The Space of the Body in Teatro da Vertigem

Photo: Actor Marçal Costa training for a Teatro da Vertigem production.
Hello from São Paulo! During the past two weeks, I have been researching the space of the body in the work of theater and dance companies here. My primary focus is the group Teatro da Vertigem, but I have also been able to meet and familiarize myself with the work of several other performing artists.
Vertigem is currently developing a new piece after The Castle by Franz Kafka. They view this project as an intervention in the city, as well as a theater piece. The company usually stages its performances in site-specific locations; in the past, these have included a church, prison, and hospital (all at least partly abandoned). This time around, The Castle will be performed on the outside of a glass building, about three stories up. The cast of seven will hang from rock-climbing ropes and harnesses, as well as move in three suspended boxes, such as those used by window cleaners. The audience will be inside the building, looking out at the performance through the glass. This staging is a direct response to the particularities of place of São Paulo and their psychophysical effect on its inhabitants. The glass wall separating those that are inside the bureaucratic “castle” from those who cannot gain access is a powerful one in here. Aware of this basic formulation, Vertigem is exploring more deeply the themes of work and control.
I have been able to observe both the rehearsals at the company’s base/studio and the physical training with the ropes and harnesses, which occurs outside a nearby building. They are about halfway into their eight-month rehearsal process, and I am seeing what a struggle it is to try to adapt their bodies to the shifting ground they will be occupying.

Another prevalent element in Vertigem’s work is their collaborative process, which is an intensive exchange between the director, actors, designers and writers. I interviewed the director about the early phases of this exploratory work, and also observed an individual rehearsal with one of the performers. The rehearsal consisted of a vivência, in which the director led the performer to exhaustion through dancing and then through several improvised scenes that combined her personal memories with the character’s biography. The vivência brought about new images and sensory relations as the performer worked within and beyond the narrow window box that her character’s family occupies during the play. I have yet to see how this translates into the group work, but it was a fascinating investigative process.

Marina Libel
MA Candidate, Gallatin

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