is Sunday at noon and I find myself still in bed in a residency apartment in Essen too sore and tired to make breakfast. I am here rehearsing for the new creation of Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods in collaboration with Philippe Quesne and I feel grateful to work again.
My name is Renan Martins (de Oliveira), I am a Brazilian dancer and choreographer officially based in Porto, and working mostly in Germany and Belgium. I started my artistic journey at a very early age as a young actor in Rio de Janeiro. At the age of 16 I started taking dance classes at Deborah Colker Movement Center and when I was 17 I won a full scholarship to study at SEAD, in Salzburg. After graduating in 2009 I joined Eknap Dance Company/Iztok Kovac as a replacement and worked as well with Marysia Stoklosa and Peter Pleyer. Since I was only 21 years old and had the desire to make my own work, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to school, and so in 2010 I joined the Research Cycle at P.A.R.T.S., in Brussels.
It was the first time I had to face the weight of a big institution while constantly trying to find my space in it and not succeeding. This struggle led me to my first episodes of anxiety and panic attacks which became a door to see myself in this world differently and at the same time experience a giant transformation. Through therapy and meditation I was finally faced with Renan for the first time, and most importantly how moving away at such young age was so profoundly intense.
Right after graduating in 2012 I worked with Charleroi Danses, where I had my work supported financially for the first time. In 2013 I was invited to join 'Re:Zeitung', a project led by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Alain Franco, where I had my first solid touring experience together with a series of workshops and master classes based on Rosas' repertory. In that same year, and to my surprise, I got an email that was a turning point in my career; a personal invitation from Meg Stuart herself to join a private audition for a replacement in one of her pieces. The reason for it being such a landmark is because in that same period I was doubting rather to continue dancing, mostly because I did not identify so much with the kind of work I was part of, and due to my first works not being as successful as I have wished. Meg's email opened up a whole new world of possibilities I had never thought of before. I joined the company in June 2013, first as replacement, and later on to be part in different projects. In the meantime I have also worked with Alexandra Waierstall, Ceren Oran, Daniel Linehan and Peter Savel.
My work as a choreographer has required a specific type of endurance to deal with the many ups and downs along the way. The amount of energy that is put into preproduction, production and touring can sometimes be extremely rewarding and also very frustrating. My very first full evening group piece 'Let Me Die In My Footsteps' (2015) was very successful and toured for 2 years. The work right after 'FAILBETTER' had a very short touring life, then the next ones picked up just fine till my last solo work 'SATURNO, A FESTA!' had again a short touring life. The reasons for this inconsistency are different, some of it due to the work itself not having the impact programers hoped for or simply because I was changing my management team and relocating to another country, and some became a hit when I least expected. This year I was supposed to premiere 'VIADUTO', my first big collaboration with Festival DDD/Teatro Municipal do Porto, Sekoia Artes Performativas, Frankao and the dramaturge Ana Rocha. Unfortunately, due to COVID19, it will be to be postponed to 2021 when I will also premiere my new solo 'Hélio'.
What I have learnt all these years was to look at what are the many different ways in which my work can happen. I have found possible to navigate through different roles such as performer, teacher, choreographer, assistant, mentor, and even DJ and still be connected to dance. Being open to mutate has also helped me financially as I had to reinvent myself constantly to make rent. Mostly, I have understood that my mission is to use dance as tool to bring people together, and then use these encounters for both individual and collective healing. For I believe there is something on the level of energy that only dance and music together can access.
My advice for young graduating students is to be open to what the moment might need from you so that you are able to change plans as you move forward in life. Through meditation I have understood the real meaning of “This too will pass” and have managed to appreciate both tough and joyful periods in my life knowing that they would not last forever. You are a person in constant development, you will be constantly changing and there is nothing wrong about that. I also sincerely hope that dance institutions can make more concrete steps towards a more inclusive education, specially when bringing so many different people from different cultural backgrounds together. We must think at all times of inclusive and diverse theoretical and physical content and most importantly who are the ones delivering these contents.
I end with this quote.:
“When you feel scared, hold someone's hand and look into their eyes. And when you feel brave, do the same thing. You are all here because you are smart. And you are brave. And if you add kindness and the ability to change a tire, you almost make up the perfect person. I thank you for asking me to speak to you today. As you head out into the world I wish you love and light, joy, and much laughter. And as always, please don't forget to tip your waitresses.” Amy Poehler, Harvard University Class Day Commencement Address.