The ballet-trained Diciembre Dance Group was one of the rare companies presenting a narrative work at the Cloud Dance Festival, and an ambitious one at that, based on Federico García Lorca’s challenging House of Bernarda Alba. Mats Ek himself made a dance version in 1978, but Lucía Piquero, the company’s young Spanish choreographer, explains how she went back to Lorca’s instructions for what was her company’s first piece, followed since by more creations. Interview conducted by Laura Cappelle of Bella Figura.
How did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was 11, casually – I just met a friend who was doing ballet. I was more interested in gymnastics, but I joined in and it ended up being like a boom in my life, a real change. I trained in ballet in Spain, and I only started contemporary dance when I came to London – I spent one year at The Place, and now I’m finishing a MA in Choreography at Middlesex University.
I actually always wanted to choreograph, and I had my first opportunity the year before coming to the UK – my teacher liked one my ideas, and I ended up choreographing the whole school show, which was a huge change from doing nothing! I then did a student workshop at The Place, and I just fell in love with it.
When was the Diciembre Dance Group created?
The members of Diciembre come from the London Contemporary Dance School, and the group was formed in August 2008 – I started it to do more things, since none of us were dancing anywhere else at the time. We applied for Resolution! 2009, which was our second ever performance.
What was the thinking behind The House of Bernarda Alba?
It was the first piece we did – we performed it at university. Being Spanish, Federico García Lorca is quite close to me, and I did a lot of theatre when I was younger – I did some Lorca, and I didn’t understand anything. Everyone that stages Lorca changes a lot of things, so I wanted to do a dance piece that corresponded exactly to what Lorca was saying when he gave the instructions for the play. That’s why we don’t have any men – there aren’t any in the cast of Bernarda Alba, but people find it easier to just have the men of the story on stage. I know it is also quite usual to cast a male actor or dancer as the main character, Bernarda, but I don’t like it – why would a strong woman necessarily have to be played by a man? I mainly wanted to convey the emotion, and since it’s a 15-minute piece, we selected the most important scenes.
How would you describe your style?
Emotional, and invested with social concerns. Everyone in the company is ballet-trained, so ballet is a strong base movement-wise, although we have all switched to contemporary dance now. I still want the technique to be seen somehow, but we just use whatever explains what we are trying to say – our aim is to say something, and dance is the tool.
What are your inspirations?
Literature is a strong inspiration. I also try to do choreography that deals with social issues – I just did a piece on madness, for which I obviously read Cervantes’s Don Quixote. In terms of choreographers, I really like Mats Ek, Nacho Duato and Ji?í Kylián. I try to avoid being too strongly influenced by traditional Spanish styles, to let go, but obviously a fan and a mantilla will say Spanish to the audience in Bernarda Alba.
What’s next for you after the festival?
We’re performing a new piece in Spain on 30 December. It’s an experimentation around the idea of childhood, of play, but we didn’t want to idealise it – being a child is not that easy.
Any Christmas wishes for the company?
For the New Year, the opportunity to perform more and more, to develop ourselves as a group and myself as choreographer.
Many thanks to Chantal Guevara for making these interviews possible.