Montajes Coreográficos stimulates Colombian dance

December 2004 -

Never before has the Columbian government organised a dance project as large as Montajes Coreográficos. For three months, international artists worked with 52 young dancers on three choreographies to stimulate Columbian dance.

Rafael Palacios is a choreographer with a mission. His 34% visible is the first Columbian dance piece that translates the Afro-Columbian culture into contemporary choreography with professional dancers. 'It is important to know where we come from,' says Palacios. 'The history books only describe the Spanish. We were African slaves, that is why we are here. But that is not enough for me. We are still invisible.'

Palacios composed the choreography for Montajes Coreográficos, the largest dance project that the Columbian government has ever financed, through its Instituto Distrital de Cultura y Turismo in Bogotá. The three-month project, concluded with performances in the national theatre in Bogotá early in December 2004, had a budget of 500 million pesos (more than 150,000 euros). Two other choreographies were also financed with this money. Brazilian choreographer Newton Moreas and the Angolan composer Victor Gama were inspired by the legend of El Dorado for their theatrical dance about love. Iván Tenorio, artistic manager of the Cuban national ballet, composed a neo-classic choreography that portrays the Amazon. All of the 52 dancers are Columbians.

The project offered them a paid job, which is unique in a country where dancers have difficulty surviving. 'Dance is often considered a hobby,' says project director Sonia Abaunza. The intention is that the three choreographies will find their way to international stages. The organiser invited producers from Canada, Europe and Latin America to the performances. Dancer Atala Bomal hopes that Montajes Coreográficos heralds a period in which the Columbian government focuses its spending not only on the war, but also on the arts. 'Being a dancer in Columbia is choosing for peace. It is a way to escape the system that supports the war. The body is the first channel of expression. You might have an idea, but the body is what makes it real.'