Silence rarely sounded so loud

An interview with Samir Calixto about Summa

In recent years, Samir Calixto made a great impression with his adaptation of Winterreise (after Schubert), 4 Seasons (after Vivaldi) and Paradise Lost (after Milton). With an uncompromising crossing of pure musicality and intense physicality, he digs deeply into the themes of his performances until they achieve a timeless quality. Now he embarks on a new adventure with Summa: an intensive collaboration with Cello8ctet Amsterdam. Accompanied by music of the iconic composer Arvo Pärt, eight ‘cellists and two dancers bring all their powers of concentration to bear in the presentation of a synthesis between the music and the knowledge stored in our bodies.

Arvo Pärt called the Cello8ctet Amsterdam ‘ein Goldstück’ and already wrote several compositions especially for them. How did you meet the Cello8ctet Amsterdam?

I met the octet through the composer Kate Moorewhen we were preparing her music for Paradise Lost. We first performed a live version with four members of the group on stage and then we made a recording for the tour. After watching the premiere of the full version they got really excited about the result and we started discussing the possibility of collaborating in a future project. While going through the octet's repertoire they mentioned their relationship with Pärt and a forthcoming new album that would include transcriptions the composer made specially for the group. My immediate reaction was to propose a new piece around these compositions, and the octet shared the same enthusiasm. It just felt right, not only because of Pärt's music but also because of the octet's unique sound and musical identity. These are musicians at the top of their artistry. I went to see one of their concerts in Amsterdam before we started the project when Arvo was also present. I will never forget the beautiful intensity they created in the air that evening. It was all together, the lightest sounds married to the deepest sensations. Silence rarely sounded so loud to me.

Watch a rehearsal video by Cello8ctet Amsterdam and Arvo Pärt

What inspires you about Arvo Pärts music?
For me it feels just natural to find an artistic connection with a composer like Pärt. His work is emotional without being sentimental, seemingly minimal but very complex in terms of execution, and profoundly spiritual in the broadest sense of the word. If you really look beyond the context in which he composes (heavily framed by his Christian faith) you will notice that it transcends any form of religion to a far greater extent. Even when it is based on the conventions of Christian sacred music it manages to go beyond it, just like all the great composers such as Bach, Mozart, etc. If you strip away the basis of sacred texts, this kind of music retains something utterly universal. It is deeply spiritual as it touches the purest essence of faith, of our endless attempt to understand our place and time in this earth and within ourselves. So my interest is not in the obviously religious aspect of Pärt but in the philosophical side of his music, his use of silence and contrasts that tunes into a deeper human search, which is an everlasting theme in my work. 

This is the first performance that you will create at Korzo that doesn’t feature you as a dancer. Why did you make this decision? And can you tell us about the fantastic dancers that you chose?

The decision had to be made because of a commission I was offered to choreograph Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin in Osnabrück (Germany)... something I couldn't refuse. This music is one of the closest to my heart after his Winterreise (which was my Korzo full length debut few years ago), but the creation occurred precisely during the Summa  tour. Nevertheless, I don't believe these things happen only by chance. The title Summa - apart from being the name of a composition by Pärt - also stands for 'summary', a synthesis; like a reflection of where have I come after all these years choreographing, growing and experiencing my creations in a very empirical way, mostly on stage. It feels that it's time to bring this accumulation of experiences into a different perspective, the one from the choreographer who translates his universe through multiple other universes within other dancers' bodies. I have done that before but nothing feels as solid a step as Summa.

Hopefully I will be able to solidify this step with the presence of two very gifted dancers, Quentin Roger and Chiara Mezzadri. For instance, I've been working with Quentin for a while already, and so much of my own development is already very embedded in his work as a dancer. To take this artistic relation further is something I really look forward to. The same goes for my collaboration with Pavla Beranova, for the lighting design. We have been developing a way of understanding the role of lighting in the dramaturgy of my pieces. This is a deepening that needs certain distance from dancing to take place. Hopefully a step ahead... like graduation time!

We are very much looking forward to your new performance. Is there something you want to say to the audience?

I am very grateful that through these years I have been able to connect to an audience that is open to the twists, turns, and directions I've taken in my different works. They seem to connect to the essence of it - which I try to keep as consistent as I can - rather to its form. I say this because there is often a precocious demand - mostly from part of the dance community - to get a very hard-cut 'language' right at the start, a recognizable 'signature' or final form when you are just beginning your development as a maker. I have consciously avoided that pressure and it seems to have paid off because I can concentrate on letting the essence define the form and not vice versa. If there is a signature by now it is a consequence of the demands of the work itself, not a formal imposition.  Summa will also be another step into developing this idea. It is all about sticking to the core while keeping it simple. This is probably my most tender choreographic journey until now.

 So, as usual... expect the unexpected. 

Watch a compilation video of Samirs work

Posted on 19 June 2017 | 0 comments

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