Director: Takao Kusuno
Choreographer: Ismael Ivo
A very unusual constellation. In 1980, Renée Gumiel, a French pioneer of modern dance in Brazil, Dorothy Lenner, a Romanian born actress who studied acting in London, and young Afro-Brazilian dancer Ismael Ivo joined forces to work with Japanese director and Butoh master Takao Kusuno and create a radically new work. The resulting choreography still marks a radical turning point in Brazilian dance: a prototype of anthropophagy, of “cultural cannibalism”, as developed by the country’s intellectuals in the 1930s.
As Galinhas was novel. It entered into a dialogue with Butoh, whose fusion of physicality and inwardness was unheard of in Brazil at the time. The production was radical because it was conceived for the street, as an openly expressed critique of the dictatorship then ruling the land. As Galinhas revolves around racism, oppression, violence - and still manages to be very poetic nevertheless. In the same way that human beings see caged hens with clipped wings only as “consumer goods”, the human being in a cage is also a prisoner of social conditions. Inner resistance, one of the driving forces behind Butoh and a perfect response to the exigencies of the time, helped to formulate and publicise opposition. For Ismael Ivo, who has meanwhile become a star dancer, this had a very personal quality too: ‘I didn’t need to paint my body white, because my black skin alone was the statement.’
Now, As Galinhas is being performed again, proving the unbroken creative force of anthropophagy. Renée Gumiel, who was born in France and later studied under Mary Wigman and Rudolf Laban, still has a stage presence, which - especially at the age of ninety-six - is hard to find anywhere else.