Pasionaria – La Veronal © Alex Font

Robotic images from La Veronal: interview with Marcos Morau

June 20 2022

The acclaimed Spanish company La Veronal, directed by the great choreographer Marcos Morau, presented a performance of Pasionaria, a visionary and futuristic dystopia, during the fifth FOG festival at Triennale on 13 and 14 April 2022.

Marcos Morau – director of the company (which he founded in 2005) – studied choreography at the Institut del Teatre in Barcelona, the Conservatorio Superior de Danza in Valencia and Movement Research in New York. His artistic training was not limited to dance, but also extended to photography and theatre. The numerous prizes and awards received by the artist include the Spanish National Dance Award 2013 and the Sebastià Gasch Award. La Veronal’s works are staged regularly at important festivals and theatres around the world: Théâtre national de Chaillot in Paris, Venice Biennale, Oslo Opera, Julidans Amsterdam, Tanz im August in Berlin, Roma Europa Festival and Sadler’s Wells in London. We had the pleasure of interviewing Morau during FOG22.

Video: Stefano Conca Bonizzoni

Marcos Morau © Vanesa Gomez
Marcos Morau © Vanesa Gomez

The inspiration for your shows comes from very different imagery, from literary culture to the visual arts. Pasionaria made me think of books such as Bestiario by Cortázar and an entire audiovisual world on the post-human, from Metropolis to Blade Runner. What were the creative resources that inspired you?

I think inspiration always come from cross-references, from film, literature and even photography. In this case, the mixture of all this is very evident: from Solaris by Tarkovsky to the films of Lynch, retro-futurism and nostalgia for Kubrick. Being a creator in our time also means being heir to an entire century and an entire way of understanding art, yet having to look ahead and continue to develop new ways of looking.

As a choreographer, your work is a little like the work of a sculptor, because you give plastic forms to the dancers’ bodies. In this dramaturgical process based on gesture writing, what creative and improvisational space do you leave for performers?

We can say that everything is fixed, everything is written with detailed precision, but unlike robots we’re human and our days and bodies change and transform constantly. Within the choreographic score there is a freedom and a life of its own that we at La Veronal respect and encourage. I think the duality between precision and freedom is wonderful: the former in order to improve day by day, the latter in order to be able to fluctuate between emotions and personality.

Pasionaria – La Veronal © Mario Zamora
Pasionaria – La Veronal © Mario Zamora

In the performance you abandon all forms of realism and let the characters in Pasionaria take on unnatural, disjointed forms that potentially create an estrangement in the spectator. How important are asymmetry or repetition of gesture in the composition of the scene by means of physical score? 

In Pasionaria we act like androids imitating humans. The logic is shifted and the obsession with the mechanization of the gesture is evident. The idea is always to generate distance from any emotional aspect of the human being, to take away the “human meaning” and give it one linked to the machine and the body emptied of all expression. During the working process we learnt to transform the body into an instrument that obeys sequences and patterns far removed from any harmony or organic element that reminds us of ourselves.

What does “progress” mean for you and what do you think about the tendency in the performing arts to incorporate cutting-edge devices such as VR?

Progress is a necessary part of life. Society is facing new problems with global repercussions such as economic recession, immigration, the exodus of refugees, environmental concerns, terrorism and the superficiality of social networks. Pasionaria is an allegory of the future, but where the present is effectively brought into question. In Pasionaria everything takes place without any depth or emotion. Life and time are light, rapid: we barely manage to grasp them. Always with a comic and surreal aura, the show presents us with beings similar to us, detached, far removed from emotions and passions in a society where the individual is stronger than the group, where the collective is always chaos and the individual is always selfish. Could this be planet Earth? Maybe. Progress is necessary and I’m convinced it will help us in many aspects of our lives. But at the same time it generates a new way of communicating, of relating to one another and, lastly, of being. Pasionaria attempts to stage certain situations: absurd and sad, strange and distant situations, with hints of humour and deep reflection.

Pasionaria – La Veronal © Alex Font
Pasionaria – La Veronal © Alex Font

You’ve stated that you want to “ignite a flame in the spectator” with this performance. The quasi-human protagonists of Pasionaria seem, however, to be imprisoned in an absolute incommunicability between them, victims of alienation and a sense of emptiness. How can a lack be communicated? 

Nothing is empty of nothing. We need to start by taking this in. Then we tried to generate a melancholy from realizing that we are machines and have nothing inside. We smoke. We don’t look at each other, we don’t feel anything. Just as light is important because of its absence in Caravaggio, in Pasionaria emotion is central for the same reason. It’s a question of elevating what is not there.

For a performer, music is much more than an accompaniment: it determines the vital rhythm of the scene. When you write a show, what type of relationship do you establish between the theme, the sound elements and the silent interludes?

I’m a great consumer of music of all kinds and I love the atmospheric relationship of music that looms over almost any stage space (not just for dance, which is linked to choreography as a rhythmic pattern). Pasionaria begins with Bach’s St John Passion and ends with the St Matthew Passion: everything that takes place between these two worlds is tinged with a retro-futuristic charge, a time during which synthesizers speculated on the imagination of a distant future. Today we listen to all this from a place that makes us feel nostalgic and adapts very well to the sense of loss, to the absence of hope.

Installation work for the 23rd International Exhibition are in progress: the exhibition spaces and ticket office will be closed until July 15. Triennale Estate programming continues in the garden with meetings, events, DJ sets.

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