A slight but significant change was noticeable in the programme for this autumn’s tour of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance’s Bayadère – The Ninth Life. After ten years with the company, the Mallorcan-born dancer and choreographer, Avatâra Ayuso, has been named as Associate Artist of the company.
Having studied ballet, in Mallorca, and linguistics, in Madrid, Ayuso came to train at the London Contemporary Dance School and, after graduation, she joined the D.A.N.C.E programme, working and performing internationally, under the direction of William Forsythe, Wayne McGregor, Frédéric Flamand and Angelin Preljocaj. In 2008, she obtained a Masters in Professional Dance from the Palucca Schule Dresden.
As a choreographer, she runs her own company – AVA Dance – and her work has been presented in Europe, Africa and Asia. She recently completed Emerging Leaders studies with the Clore Leadership Programme and an Open University programme on the history of leadership. She has also trained with Dana Caspersen on the art of conflict resolution; all of these opportunities being made possible through grants from the Dancers’ Career Development Fund.
Ayuso is also an Associate Artist of the European Centre for the Arts in Dresden and AVA Dance is an Associate Company of the Creative Academy in Slough. She was nominated, as a choreographer, for the Emerging Artist Award in the 2015 National Dance Awards.
Graham Watts caught up with a very busy lady to ask five questions of her on the eve of the opening of Bayadère – The Ninth Life at Sadler’s Wells.
You have been dancing for Shobana Jeyasingh for a decade but for Bayadere – the Ninth Life, you are now credited as Associate Artist. What does this mean – for the company and for yourself?
It has been a fantastic journey, starting as a dancer and, over the years, collaborating in other artistic duties from teaching and assisting, to working closely with Shobana in special projects. This new role is a way to show our commitment to each other: I would even say that its a way to bind our hearts even more closely. I’m very grateful to Shobana and her team for recognizing me as more than just a dancer in the company. Fantastic new projects await SJD and I’m very happy to be confirmed as a part of them.
How will this new status as Associate Artist for Shobana Jeyasingh Dance affect your future as a dancer and choreographer? What will happen to your own company, AVA Dance?
Being Associate Artist will not change anything about the work I do with my own company. They are two very different roles: one is to support Shobana, her vision and her team; the other, is to support AVA Dance, and to realise my own creative ideas with my own team and collaborators. I have been doing this for the last ten years, so nothing should change in that respect. I’m very excited about upcoming projects for AVA Dance which includes commissions, a continuation of my work empowering women and making more short films. I am certain that AVA Dance still has a long life ahead of it!
I have heard that a film is soon to be premiered in Germany about your work – can you tell me more about that? Will we be able to see it here in the UK? You have a reputation for dance film-making yourself – any more plans in the pipeline?
I’m one of the protagonists in a documentary on Spanish female artists, which focuses on us developing our art in a time of crisis. The film is called El Séptimo Sentido (The Seventh Sense) and is directed by Silke Abendschein. She has been following me for four years working on various projects in Germany, Spain and the UK. It will premiere in Berlin on 2 November and is then to be shown in Dresden, on 5 November. We are hoping to have a London premiere in early 2018.
Filmmaking is a big passion of mine. My latest film, I AM RAJA, is part of a trilogy* I plan to develop on women and extreme landscapes, developed in collaboration with the award-wining cinema production company, Braunarts.
The first one is set in the Sahara; the second in the Arctic; and the third will be filmed underwater. Diving and travelling in the desert are two experiences that have had the biggest impact in my life. Seeing how women in those landscapes survive, lead their lives and support their families has always touched me very deeply. This trilogy is a tribute to those women.
( *see www.threewomenthreefilms.com for more details)
You are active around the world, having associate artist status in places as far apart as Slough and Dresden. And, you were working in Burkina Faso, last year. What was that project about?
I have been Associate Artist at the European Centre for the Arts Hellerau Dresden since 2010, where Mary Wigman, Dalcroze and even Nijinsky worked. I am also Associate of the Creative Academy in Slough, led by a fantastic director, George Kirkham. These close associations have allowed me to develop projects around the world and meet amazing artists. One of these was in Burkina Faso, with support from British Council: I undertook research on its contemporary dance sector, getting to know the infrastructure, their creative processes and met the artists that have changed the landscape there such as Irène Tassembédo or Salia Sanou. I came back very inspired and grateful to them for opening their doors to me, so unselfishly.
What – and where – next for Avatâra?
My own premiere in Dresden! Right after the performances [of SJD’s Bayadère – the Ninth Life] at Sadler’s Wells, I go to Dresden to prepare for my next production, which is based on the revolutionary set designer Adolphe Appia. On 10 November, the work will be shown at the European Center for the Arts Hellerau, with a reconstruction of the original set from 1912.
I’m also planning a trip to New York to attend the “Women in Dance Leadership” conference. I’m really looking forward to gaining another perspective on the under-representation of women in leadership roles. After the Clore Leadership Programme and my studies at the Open University, I’m eager to know more about how large dance organisations work, and, of course, I’m preparing to draw on all my experience and passion to be able, one day, to lead one of them.
I have no doubt that you will! Thank you.