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José Navas: Poetry on the dance floor

 »It’s always been a challenge to be a dance artist because it’s so specific. It’s like writing poetry. The market for it is very small. »

The soft-spoken voice at the other end of the line is brimming with warmth and optimism, even though we’re discussing the most sobering of topics for a 7  am phone interview: Harper’s much-contested cuts to the culture budget.

For José Navas, the contemporary dancer/choreographer who has traveled the world with his esteemed Flak Company for close to 15 years, the funding cuts have certainly taken their toll on the dance community, but they’ve also compelled administrators to find creative new ways of mounting shows.

 »We’re under tighter financial constraints, but it’s not impossible, » he says.  »I don’t think contemporary dance will ever be as popular as TV, but it will always exist. It is a human necessity. »

The Venezuelan-born hoofer sure knows a thing or two about sharing the poetry of movement with audiences. Upon moving to Montreal, Navas rapidly gained acclaim for the captivating sensuality and meditative qualities of his solo work. His pieces are both technical feats and visceral appeals to the senses, something at the core of Navas’ collaborations with his resident dancers.

 »I work with people who believe you can touch the audience through dance, which is difficult because we are programmed through dance school and society to think otherwise. I always think of how the movement will make me feel, and how audiences are going to feel the movement. »

So what does he make of the aspiring dancers schooled on the trick-laden theatrics of So You Think You Can Dance?  »It’s like the opera. If we had So You Think You Can Sing, people would perform all the vocal tricks that an opera singer can do.

But if you listen to Tosca, you won’t have all the tricks back-to-back, you’ll have more of the craft of opera. So You Think is a great show, but don’t forget it’s TV. »

Lucky for us, Navas and his troupe’s harmonious movement will be featured in a not-edited-for-TV double-bill later this month.

Look out for  »Villanelle, » a solo number loosely inspired by a Dylan Thomas poem and a conscious nod to the villanelle poetic form (think repetitions and rhyming refrains) to deliver on the elegance, skill and authenticity that Navas always brings to the stage.

Danse Danse

November 25th to 28th
Pierre-Péladeau Centre

300, de Maisonneuve E.