Brazil, bubbles and bare bodies

Lia Rodrigues presents ‘Pindorama’ at the Israel Festival

Lia Rodrigues presents ‘Pindorama’ at the Israel Festival (photo credit: SAMMY LANDWEER)
Lia Rodrigues presents ‘Pindorama’ at the Israel Festival
(photo credit: SAMMY LANDWEER)
A lot of fuss has been made recently about certain shows on the Israel Festival’s program. Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev released a statement last week imploring the festival’s directors to remove all shows that include nudity, saying that “the budget was not meant for that.” Although Regev did not specifically mention Lia Rodrigues’s Pindorama, it is clear that the veteran Brazilian choreographer’s work was on her mind.
Pindorama, which means “Land of Palms” in the Tupi language, is a work performed by 11 dancers, all of which is done sans clothing.
“Even though we work with water, the piece is about land,” Rodrigues explained recently over Skype.
Born and raised in Brazil, Rodrigues, 61, is warm and disarming, enthusiastic and confident. After years of working as a dancer, she founded her company in 1990. Her work quickly gained a loyal following, including a warm spot in the hearts of many dance critics. Four years later, she was invited to present work at the Suzanne Dellal Center, her only visit to Israel until this summer.
In 2003, Rodrigues transferred her company’s base to Mare, a large favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro.
Working out of one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country, Rodrigues has created a repertoire that is centered around notions of identity, nationhood, community and nature.
“I’m involved in the favelas, which is a challenge and a gift. To be connected with other people, to see the world in a different perspective, to have a way to challenge myself, as a citizen to understand my city in a different way – these are all things that my work has given me,” she says. Many of the performers in Pindorama came to Rodrigues from the education program that her company runs in the favela.
“I look for people who are enthusiasts, who have a real desire to learn, to give and to be in this position that is not that easy,” she says.
In Pindorama, the dancers manipulate a large plastic sheet, as well as small waterfilled plastic bubbles.
“We were busy working on the act of breathing. As always in the creative process, some things come by accident. I had already worked with plastic, so the plastic sheets were in the studio. We created something with plastic and water. That was the beginning. It became like a laboratory of plastic. We could see the plastic as alive; when we stretch it, we make it come alive. We made a lot of associations with this material, and it became the central point of the work,” she explains.
Pindorama premiered in 2015, the third in a trilogy that Rodrigues began in 2010. The audience sits with the performers on stage, close enough to touch the bodies and materials presented.
“I made other pieces using this same system of having the audience be together with the dancers. For this piece, we wanted to have the audience members be very close so they could feel the water and feel the wind. We wanted the audience very involved, very close to our dancers… The ambience is dark, so you are in a real experience with them,” she says.
If she isn’t running the lights, Rodrigues is usually sitting tensely on the outer area of the stage, on the edge of her seat from start to finish.
“My favorite moment is the end because then I say, ‘Okay, everything is all right.’ The light goes out in a very slow fade. I like this moment very much,” she says. “I also feel relieved,” she adds with a little laugh.
Whether she represents Brazil when abroad is a question Rodrigues takes a moment to ponder.
“It’s good to carry your culture and your country with you. It’s a way to speak out about things I think are important. When I say I’m Brazilian, it opens a door. You can ask me questions about where I come from, and we can talk about what we have in common and what not. Our difference is important for us to understand each other,” she says.
Lia Rodrigues will present ‘Pindorama’ at the Jerusalem Theatre on June 14 and 15. For more information, visit