In 2019, I had an idea for an opera staging. It was a dance piece in which the singers would be hidden behind curtains, and on stage there would be dancers translating the libretto into Portuguese Sign Language, making the variations and the melodic compositions of the voice correspond through an expanding work of the gesture into the body.
This project was not accomplished and it was split into several iterations, among which Choreography (2020) and That’s it 2023). The intention was for the dance to emerge not from a place of physical expression or metaphysics but from a score of letters and words that, pronounced and enunciated, would give expressiveness to the body. I was interested in the process of translation in order to get into the place of language through the expression of speech. Exploring different language systems — such as orality, writing and gesture — as matters to make the body resonate, this practice revealed a conflict between communication and expression that would make the body overflow as texture, sensuality and sensation.
This is Work (Opera) gives continuation to this research and recycles the initial aim. While it does not intend to stage an opera, it focuses on the idea of translation of sound into body and landscape and questions the eternal problem concerning the autonomy of dance regarding its structural dependence on music. This is Work seeks to emerge from a place of experimentation of dance as a creation of expressiveness of the body in itself through an interaction between gesture, sound and sign, expanding the body to its most immanent social condition. If the previous works consisted of solos accompanied by live music (accordion in the case of Choreography, and piano in the case of That’s it), this work returns to silence as a place of immanence and seeks how to create choreographic structure through dance itself collaborating with a group of eight dancers, moving between body and flesh.
João dos Santos Martins