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Photo by Mark Siumin, Styling by Raffaela Boss, Suit by Arienne Birchler.
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Photo by Mark Siumin, Styling by Raffaela Boss, Suit by Arienne Birchler.
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Photo by Mark Siumin, Styling by Raffaela Boss, Suit by Arienne Birchler.
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Photo by Mark Siumin, Styling by Raffaela Boss, Suit by Arienne Birchler.

CRAZE #5: Lara Dâmaso

January 14, 2021
Text by Lewon Heublein
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Photo by Mark Siumin, Styling by Raffaela Boss, Suit by Arienne Birchler.

»CRAZE: Questionnaire for new Choreography« showcases emerging choreographers and investigates the artistic practices of contemporary dance. Lara Dâmaso’s work balances between focused control and sensual chaos.

Why dance?

First, I’d like to explain the evolution of my relation to dance. Since I started dancing ballet at the age of 3 or 4 years, it was my dream to become a professional ballet dancer. At 15, as my body began to change, it became clear that I didn’t have the frame of a ballet dancer’s body and I was told that I should explore contemporary dance. For several reasons – such as financial weight, psychological and physical pressure –, my relation to dance became more conflicted. As I wondered if there was anything else to inspire me besides this idea of being a perfect ballet dancer, I began to understand dance more as movement.

After made I my first experiences as a performer for Alicia Frankovich at the festival »Le mouvement – Performing the City«, I started studying Media Art at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig. After 2 months, I got run over by a car: both of my left ankle bones were fractured. As I left the hospital I was feeling extremely alienated from my body which I had shaped my whole life. I felt an urge to reconnect with it. The normal rehabilitation program was not enough, I needed to recover through dance.

It was like I was starting in a new body and with a new understanding. I began producing only performative works, using nothing other than my body. There is so much that can be processed, deconstructed, translated through the body. It is the most direct medium of all because it is allowing communication from human to human. It creates dialogue and thus, through movement, generates change. As an activator, a shaker, an amplifier, the moving body is highly political. Movement allows me to enter in direct relation with what is already there and for that I must open myself, show vulnerability and lose control. To connect we must dissolve.

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Photo by Mark Siumin, Styling by Raffaela Boss, Suit by Arienne Birchler.

What is your personal (and maybe daily) practice?

Being a human and practicing relationships are my main practices. I can’t separate my everyday life from my work, I am too emotional and irrational for that. I have a studio, but I have difficulties going there to practice something concrete because it feels too artificial to me. I am constantly dancing at home and what I love to do – and really need – is to dance at parties among other bodies. I like to lose control when I dance. To balance this out, I exercise focus through working as a still life model, which I started after my rehabilitation in Leipzig. When not moving for several hours I enter a very meditative state in which many of my works crystalized in my mind. I am also fascinated by the idea of a body not moving, so that the viewer can grasp its shape, that it becomes an image. This is such an illusion, and at the same time, all these different images that are produced out of my still body are so real, because we are many. These produced images are linked to movement and change. From my body standing still, many images are produced, all looking different, like a metaphor of endless movement in stillness.

How do you generate material?

I usually need something to enter in dialogue or confrontation with. Be it a context, a theme, something happening in my life or an emotion. I also like to read theory, but  don’t consider it as research. The reading usually happens before and helps me come to this point where I need to process information and produce. I used to write a lot but now there is more of an internal process happening of generating ideas and then reducing and sorting out until I get to the core of what I want to do. Then, depending on the work and what it needs, I create a structure, a frame and decide on the visual parameters. I like to work with the minimum, to make the work be as precise as possible.

The structures shouldn’t be restrictive but give me something to react to. In whatever work I produce, it is important to me to create a space in which intimacy and vulnerability can occur. I work mostly with structured improvisation and don’t really rehearse but I try out the structure that I have set up and adjust it. I like to discover my work at the same time as the audience and don’t want to deliver a finished product which I am in control of.

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Photo by Mark Siumin, Styling by Raffaela Boss, Suit by Arienne Birchler.

