A Brazilian heads the new show at Cirque du Soleil.
For three years she choreographed the vanguard commission for Estação Primeira de Mangueira samba school. She was the first Brazilian to win, in 2001, the Lawrence Olivier award for the show MIX, one of the most prestigious awards of art sciences in London. In 2006 her dance company was invited to represent soccer as an art form during the World Cup in Germany. Deborah never stops working! Since January of this year, the agitated and world renowned ballerina, 47, mother of Clara and Miguel, also became the first woman, and a Brazilian, in charge of the new show at Cirque du Soleil (the name of the show is under lock and key) a Canadian company which employs 4,000 people represented by over 40 nationalities and 25 languages.
By popular belief, ballerinas are associated with delicate and sensitive movements. What kind of woman is Deborah?
Deborah Colker – I don’t separate Deborah the woman from mother, director, choreographer or ballerina. I need to be strong, dedicated and some even say that I am a volcano. I am learning to be delicate, which is very important for all the “Deborahs”, this way I can achieve all these challenges and at the same time be delicate. I am authoritative by nature, but I also have to be able to take a break from all these tasks.
Today you have worldwide recognition. How did you get to this point? What barriers did you encounter, mainly making a name for yourself, a Brazilian ballerina and choreographer, outside the country?
Deborah Colker – When I started dancing and also when I started my dance company, the dance market was a little complicated. There was no place for it in the media, and mainly as a dancer, people were doing you a favour by letting you dance. When I started my company I wanted to change this. Working on developing the stage, changing the views of people in respect to dance, mainly, making one see that dance can be a great product of the arts. I always insisted on making my dance work professional, making sure that the company existed with real professionals, that all the dancers had health insurance, legal work papers, in other words, that the dancers would be able to make a living from it. I have always believed being serious, in discipline and first and foremost in creativity and experimenting, which is the soul of the arts.
This year will be your debut directing the new show for Cirque du Soleil. What is the name of this show and how do you feel being the first Brazilian and the first woman to assume this position in a Canadian company? Do you consider this a mark in your career?
Deborah Colker – I cannot tell you the name of the show, but I can say that Brazilians will be very proud of it! I am honoured by this invitation and happy to accomplish such a challenge. It is great to be here in this dazzling show-making factory. This surely is an incredible mark in my career; more so if it is a success. I hope I can do it. I am killing myself for this.
How is it reconciling the direction of the Cirque du Soleil with the administration of the dance company, The School of Movement and the Centre of Movement?
Deborah Colker – It is very hard. There are a lot of things to do and I am tired at times. However, I have an extraordinarily professional team in Rio de Janeiro with perfect competence. Therefore the school and their projects are doing very well. I try to stay in contact and present, from afar. I am able to make decisions about many things and I also prepared myself for this during all of last year. I have been in Canada only since January.
Is your dance company rehearsing for any shows at this moment?
Deborah Colker – The company is doing Cruel again, on the 13th of March at the João Caetano theatre and we are also preparing 4por4 for New York in October of this year at the New York City Center.
I breathe dance, I breathe art. This is my purpose for living.
March is International Woman’s month. Do you think that the fact that you are a woman will help you to reconcile so many professional activities at the same time?
Deborah Colker – I don’t think much about this thing of man and woman. I believe more in the personality of each person and it is logical that the fact that I am a woman may influence it, as is the fact that I am a blonde. Maybe the fact that I am Jewish is the most important for all of this.
Since January you have been living in Montreal because of your work. And your family? How are they with this new routine?
Deborah Colker – I miss them very much, but I have Skype and my son Miguel is here with me now for the month. Toni, my husband, has already been here and will come back for two weeks. I hope that Clarinha can also come but she is very busy with school and also with her design projects.
Are you homesick? Is it worth the sacrifice?
Deborah Colker – I miss everything very much but this is a great experience and I am doing what I need to do to be alive in this world. I do this job as anyone else because I need this to survive. I am speaking philosophically, financially and emotionally. I breathe dance, I breathe art. This is my purpose for living.
What impresses you the most in relation to Canadians with your work?
Deborah Colker – They are competent professionals and they give their total support and assistance so that I will have a great show. We have different work systems and for both sides, it is a great learning experience and exchange. My being Brazilian has many advantages and sometimes, superior qualities. They as Canadians also do to. But there are not only Brazilians and Canadians. There are also Russians, Chinese, English, Japanese and French. The entire team is terrific.
Because you are in Canada, a foreign country, do you find that you have to prove yourself more than if you were in Brazil? Is it more difficult?
Deborah Colker – Of course every now and again I come across our differences and I need to show them (Canadians) that they can trust me. Sometimes the insecurity hits and I wonder if I have the capacity to run such a large machine as the Cirque du Soleil, but I think that I have proven that I can. I never forget that they invited and hired me and so since the beginning they had faith in me. I am facing this challenge with my personality, trying to do what I believe and in a way that I believe. The respect that I get from the Canadians for my work is huge and this is great for both sides.
What is the size of the team that you are working with at Cirque du Soleil? What are their nationalities? Are there any Brazilians?
Deborah Colker – On stage there are 53 people, among them 9 musicians, 41 acrobats and three clowns. The team is composed of Canadians, English, Russians, Chinese, Japanese and one Brazilian! Off stage, among technicians, creation and production the team is enormous! In Brazil, we also have Gringo Cárdia responsible for the wonderful scenery. Berna Ceppas is doing the score, Ulysses Cruz is the playwright and Jaqueline Mota is my directing and choreography assistant.