Crowds, power and performance

Brazilian choreographer Marcelo Evelin brings ‘Suddenly Everywhere is Black with People’ to the Israel Festival

‘Suddenly Everywhere is Black with People’ (photo credit: CADDAH)
‘Suddenly Everywhere is Black with People’
(photo credit: CADDAH)
In most performances, the lights, the set and the seating situation are all designed to allow the audience to clearly and easily view the performers. But such is not the case for renowned Brazilian choreographer Marcelo Evelin’s work Suddenly Everywhere is Black with People, which will be presented next week as part of the Israel Festival. In fact, the opposite is true. All of the stylistic elements of the creation have been devised to make the performers difficult to discern.
As the audience members enter the charged space, neon lights and seating-in-the-round greet them. At first, the dancers are not noticeable, only later to be revealed as a huddled, black tangle of flesh. As the work progresses, viewers are compelled to switch seats, to stand, get closer or seek distance from the performers. This spectator experience is unlike any other in the dance field and evokes many emotions, from intrigue to repulsion, magnetism to mystery.
Evelin began the work with Elias Canetti’s 1960 book Crowds and Power.
“I really started from the book, not trying to ‘dance the book,’ but from a kind of curiosity that the book caused in me. I was specially intrigued by the first chapter, where Canetti talks about the fear we have of each other. I started bringing some of those questions in to a residency I proposed in Sao Paulo, in the project Lote by Cristian Duarte, and later took some of this material for the creation,” explained Evelin in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. In his powerful and enigmatic writing, Canetti outlines the behavioral patterns of human beings regarding assembling in throngs as if explaining these happenings to another species.
Evelin was born and raised in Teresina, Brazil. His initial draw to dance and choreography began in Brazil but quickly took Evelin on a path through Europe from Paris to Amsterdam to Wuppertal, bringing him into contact with Pina Bausch, Mark Tompkins, Lila Greene and The School of New Dance in Amsterdam. He began creating work in 1989, collaborating with artists from various fields of performance and visual arts. In 1995, as an offshoot of the creation process of Evelin’s first full-length solo, Ai Ai Ai, which took place in New York City, Evelin established the company Demolition Incorporada. Eleven years later, the company switched home bases to Teresina, where Evelin founded the Nucleo do Dirceu, a collective and platform for artists. His body of work includes over 30 creations.
IT WAS in Teresina that Evelin began experimenting with the ideas he had developed regarding Canetti’s book, which would go on to become the foundation for Suddenly Everywhere is Black with People. “It started in an improvised studio in the back of my house. The second half of the process was in Kyoto, Japan, where we were in residency for five weeks at Kyoto Art Center. The piece premiered in Rio de Janeiro, at Festival Panorama in November 2012,” he said.
Bouncing around between homes, artistic bases and residencies allows Evelin to fold his global philosophy into the work. “I don’t like at all the idea of national identity. I never think or mention that. In fact, I like to work outside any idea of identity. But, of course, my work refers somehow to Brazil, as my political, social, cultural and environmental background. I also live in Europe and was educated there, so that is also present, but never as an identity or something that comes before the work itself. I am interested in people who are living in this world, their imagination, their ways of doing things, dealing with each other and finding ways of being together. And that is Brazil and Europe and everywhere.”
Perhaps it is in line with this universal approach that Evelin opted to blur his dancers’ individual racial or ethnic identities with full-body black paint. Perhaps it serves to unify their mass. But whatever the initial intention, this aesthetic element of Suddenly Everywhere is Black with People has immense visual and emotional impact. “I think the black paint makes the bodies disappears, and the dark space also helps to give this feeling that the spectator is alone, therefore able to be attracted or refuse the experience. I feel this piece is as a choreography for the audience. The spectator moves around or go to sit outside the ring. They decide for themselves where and how they want to be.
“I guess that could be seen as a great freedom,” Evelin explained. In his choreography, Evelin refuses to adhere to the audience/spectator divide. His dancers move through the space, dodging the low-hung lights, swiveling around chairs and grouping together on the floor. There is no “stage” and “off-stage,” rather a communal space shared by the dancers and the audience. 
In his eyes, the work creates an energy that is “naked, dirty and touchy.”
Suddenly Everywhere is Black with People will be presented at the Jerusalem Theater on June 13 and 14. For more information, visit