Life is a struggle these days. Cloistered in her Brazil apartment, unable to dance before live audiences, ballerina Juliana Rodrigues is facing the pain and frustrations of living in a nation grievously impacted by the Pandemic. She usually lives free. Her life is energetic movement, feeling harmonies, intense connections to emotions, and “telling stories.” Whether improvising to jazz, or inspired by J.S. Bach, she allows her “intuition to sense the true beauty of each moment.” She “flies,” and takes people with her. But Covid-19 constraints have imposed boundaries on her free spirit. Now limited to posting flamboyant videos online, she greatly misses the “dynamic energy” of the stage, saying “it’s an empty world without it. I love the communication there, the connectedness.”
Dancing since 1995, and a member of the Balé Teatro Guaíra company since 2008, Rodrigues is still undeterred. Showcasing the spirit that keeps other artists engaged during the Covid upheaval, she’s collaborating with composers Stanley Grill and Vincent Kennedy to stimulate greater interest in dance. She’s determined, unwilling to lose her enthusiasm during this dark period. “I am working, learning, my technique is getting stronger, I’m improvising and still flying,” insists Rodrigues, 37, in halting English. “Despite COVID, its limits, I hear the music. Then I must move, and when I’m in movement I am free.”
It’s a practiced art to soar beyond boundaries, to encounter criticism in the intensely-competitive dance world, and to remain confident about one’s talent. “When you work in a dance company, the Director, the Choreographer often question your talent, your body, make you feel terrible,” confesses Rodrigues, who has frequently been jolted by remarks about her diminutive 1.55 meters body.“‘You are too small, you are too small,’ I have heard that too many times in auditions. I’d hear the ‘no, no no…I would be a finalist, and think ‘here is my big chance. Then because I didn’t fit the Director’s picture, I was too small, more ‘no no, nos.’”
As a recent New York Times article pointed out, “how from head to toe, limbs and torso create the illusion of continuous reach and length. How can body image…no matter her size, be a source of strength rather than agony? ”Frequently dismissed, seen as unable to project enough “illusions, reach and strength,” Rodrigues has had to be more than an artist in the overly-romanticized world of arabesques, glissades and jetés. She has had to be relentless, constantly overcoming the jibes of (typically) male directors.“I take their words as a challenge, I am very strong, I will continue to express my emotions,”demands Rodriques, who started “performing” for her family at age 5, went to ballet school at 11, and was ultimately mentored by a CanCan dancer from France.
Now feeling “confident in my vision,” Rodrigues is hoping to inspire other dancers through ZOOM performances. She also performs in a daily stream of videos, hoping her “hybrid” combining of dance, film, and music will lead to more expansive cinematic productions. “My dancing is instinctual, free, I can listen to Back who is so deep, but my intuition connects with him,” she says, taking time off from her busy daily regimen of ZOOM classes, Pilates, and reflecting on new techniques.“I think Bach would be happy seeing me dance to his music. He would see that I connect…that I transform, convey so many depthful feelings.”
Smiling at the thought of delighting Bach, she continues, “My dance is bringing light and energy, uniting with good vibrations. If I see yellow flowers by a wall I think they need more space for the sunlight. They need to break the limitations…to flourish. ”Is that what her videos do for people confined by the COVID restrictions? Does she bring them more expansive sunlight and hope?“Of course I want to be on stage, to make films, but I also want to bring the music inside me to people now limited by COVID. A composer like Igor Stravinsky broke all the rules, but a work like Printemps still provided light, inspiration…I hope to do the same.”
Written By Edward Kiersh
1- Link: https://vimeo.com/julianarodriguesm/download/544225769/22410ce967
This video is about intensity, nuances, flow, vitality and soul for this beautiful Jazz music.
Music:’“Struttin’ his Stuff’ 1st movement of Tommy Donnybrook composed by Vincent Kennedy.
2- Link: https://vimeo.com/julianarodriguesm/download/544207431/475011b1b0
This video is about energy, courage, intensity, nuances and personality.
Music: End of the Beginning by Fabien Tell.