Anthology André Lepecki - The Portuguese Years
General introduction by Sarma (2007)
“I knew that if the experimental and avant-garde dance had any chances of survival they had to pass through the test of being properly accounted for in printed form. My dance reviewing has always been very engaged and not at all neutral, documental, nor objective. I had and still have an agenda.” André Lepecki
André Lepecki has been writing on dance and performance for Blitz, a rock&roll magazine and by that time the most read Portuguese weekly, between the summer of 1990 and the spring of 1993. At that time and as the opening quote remarks, André Lepecki clearly had an agenda: to give a solid base to Portuguese dance to launch itself into the international arena. In his later writings for magazines such as Ballet International, this aim was still vivid. Lepecki’s background was actually that of a cultural anthropologist, and as a scientist he wrote columns and book reviews for Diário de Notícias and Público. The encounter with dance happened almost by coincidence, since a new generation of artists, such as Francisco Camacho, Vera Mantero, Carlota Lagido, Paulo Abreu and João Fideiro, had interest in Lepecki’s anthropological writings and invited him for dramaturgical assistance or simply as an interlocutor (we speak about a time that the term ‘dramaturg’ may not have been coined in that context). At that very point, Lepecki realised there was a lack of knowledge about art and even about the body within anthropology, which prompted him to work with choreographers and dancers, who also were or became friends, lovers, etc. When shortly after, in 1990, the magazine Blitz invited him to review dance, he accepted immediately, and found himself confronted with a medium that gave him an unprecedented freedom in style and detail, which allowed him to set his agenda.
Looking back on that period, several interests came together and surpassed by far what seemed to be at first sight a coincidental encounter with dance. Besides the local boom of dance in Lisbon, important international choreographers (Pina Bausch, Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, DV8, La La La Human Steps, Sankai Juku, Susanne Linke, Meredith Monk, Joseph Nadj, Karine Saporta, Meg Stuart, Wim Vandekeybus etcetera) performed in Portugal, whose work was also reviewed by Lepecki and provided a frame for the local scene to gain a wider and international visibility. This pivotal period in Portuguese arts, and Lepecki’s coming to writing dance criticism happened in a context of historical break, as he points out: “In post-revolutionary, post-colonial Portugal, the new regime meant the opening up of an extremely closed and underdeveloped society to the world at large. It meant also the coming of age in the 1980s of the first generation of very young artists that had been brought up fully in democracy, and without censorship nor the prospect of colonial war. The country had hardly a dance tradition. Dance boomed in Lisbon with a force that was unstoppable. The New Portuguese dance galvanised a whole set of cross-collaborations across artistic fields between choreographers, musicians, composers, architects, designers. And, with a specific group of artists, the crossing aimed at directions that at the time were not so much explored: between dance and theory, dance and writing, dance and epistemology.”
What can then be Sarma’s agenda more than a decade and half later when expressing the desire and need to collect and republish these writings in their original language as well as in English? Why give them a second life in a new historical epoch? What can be the rationale of such enterprise? The struggle of survival of dance through the tools of writing technologies, to which Lepecki refers, is not over. Portuguese dance is not any more standing at the verge of the international scene, as was the case in the late eighties, but now it is standing at the verge of entering history.
- From its inauguration Sarma has been anthologizing the body of work of André Lepecki, which is acclaimed for its critical and theoretical value. Since Lepecki’s ‘favorite writings’, as he calls his early Portuguese writings on dance, were hardly known, it became a mission for Sarma to anthologize also these formative years in his career. Like this Sarma can present a fuller array of Lepecki as a writer and thinker, including both past and current works.
- There is an urge to historicise the formative years of Portuguese dance and performing arts. Lepecki’s writings for Blitz are crucial testimonies of this revolving period.
- International non-Portuguese dance lovers often lack background information on the beginning years of choreographers whom they know from the more recent work that is touring European stages. Thus, Lepecki’s early writings provide a historical framework to approach the work of choreographers that are active nowadays.
- A new audience of young Portuguese dance lovers, the second and third generation, who have not witnessed the developments first hand, is equally in need of finding information about this period.
The anthology of André Lepecki’s writings for BLITZ was launched on November 17th and 18, 2007 in Porto. Sarma was invited to Meeting on Dance Criticism curated by Tiago Bartolomeu Costa and hosted by Fabrica de movimentos. Sarma editors Myriam Van Imschoot and Jeroen Peeters, along with anthology editor Monica Guerrero and choreographer Francisco Camacho, introduced and discussed the project. What was the impact of Lepecki’s writings at the time? Are there still traces of this left today? How did Lepecki’s writings inform the Portuguese dance scene? How did his involvement as dramaturg and artistic collaborator create new possibilities for critical writing?
Credits Editor Sarma: Myriam Van Imschoot Editor Portugal: Monica Guerreiro Research in Lisbon: Jeroen Peeters Translator: Clive Thoms Financial Support: Portuguese Institute for the Arts Thank you to: André Lepecki for the contribution to this anthology, BLITZ for giving consent to republish the texts on Sarma, Diana Teixeira (typist)
- Editor Monica Guerrero wrote an essay on the anthology: Everyone should do it
- In January and February 2004, both Sarma and André Lepecki took part in the event Connexive#1: Vera Mantero, which is documented elsewhere on sarma.
- On the occasion of Connexive #1: Vera Mantero, Sarma launched a first extended selection of essays by André Lepecki
- Bio and more references to André Lepecki
- Poetics André Lepecki