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Pina Bausch and Beyond: Interview with Fernando Suels Mendoza

by Rosella Simonari
January 2012

At the beginning of the 1990s, Fernando Suels Mendoza moved from Venezuela, his own country, to Germany to study dance at the Folkwang de Essen dance school. In 1995 he was enrolled in Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal and, since then, has been a permanent member. He has danced in classical pieces of the repertoire such as “Kontakthof” as well as in more recent productions such as “Bamboo Blues”. Since Bausch’s sudden death in 2009, it has been difficult for him to cope with the pain her absence has caused. That is why in 2011 he has decided to elaborate this pain onstage with an elegant and melancholic piece titled “I Lost Something on the Hill” which premiered last December in Montemaricano, Italy. The piece was created in collaboration with the Luna Performing Project, a local company with whom he has created another piece of different tone, “Nobody Knows”. I would like to thank Fernando Suels Mendoza for answering my questions.

You have worked with Pina Bausch for more than fifteen years. How do you feel about it? How has this experience shaped your identity as dancer?

I have worked with Pina since 1995. It has been a beautiful experience and a very intense period in my life. Dancing the pieces of the repertoire has been like attending a big school and creating every year a new work, has meant the possibility for me to develop myself in a very creative way. Somehow I found my place as a dancer in an environment where I enjoyed and enjoy being. Being onstage with Pina’s work feels like home to me.

“I Lost Something on a Hill” is a dance piece inspired by the loss of Bausch. How have you worked on this idea? Has this been the first time you worked as a choreographer?

During the creation of a new work with Pina, every dancer had the possibility to suggest ideas for the choreography. "I Lost Something on the Hill" represents the first piece I created as something separate from the framework of the company in Wuppertal. Even a year after Pina was no longer with us, I was missing the routine (in the best sense of the word) very much, like being in the studio and trying to find new movements, playing around and seeing what could come out. So, I decided to go to the studio alone, but Pina was not there, as she used to be...

This solo is full of gentleness and melancholia, and is not tragic. Are these your feelings after the loss of Bausch?

During the time I was putting the solo together, somehow she was around me... melancholy, I think, is the right word.

What can you tell me about the other piece, “Nobody Knows”? It is quite different from “I Lost Something on the Hill” but keeps a shadow of the same gentleness and melancholia.

For “Nessuno Lo Sa” [Nobody Knows], we play with the idea of happiness, joy... for instance, it's so beautiful to celebrate a birthday and I do not know how to explain it, but even in those moments there is always an air of nostalgia.

What are your future projects? How do you feel about being a choreographer now?

For the future, the idea to keep on performing with the company in Germany makes me very happy, it is a big responsibility for us all, to keep Pina’s work alive. Another priority for me is to work on my own projects: to work with other people, with young people, to see the work from the outside, it's a new world in front of me...

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