Dancing on concepts

Jonathan Spollen
5 Min Read

It is impossible to define the dance routine of the Tania Pérez-Salas Dance Company, and its lead dancer after whom the company is named.

Devised from a series of dance movements and physical expressionism, and inspired by everything from classical dancing, ballet, literature, religion and the content of Pérez-Salas’ own dreams, it would be easier to consider it performing art that involves dancing.

Whatever it is, it’s extremely popular and is in demand throughout the Americas North and South, Europe and Asia, and not least in the country where it originated, Mexico.

And to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and Egypt the company will perform at the Gomhuria Theater in the Cairo Opera House Thursday and Friday.

They come highly recommended given that they were personally invited by Mexico’s ambassador to Egypt Jaime Nualart.

“He’s been to watch our shows many times, says Pérez-Salas over coffee at her Zamalek hotel. “I like to think he has a good taste in art!

Having founded her company in 1994, Pérez-Salas never expected to be where she is at such a young age, nor could she have envisioned the dance routines she would use.

“I was schooled in classic dance, she says wincing, “but I hated it. The teachers treated us like we were deformed and had to be fixed.

The conformity of classical dance had the effect of pushing Pérez-Salas in the opposite direction, looking for something that would allow her to express herself, or as she says, “to allow my body to express a concept.

“I didn’t want dancing to be an effort; I want it to be natural, symbiotic. Dance is a physical expression of music.

“People connected to art don’t have to study it, it is within them and they just let it out.

After quitting classical dance at 18, she took lessons with a local contemporary dance teacher, paying for the lessons by working as the teacher’s chauffeur.

Under her teacher’s tutelage Pérez-Salas began to formulate her own dance techniques and ventured into choreography.

After so many years of being told what to do and how to do it, she was now afforded total artistic freedom. The genie was out of the bottle.

“My teacher loved my choreography. He cultivated the talent within me and gave me the belief that I was lacking.

Pérez-Salas drew on all the artistic influences in her life, which were many given her family background that included a grandmother who was an author and literary parents who encouraged her to read and watch artistic films from an early age.

“At eight years old I was watching Fellini, and Antonioni, and was listening to Gregovich and Vivaldi. I had a cultured upbringing.

The artistic floodgates opened and Pérez-Salas began composing dance routines that comprised music and influences from theater, cinema and literature.

She calls it “dancing on concepts.

“My teacher would just play music I loved and I would dance to it freely and make a routine out of it, she says. “It is complete freedom of movement with dance techniques.

In Cairo she and a troupe of 10 dancers she brought from Mexico will perform routines that she concocted from 1998-2001.

It is inspired in many ways by Michael Cunningham s award-winning book “The Hours, which examines the life of three American women in three different generations, all connected via Virginia Wolff s famous feminist novel Mrs. Dalloway.

“I love the way it shows a woman in the different stages of her life, full of sensuality and power, says Pérez-Salas.

There are, she says, folkloric and medieval influences as well, and that is before she gets to Bach and Hendel mixed with soft trance.

“I don’t like the idea of standstill, she says, “I want it to keep changing. I don’t want to be framed in any one style.

She is unlikely in any danger of that.

The Tania Pérez-Salas Dance Company will perform Feb. 14 and 15 at the Gomhuria Theater at the Cairo Opera House.

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