Ivaldo Bertazzo

The man who believes in the power of dance.

By Roberta Wiseman

Ivaldo Bertazzo is a Brazilian visionary choreographer who believes everybody can dance. His ideas, his art and his movements are now set to take the world’s stage.

Since the 1970s, Ivaldo Bertazzo has been wowing audiences with his uniquely vital and beautiful performances. He is known for dance works that involve a large number of people on stage, and embody a social message and practice that expands the ordinary realm of dance.

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In the last few years, he has been drawing international acclaim, having been awarded a prize in 2004 from the prestigious Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development – a Dutch organisation that promotes arts all over the world. On the back of this, he was invited to take one of his works, Samwaad – Street of Encounters, to audiences in the Netherlands in 2005. Now the film production companies Bossa Nova Films of Brazil, and Espace Vert and Stormy Nights of Canada, co-created a documentary about Bertazzo’s dancers, the process of producing Street of Encounters and what happened when they took the piece to Paris.

It was around 1976 that Bertazzo first developed his ideas that dancing is for everybody, not just those who can afford dance classes, and that movement can be used to reclaim the body. His notion of “citizen dancers” promotes the use of movement as a means to explode all types of oppression. Even people who are not professional dancers are able to dance, have a political right to own and to move their bodies.

Building on this central idea, he founded a dance school in São Paulo. And with funds from the government and other organisations, he worked with a group of young people from slums in his “community dance” – a movement that unites artistic expression with social action. To be granted a place on the project, young people had to show enthusiasm and commitment, but not necessarily previous dance experience.

The students prepared themselves for the Samwaad performance by spending six hours a day training. On top of this, they had lessons in Portuguese, English, singing, percussion, physical therapy, the history of dance and origami. The origami lessons were considered important for developing spacial awareness. They also had access to a psychologist, doctors and dentists and other social assistance, as well as simply, balanced meals. Bertazzo believes that caring for the body through dance stimulates self-respect, self confidence, discipline and respect for others. The young people, who ranged in age from 13 to 28, used dance to develop their sense of identity and an idea of how they fit in their society. And this is what “community dance” is all about.