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New York Cool - Interview

William S. Gooch Talks to
Jelon Vieira
Artistic Director of Dance Brasil

Photographed by Mary Blanco

William S. Gooch: How do you pick your dancers, what do you look for?

Jelon Vieira: Well, of course I look for good technique and certain movement qualities, also very attractive physiques, but that is not my priority. It is also about a personality. All of my dancers are from Bahia, and some are trained by me in my school in Bahia, but all of them must take all the different styles of dance classes we teach, i.e, ballet, modern, jazz, capoeira,etc.

William S. Gooch: What is the age of your dancers?

Jelon Vieira: They range in ages 19 to 28. My rehearsal director just left the company last year when she was 33.

William S. Gooch: How is your ballet Ritual different from your other Capoeira pieces?

Jelon Vieira: Well, first of all Capoeira is my inspiration and we want to keep the audiences coming back so we have to choreograph different Capoiera pieces. I am very smart about that.

William S. Gooch Your repertoire is varied, how do you choose different choreographers to work with DanceBrazil?

Jelon Vieira: I want choreographers whose work stretch our dancers but not in a way that is too different from their movement style. My audience expects a certain quality of movement, and choreographers must understand what type of company this is our, movement quality and work within that framework. That is one of the main reasons I chose Ronald Brown. Much of the way he works and his style is similar to that of DanceBrazil, a much more naturalistic way of moving.

William S. Gooch: Why did you come to New York City to study dance?

Jelon Vieira: I was in a folkloric company in Brazil called Via Brazil. It was the only touring company at that time. We had a season in London, and I discovered that one of the directors/teachers that mentored me was coming New York City, so I followed him here. This was during the mid-70s. While here I studied for a short time at the Graham School and got a full scholarship to the Alvin Ailey American Dance School. My goal was to join the Ailey Company. The arts scene in New York City at that time was exciting and unbelievably rich. Anyway, Mr. Ailey told me that as an artist what I had was special and that I should start my own company, and I did just that. In fact, Mr. Ailey was an original board member.

William S. Gooch: How do you get funding?

Jelon Vieira: We get very little funding in Brazil and we get some grants here in the U.S. and funding from private donors. But as you know getting funding for the arts now is very difficult in this current climate.

William S. Gooch: Now all our readers would like to how it was to train Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes.

Jelon Vieira: Well, I teaching dance at SUNY Purchase and Wesley took my classes there while he was a student at Purchase. He continued to study with me until he became very famous. I choreographed a Capoeira dance sequence in the movie Boomerang and I coached Eddie in the dance sequence. Unfortunately, 40 minutes of footage was cut from the movie, which included the Capoeira sequence. But, both were great to work with.

William S. Gooch: Thank you so much for your time, and this exciting opportunity.

Jelon Vieira: Thank you and newyorkcool.com for being interested in DanceBrazil.

For more informatin on Dance Brazil, read William S. Gooch's article in this month's issue.




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