act:on | Tiago Manquinho

8., 13., 22., 30 October, 16. November 2022

Theater Lüneburg 


Choreography: Tiago Manquinho in collaboration with the dancers
Stage: Manuela Müller
Costumes: Susanne Ellinghaus
Dramaturgy: Boris von Poser
With: Sarah Altherr, Clément Coudry-Herlin, Samuel Dorn, Rhea Gubler, Irene La Monaca, Phong Le Thanh, Vincent Munoz Amo, Hugo Prunet, Claudia Rietschel, Elena Trägler


Boris von Poser interviews Tiago Manquinho on the piece.

Olaf Schmidt invited you to make a choreography on the theme of a new start. What were your first associations?

When the invitation came, I found very motivating to think about a new beginning with a positive outlook. I immediately felt the need for a light piece, precisely because everything has been so tedious lately. Finding a light approach was also important for me because I had just come out of a phase in which I had worked on very dark and difficult themes. personally, I tend to work on these dark themes - and this dark area is also a certain comfort zone for an artist at some point - it's good to move out of it.

Do you try to react to current situations in your work?

I don't necessarily look at what's current, but I read a lot, not novels, but articles, investigative journalism. I'm interested in what's happening everywhere, different perspectives, different opinions, and there are naturally themes that catch my eye. But a topic must also touch me personally.

You spent a large part of your career as a dancer and also started working as a choreographer in Germany, but in recent years you have returned more often to Portugal as a choreographer. One inspiration for this current work is the work of Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa. Can you describe what makes his films so special for you?

I was newly made aware of his films and immediately a lot of memories came back to me. There is a distinctly Portuguese aesthetic in Pedro Costa's work that I recognize. This melancholy - we find happiness in sadness. People sing fado to celebrate and cry at the same time. Pedro Costa has a lot of that in his own way. It has a lot to do with a kind of beauty in suffering. He blends the miseries with an aesthetic reminiscent of the great painters, such as Caravaggio. He discovers a pride, a certain dignity in misery. Alongside his strong neorealist approach. I come from a town where neorealism if very present. So there a great closeness to this kind of aesthetics because of my cultural background. Making the life struggle of these lost people accessible to the audience, so that one can reflect on these themes. To discover oneself in them. I think that's something I'm also looking for in my work. Aesthetics serves as a means of transport something that would otherwise be unbearable.

And that's where you see the connection to the last two years - which, to a certain extent, is something to be addressed now?

When Olaf approached me, the situation in the pandemic was just easing. The first lockdowns were over. People hoped that everything would get better, and then war came and everything got worse. For many people extremely worse. And the perspectives have changed all over again. How to cope with it? And that's where theater plays a big role . Theater can help you discover the possibilities in a state where you don't know what to do next. This has a lot to do with waiting and helplessness. To then find the strength that comes from it.

In several projects you have worked choreographically with the long-term unemployed, refugees and people with migration backgrounds. To what extent does this experience flow into a work like the current one?

Every season I do at least one production with non-professional people. It's been almost 12 years now. What fascinates me about it are the stories that every single body contains. Of course there are limits to both aesthetic means or technical possibilities, but people ultimately bring everything with them, their whole reality. My work is then to bring these stories together, to create constellations from which something new emerges. And that also helps me in my work with professionals. Because through this experience I see the dancers first and foremost as human beings, so to speak, I put the dancer aside first to make room for the human being. In classical ballet, personalities were often reduced to technical possibilities. To standards. But even there a change is taking place, people are asking why the swan always has to be danced by a white dancer, and so on. There are heated discussions. And that is all justified. In dance theater, of course, a change of perspective started to take place a long time ago. If we want to have a living art that reflects society, we need a group of very different individuals to be able to tell a collective story.

Unlike other guest choreographers, you also took over the morning training for the first few weeks. Why was that important to you?

I work a lot with contact improvisation. It is a technical resource to give space to the personality. The method allows the body to be particularly accessible not only to impulses from other bodies but also to impulses from space. It is very much about listening and sensing. It was important to me that the dancers experience a bit of the underlying philosophy.

My impression from rehearsals is that in your choreography, group scenes and solos or duets are more interwoven than juxtaposed.

It is important to me that it becomes a whole. As long as the end of a solo is not clear, I don't know how the group scene will come after it. It has to grow organically. That's how it should be for the viewer, that the motivation of a solo comes from the scene before it. It can be motivated figuratively, but it can also be motivated by content, but there has to be an impulse so that it doesn't stand there technically alone. Often the solos and duets are also representative of something from the group. This is again related to the fact that I always consider the individual in connection with the social context. Society is made up of individuals. If it is to be a just and equal society, everyone must have a place. One narrative must not be more important than the others.

You've used the term "bodiescapes" several times in your work. What do you mean by that?

I am not a fan of large stage sets. The dancers' bodies not only shape the movement, but also shape the space. The mere presence of bodies changes the space and, accordingly, the context in which everything takes place.

In the title LOOK UP AND SEE THE SKIES, the plural skies is deliberately chosen - what can one read from it?

The singular would have been too limited for me. It should be about openness. To look up and recognize the possibilities. The infinity of opportunities. The audience should look for their own skies.

In the song Swanligths by Anthony an the Johnsons, which is heard in this evening, the singer dreams of communicating and dancing with swans. The ensemble transforms into birds to the sounds of this song. What does this vision mean to you?

It is the feeling that we can become free like a bird. We can fly high, let ourselves fall and land safely. If you dare to dream, dare to imagine another world, it can become real. And that is what we have felt in the last few years. It can't be good if we don't dream. If we do not dream of peace and do not dream of becoming a bird.

In the Sufi poem THE CONFERENCE OF BIRDS, a large group of birds sets out in search of a king, the legendary bird Simurg. At the end of the arduous journey, only 30 birds are left. Then they realize that they themselves are the destination of their journey - the name Simurg, written separately (Si Murg), can mean 30 birds.

What we want to protect and safeguard are the social values, the community. But that consists of the individual birds and should be there for the individuals as a whole it. Each of us must become aware of this, we together form the king. The state is the people. That is nothing abstract.


Tiago Manquinho wählte für seine Interpretation den Titel ‚Look Up and See the Skies‘, sehr bewusst auf den Plural bedacht. Horizonte könnten sich öffnen. (…) Körperlandschaften nennt Manquinho seine markanten, expressiven Bilder in Slow Motion. Sie graben sich im Parkett ein. 

Lüneburger Zeitung


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