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‘Swan Lake’ set in mental asylum

A contemporary dance “Swan Lake” set in an abandoned mental asylum will be staged by Portugal’s Quorum ballet at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center on September 14.

The ballet is set in modern times, retaining the original characters and Tchaikovsky’s score.

“I want the audience leave the theater with the sense that they have seen a story with people and not just a fairy tale,” says choreographer Daniel Cardoso, who is also artistic director of the Lisbon company.

“I wanted to create something related to our times and our lives, most of all a version (of “Swan Lake”) that is closer to the people and not as distant as the original,” he tells Shanghai Daily in an interview.

The performance is fanciful and poetic and the asylum is “rich in figures and bizarre beings that embody defects, virtues and human impulses,” the program says.

The performance will be the Asia premiere of this contemporary “Swan Lake.”

Quorum Ballet was founded by Cardoso in 2005 and in 2009 it was named best contemporary dance company in Portugal. It staged “Correr O Fado” in Shanghai last May.

After working outside of Portugal for 10 years, Cardoso returned because he “wanted to bring something new to the Portuguese dance scene.

“Quorum Ballet is my contribution, but we are still in the beginning.”

Date: September 14, 7:15pm

Venue: Opera Hall, Shanghai Oriental Art Center

Address: 425 Dingxiang Rd

Thirty-six-year-old dancer and choreographer Daniel Cardoso began dancing at the age of nine with the National Conservatory Dance School in Lisbon, Portugal. He won full scholarships to the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and the Joffrey Ballet School in New York. He talks with Shanghai Daily.

Q: How did you begin in dance?
A: At the age of nine I went to the National Conservatory without knowing yet that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I went because my mother sent me. She wanted to be a dancer herself. Once I started, I loved it. 

Q: You’ve performed around the world. Why did you return to Portugal?
A: Besides [wanting to bring something new to the Portuguese dance scene], I felt the need to be closer to my family. ... I (also) wanted to work professionally in my country. I left Portugal right after school and didn’t think of starting a company so early in life, but I think it (starting the company early) was the best decision. I have to do it while I am still young, with energy and strength. Quorum Ballet would only make sense in Portugal. It is a structure to promote and support the Portuguese dance scene.

Q: Quorum is quite small. What kinds of challenges does this present?
A:  We are eight full-time dancers, but in some projects like “Swan Lake” we need more dancers, 15 (in this case). It all depends on the productions. Europe and especially Portugal are going through difficult financial times, (so) it’s not easy to keep a full-time structure with more than eight dancers; eight is a huge challenge. The full staff is 12 people, eight of them dancers. Every day is a fight but we keep going forward. ...Of course, I would very much like to have more dancers and I believe it would be possible if we keep growing.

Q: Why did you start bringing your company to China?
A: I’m fascinated with Chinese culture and very interested in learning more about what you are doing related to the arts and dance. China has some amazing venues, theaters and a lot of potential to be developed in the dance. It is a pleasure to work in your country and I hope we are able to keep being present for many years to share and present our work.

Q: Why did you decide to do your own version of “Swan Lake?”
A: I always wanted to make my own version of my favorite classical ballet. Most of all, I wanted to create something related to our times and our lives.

Q: Your last show in Shanghai was “Correr O Fado,” drawing on traditional Portuguese singing style. Do you incorporate Portuguese elements in all your pieces?
A: “Correr O Fado” is a piece totally dedicated to what it is to be Portuguese and about our culture. Other work will have other themes. I do not try to incorporate Portuguese elements in all pieces. It depends on the project and piece I want to create.



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