What is an audience for you?

Humans I want to be generous to and receive generosity from. I must set a space in which they feel safe and welcomed so that I can share my work with them.

I don’t want to force or push the public into anything they don’t feel comfortable with. I want the public to be active and not passive. An active public is a public that I can reach emotionally and sensually, that is ready to be touched. I am not really interested in interactivity in a physical sense, I don’t expect the public to do anything, but I don’t want the public to expect me to entertain them. I am aware that there is a direct contradiction in being a performer and not wanting to entertain, because I can’t deny that I have an ego and that I enjoy being watched. I try to find a balance between what I aspire to – opening myself to create space for dialogue – and my liking to hold attention. I think that there is a great potential in the tension exerted by this duality.

Can you remember the first piece of art that really mattered to you?

Yes, it was »The Kiss« by Tino Sehgal in his retrospective at Gropius Bau in 2015, which was my first museal performance show, and it really blew my mind. I remember entering this dark room, acknowledging the presence of people but not seeing anything at first. Then my eyes would got used to the darkness and I started discerning a cloudlike shape floating and moving very slowly. I kept looking at it until realizing that it was two people kissing. It felt like I was part of their kissing, like we were all sharing this intimate and erotic moment. This piece is so simple and so strong!

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Photo by Mark Siumin, Styling by Raffaela Boss, Suit by Arienne Birchler.

Your personal utopia would look like…?

A society in which trust, care, courage, vulnerability, empathy, sensuality, erotism, irrationality, honesty, listening, love and dialogue are not utopias.

You always negotiate certain forms of intimacy while you write in a performance announcement: »The dancing body and the singing body are one and the same. The same kind of communication: vibration.« What does intimacy mean to you in this tension?

For intimacy to happen, one must let go of protection and allow proximity. If I want to communicate something with my body and want the vibrations generated by my movements – be it in the form of sound or dance – to transcend my own body and fill the space, to enter in contact and dialogue with other vibrating bodies, with different frequencies, I must open up and lose control.

Considering the terms »dancing body« and »singing body« in the context of my practice, there is also some form of internal intimacy also is happening in this relation. Using my voice is something that is very new for me and I am still very insecure about it, but when I use my singing body to communicate, I step out of my comfort zone. It is easy for me to lose control in dancing because it is familiar, but I realized that I need to go further if I really wanted to open space for dialogue and intimacy.

The voice is an extremely direct and powerful medium that has been suppressed for way too long, especially for women but also all non-white cis male persons. We use our voice every day to talk and communicate, but we use so little of its capacity. In Nordic countries like Switzerland, we never allow the voice to be dissonant nor to express irrational feelings and thoughts for fear to sound wrong, being disruptive or be considered as hysterical.

All that what isn’t released by the voice doesn’t simply disappear. It becomes a charge, a vibratory charge, and will find another way out. Be it in the form of sickness, aggressivity, sadness, addiction… I’m sure that the use of the voice is healing. When the singing and the dancing body are in touch, the full movement potential of the body alone is activated, and this irrational dialogue generates intimacy– and a real dialogue is always intimate.

Lara Dâmaso is an artist, performer and dancer and DJ living in Zurich. She studied at the Hochschule für Grafik and Buchkunst in Leipzig and obtained her bachelor graduation at the Zurich University of the Arts. Lara’s work addresses intimacy, vulnerability and irrationality in response to individualism, while it balances between focused control and sensual chaos. She has been invited to show her work at Kunsthalle Bern, Centre Pasqu’Art, Theater Neumarkt, Kunsthalle Zurich, Plymouth Rock, Cabaret Voltaire and Les Urbaines. She is also associated artist of Theaterhaus Gessnerallee. As a performer she has worked with and for Isabel Lewis, Nile Koetting, Nikima Jagudajev and Alicia Frankovich.

»CRAZE: Questionnaire for new Choreography« is conceived by Jette Büchsenschütz and Lewon Heublein

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