Robson: The First of All Collaborators

When I approached Robson F.  to collaborate with me on a performance, I was hesitant. We jive together socially but when it comes to artistic outputs, it can be quite challenging, not to mention that we have differing views when it comes to managing our time. So when I embarked on this project with him, I knew that it will test my perspective on many things. 

Robson is a dance researcher-educator from Brazil who has been involved in government cultural projects that promoted the continuity of dance education and its transmission within the different communities in São Paulo.  This fact itself was enough to pique my interest as I too held the same advocacy – dance education, community, and transmission. I was fascinated with what influenced him to take this particular course. 

Robson is from Limiera, a small town located in the southeast of Brazil where he grew up being exposed to rituals, traditional dances, and cultural beliefs attached to the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. 

I have not heard of this religion before and it was captivating to listen to Robson talk about it. He explained that Candomblé involved a lot of dancing, in fact the name itself referred to the act of dancing in honor of their orixás, or gods in English. According to practitioners like Robson, there are sixteen orixás who take possession of their bodies and each practitioner has a tutelary orixá that controls his or her destiny whilst acting as protector at the same time. For Robson, when he goes on trance, it  is always Hongolo who takes possession of him. He refers to Hongolo as the snake and rainbow god, also considered as the god of transformation and continuum who is responsible for connecting the earth to the sky.  

Robson and I obviously have different religious backgrounds. Being a Christian, this was completely the opposite of what I believe in but being a Christian also meant not judging and not inflicting my own beliefs on other people for I always believed that faith is a choice (and not something that you ram into peoples’ throats in).

For two individuals who come from different parts of the world with differing cultural backgrounds, it was crucial to find a common ground. I asked him what he has that I also have. It had to be something that we both shared or something we can both identify with. I emphasized that it did not have to be religious, but must be of cultural value.

Since both of our heritage was linked to the most influential individuals of our lives, we rummaged through our memories for something tangible to start the conversation with and spent weeks discussing, as well as rehearsing, how we can show our cultural dialogue through performance art whilst exchanging stories or issues that we wanted to highlight. We settled on working around pieces of fabric that represented our identities. I had the malong  gifted to me by my doctor-father and Robson shared a representation of his pano da costa, reminiscent of his folk healer-grandmother who introduced him to Candomblé

The output of the collaboration was performed at a university last March 27, 2019 which I will be posting  (soon) once the video is ready.

I have to say that it was quite a fulfilling endeavor to have performed with Robson. I asked him what was next for him. He explained that there is still so much that he needed to work on. Right now, the most daunting challenge that he wants to address is the misconception attached to Candomblé and the people who practice it. This is the reason why he is committed to dive into the academia in order to produce more scientific research about Candomblé and help promote more awareness.

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