The return trip

The Deborah Colker Dance Company has steadily climbed from an unknown ensemble to a major voice in Brazil’s contemporary dance world – and now it’s coming to Tel Aviv.

Deborah Colker Dance Company  (photo credit: (Flavio Colker))
Deborah Colker Dance Company
(photo credit: (Flavio Colker))
At 11 years of age, Deborah Colker made her first trip to Israel from faraway Brazil.
Her older brother had come to work on a kibbutz and had promised his family that the long journey would be worth their while. “It was a very special visit for me and my brothers,” says the celebrated choreographer in an interview from her home base in Rio de Janeiro.
More than four decades have passed since that first jaunt to Israel. Colker has grown from a studious little girl to a pioneer in the South American dance community. In just a few short weeks, she will retrace her steps from Rio to Tel Aviv with her company to perform at the Jerusalem Theater and the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. “It has been in my heart to come back to Israel since then,” she says. “It will be great to come back for performances.”
Colker is an exuberant woman with a bouncy speaking voice and a warm laugh. Her choreographies are strikingly visual, employing elaborate sets and musical scores to enhance the viewer’s experience. Her name can be found on the shortlist of choreographers who have been invited to work with Canadian powerhouse Cirque du Soleil.
The Deborah Colker Dance Company has steadily climbed from an unknown ensemble to a major voice in Brazil’s contemporary dance world. Beyond its stage presence, DCDC runs a school that provides dance training to over 600 eager students in Rio. Now in its 20th anniversary season, the troupe has come to symbolize progress and professionalism in Brazil and abroad.
IT BEGAN in the mid-1980s, when Colker recognized a gaping hole in the artistic world around her. “I remember when I began with my company, we didn’t have contemporary companies or groups. In Brazil, at that time, there weren’t very many dance companies. We had state companies and maybe one or two independent companies. It was a moment for contemporary arts and it was very weak and empty,” she explains.
At that time, Colker was far from visualizing what the future held for her.
A student of psychology, she sought ways to indulge her love of movement in her free time. “I danced from the age of 18, but I was also studying. We didn’t have dance departments at universities, so there weren’t many possibilities for school. I was trying to develop myself by doing classes around Brazil.”
Eventually, Colker felt that she had grown enough to explore the professional outlets of her passion. She looked around at the types of productions that were exploring movement.
“I used to work with theater companies doing movement direction, doing clips and entertainment, just trying to get experience,” she says.
Those projects clearly left a mark on her, infusing her artistic vision with a hint of entertainment which can be seen in all of her dances.
In 1993, when Colker gathered together a group of dancers to create a dance troupe, she knew it was the beginning of a lifelong commitment, both to herself and to her community.
“When I began with my company, my mother used to say that I was crazy because no one knew what contemporary dance was,” she laughs. Though she knew she it would be an uphill battle, and with two small children at home, Colker felt an indescribable need to make a life in dance a reality. “I decided right then that I needed to do this, that this was my way. I think that my company and my story helped other people get started here in Brazil,” she says.
During their tour to Israel, DCDC will present Mix, a collage of two of Colker’s earliest works. “Mix is a joining of my two first performances that I did with my company: Volcano I did in ’94, which was the premier of my company, and Velox, which was my second performance that I did in ’95. Volcano is very emotional and passionate and it’s very intense. The type of passion that can put us upside-down and that we cannot control. Even sometimes when we are married and we fall in passion with someone, and that’s about loss of control. Sometimes it can be sublime but also pathetic, and this is Volcano.
Velox is more physics of movement, more energetic, humor, precision, together with the relation with sports and movement,” she says.
Velox concludes with a section danced on a large climbing wall, which won Colker much attention. “The wall is very emblematic of my work. My biggest fascination is to relate movement and space. I love to explore different spaces and, through this exploration, find new ways to move and new bodies. I began with this wall and then I did many investigations, I questioned gravity and I found another way to work. My stage is vertical. With this I needed to find different balance, strength and concentration. It was a challenge for the dancers.”
Israel is only the first step in Colker’s 20th anniversary celebrations. From Tel Aviv, the company will travel to perform in London’s prestigious Barbican Centre. Then it will return to Brazil for a kind of retrospective of its two decades of work.
“All this year we will have many different presentations. We will remake three different performances from our repertory. We will present Knot, which has 120 ropes hanging on stage, and Tatiana, my new performance, which is based on Eugene Onegin and premiered last year. And we will restage the entirety of Velox,” says Colker, who is also preparing to premiere a new work called Belle Du Jour, based on Joseph Kessel’s novel, in 2014.
“It interests me a lot to take a book, or the universe inside a book, and to bring the characters together through the movement through the intention, movement and motions,” she says. “I have begun to work more deeply inside the human condition. This is moving me as an artist more and more. I want to talk about the past to talk about the future. The desire, curiosity of love and life. I think that all the things that I developed in the beginning of my company are contained in my work – the physicality, the physics of movement and the contemporary conception of dance. I don’t need to focus on these elements anymore. My focus more and more is in my philosophy, the deep inside. My ambition is my new work and to bring my company to other countries. The more that we can achieve, the more I will work.”
The Deborah Colker Dance Company will perform at the Jerusalem Theater on January 21 and 22 ( and at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center from January 23 through 26 (