Translated interview from Denis Cardinaux
for "Terre de Compassion" Magazine (France)
Behind Dance For The Apocalypse
interview by Denis Cardinaux
Horacio Reyes Páez, lives in Vienna. Composer, instrumentalist, film director.
His film, Dance for The Apocalypse has just been awarded with the 2021 Audience Award at the José Ignacio international festival, which represents the Cannes Film Festival in Uruguay. Meet his story.
Reyes Páez shooting the last scenes of the Film.
Olivia Lasalvia (12) stands in the rocks of Punta Ballena, Uruguay.
Behind, Cristina Alcorta, the 2nd assistant director.
Denis Cardinaux: what was first in your project, music, image or dance?
Horacio Reyes Páez: I was in Uruguay, in strict lockdown, and I was, like many, with a feeling of anxiety. It was the time when we didn't know what was going to happen with this virus. At the same time, there were social movements in the USA following Floyd's death. The world was very convulsed. I felt the need to channel this energy through music, as I couldn't express it through words. One day, in just an hour, I composed the music on my guitar. It was something very powerful that came all at once. And it all came at the same time, the idea that I would make a film about this music and that there would be dancing.
What was your interest in dance as an art?
I have always been a fan of contemporary dance. In the 20th century, dance has changed. It has come to exhibit a body that is not so much the vector of a classical idea or the identity of a nation, but of the soul itself. It has become a mode of expression of our deep feelings. It does this by not hiding imperfections in the body or in gestures, as if to show us that we are imperfect beings.
In any case, it represented a better way of expressing something as complex as the events that we experienced in 2020 and that we continue to experience until today.
Laura Bella, 1st assistant director on set.
The production started 4:30 am at the beaches near José Ignacio, Uruguay.
"Contemporary Dance has become a mode of expression of our deep feelings. It does this by not hiding imperfections in the body or in gestures, as if to show us that we are imperfect beings." - Horacio Reyes Páez
Rehearsals took place during Uruguayan lockdown in Punta Ballena, Uruguay.
Photos: Olivia rehearsing the choreography, and doing a wardrobe test.
How did you meet Olivia?
I wanted to involve a child. Because a child represents the future of humanity and as such has more legitimacy than an adult. With her 12 years old, Olivia is in a way a real a child of this time.
So I started a casting on Facebook and her mother responded (Analía Nieto, Choreographer of the film). She was part of the circle of my relatives, my sister's friend. Olivia had done more classical and musical dance , but never contemporary dance. Listening to the music I had composed, she was very moved and was very motivated to participate in this project. Volunteering, of course, because I had no funding or any other means than my camera in my bag and the Uruguayan landscapes.
I talked to Olivia about Pina Bausch, as a reference in contemporary dance, and some new dance films so that she could have an idea of what a body traversed by existential anguish can be, and how this can be expressed through dance, far from the classical ideals . The idea delighted her. She surpassed all my expectations with her understanding, maturity and the quality of her apprehension of such a complex and subtle reality.
Mother and Daughter.
Olivia and her mother, Analía Nieto, during rehearsals.
Punta Ballena, 2020.
"It's the end of the world"
Watching the film again, I was struck by one thing. Olivia is dancing alone and yet the traces on the sand are very present. Is it accompanied loneliness?
Every time I watch this film again, I am drawn to the traces. There are human traces, animal traces, those of a car… There are many traces which speak of the rest of humanity. But this loneliness that the character experiences represents all of humanity. This loneliness is the very image of the human being.
Why did you choose this poem by Rudolf Steiner?
It is a text that I knew 12 years ago, at a very critical stage in my life. I was 21, wandering around Buenos Aires with a feeling of extreme anguish. At the time, I was interested in the work of Rudolf Steiner because it seemed to me that he gave a renewed perspective of the spiritual reality of the human being.
This text has helped me a lot. I repeated it constantly in the street, on the bus. I would recite it whenever I needed to come back to reality and feel more secure in this life. This Verse helped me so much that at that moment, I told myself that one day, I would make a film of it.
Besides, you didn't make a single film on these texts, but two. During this year, you produced other projects: photographic, musical and filmographic.
Yes, indeed, I have among other things produced a short-film trilogy during Uruguayan and Austrian lockdown.
The first film is actually based on another text by Steiner ("A Prayer", Reyes Páez, 2020, watch it here). It won the Special Jury Mention at the Pirapolis Film Festival (2020). The other was shot in Vienna. It's called “Pillow”. It stands between documentary and fantasy. It is not yet accessible because it will compete in festivals during 2021.
I place myself firmly into existence.
With confidence I tread the path of life.
Love I nurse in the core of my being.
Hope I lay into all my doing.
Confidence I impress into all my thinking.
These five lead me to my aims.
These five give me my existence.
A healing verse by Rudolf Steiner.
The first film ' A prayer ' also touches a little on this mystery of the end of the world. It seemed to me that the voice was coming to whisper something in our ears, as Olivia does at the beginning of the film. A word that is both dramatic and consoling.
At the start of the lockdown we found ourselves stranded in Uruguay and could not return to Vienna. Every night I went to sleep with the idea of having to make a film that was at the same time a prayer.
It was there that I remembered that Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, had written prayers during the First World War and during the pandemic of 1918. I believe that his texts were among the most useful of that terrible time. The text in question is not quite his own, but arose as a consequence of a lecture given in Berlin in 1910, entitled: 'The Essence of Prayer' (GA59).
As with Steiner, there is therefore in your work a spiritual dimension and also a desire to relieve the wounds of time.
I did not shoot these films for purely personal or aesthetic satisfaction. Instead, I tried to do it, thinking that the viewer might feel relief. I tried to use art through its function of healing hearts. But this was not a purely artistic function, but also a spiritual one. Joseph Boeuys thought of art as an act of faith. Art for him was intended to defend a spiritual dimension in an increasingly materialistic world. He believed that only art had the power to change anything in a ruined world.
And in this time so sick, I felt that I had to use this tool. Because I believe that art has the power to heal.
- Horacio Reyes Páez.