Interview with Elizabete Francisca
Elizabete Francisca is a dancer and choreographer. She is part of the art collective Apneia Colectiva and is supported by Rumo do Fumo, a structure of Vera Mantero. Her work covers oneiric, personal, and political realms. She communicates through symbols and transforms the scene into a space for reflection. We talked about some past and future pieces and the political and economic situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rodrigo Fonseca – In O Gesto (2019), the questions are remarkably similar to a dancing body. For instance: “Where is the emancipatory power of a gesture when it can be understood in its wholeness and richness? Besides being a co-director, did you also feel like a choreographer?
Elizabete Francisca – This short film arose from the project À volta da mesa: para um imaginário do gesto, which I coordinated in Lisbon (2016). A project initiated by Loïc Touzé and Anne Kerzerho (ATT), implemented in several cities around the world. The aim is to expand choreographic thinking beyond its limits, in a dialogue with other body-related knowledge, the know-how of other activities or professions. For example, carpenters, doctors, cleaners, garbage collectors… Through meetings and interviews, we realize what kind of gestures and body are created in a subjective relationship with a particular activity: “How do you do what you do?”. We wanted to achieve this knowledge (to make it exist), because normally people do not think about it. I feel like we were all choreographers. The film wanted to find a common thread between different activities and universes. They are portraits of gestures and of what can connect them.
RF – How do Around the Table (ATT) by Loic Touzé and Anne Kerzerho; and LAB by Mark Tompkins, Gilles Toutevoix, Meg Stuart influence your work?
EF – Around the Table is a collective project. Anyone can be part of the team and implement the project in the place where they live. This feeds a mapping of knowledge associated with a geographical region. My memories of these meetings continue to enrich my daily life. Often, on the street, when I look at a garbage can, I remember a collector in Nantes, who gave a name to every bin in the city! I also remember a cook, who said that cooking was like playing drums. She understood the cooking stage when she tapped the wooden spoon on the edge of the pots. It was a very interesting project, as I moved away from the circle of performing arts. In LAB, it is almost the opposite. I was invited to a group of artists who think about what improvisation is by doing, dancing, improvising in the studio and life. After LAB, we presented the improvisation shows (Serious Fun), confronting ourselves with other experiences, and generating a different kind of information, only possible with an audience. Improvisation is something very present in my dance practice and creative processes. Improvisation shows are always extraordinarily strong experiences! We deal with something that can inevitably be a failure, we don’t control what can happen, we don’t know what will happen.
RF – Everything is always on the edge…
EF – Yes, living on the edge! When we improvise, we practice an incredibly special presence… I would say it is even necessary! A place where the body and the spirit embrace a continuous flow of perception at various levels. This body is constantly analysing, intuiting, feeling and therefore making decisions. It relates to what is around it, but also to us. That is why it is a learning process about possible ideas, judgments, patterns or tendencies that we have. To look for places of “not-knowing” and trust.
RF – Tell me about A Besta, As Luas e Dias Contados. Are there any dates after the cancellations?
EF – The next date for Os Dias Contados will be the first week of February 2021 at the TNDMII. Then, we go to Moita, Loulé and Ílhavo. Os Dias Contados emerged at a time when I was at risk of being homeless (2017), which consumed me. I was aware of the situation we were going through, the process of “rehabilitating” the city, which was turning into a carcass, prêt-à-porter. But I did not know the problems in depth. I was at a very precarious period, couldn’t find a house that I could afford… I began to question my whole life. I sought help and met Habita and Stop Despejos. I began to work with them, helping in everything I could. So, Dias Contados is about the housing crisis. a besta, as luas will have a process presentation on October 3rd at the Festival Cumplicidades, in the gardens of the Museum of Lisbon.
RF – a besta, as luas also came from a personal experience?
EF – Yes, from several. a besta, as luas is a feminist work. I wanted to create a dance where there was no hierarchy, where sex had as much value as the armpit or a leg, so I could “dance with the whole body”, accepting it. It is a piece where I take a position against a patriarchal system, a position of strength and emancipation. There is a social struggle yet to be done. We must deconstruct the ideas that made us think that we are inferior, less capable, less intelligent, less owners of our life, of our body, of our pleasure. The feminine life energy is powerful and transformative, but it has been destroyed. I speak of women because I am a woman and I suffer a lot from sexism in Portugal. It revolts me immensely. It is still so evident… But we still say it doesn’t exist. It’s like saying that there’s no racism in Portugal.
RF – What is your opinion about this union of workers and artists in the cultural industry, motivated by COVID-19? Do you think this union is really happening?
EF – It is. For instance, the Acção Cooperativista was born, which is doing a remarkable effort of mutual help, putting pressure on the ministry of culture. This movement has been supported by many and a tireless team on various fronts. The government and social security have completely abandoned the professionals of culture. The social security support is ridiculous and the initiatives of the ministry of culture – which has confined itself to public tenders – have left most of the community in misery. On the other hand, local initiatives, made by informal groups, have created a network of immediate solidarity with essential goods, such as RDA, Disgraça, A Brigada do Bairro, Provisório.