A Conversation with Lia Rodrigues
What fantasies, desires, and goals are projected on artists from the Global South? The Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodrigues will use this platform to discuss the forms, aesthetics, and imaginary worlds that define her work. Known for her vital contributions to the development of contemporary dance in Brazil, she has also been working for decades on an artistic, pedagogical, and social project in the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s Maré favela that is upending hierarchies and challenging our assumptions about dance.
Moderators Angélique Willkie + Cadu Mello
Guest Researcher Nakitta Hannah
About the artist
Lia Rodrigues (Rio de Janeiro) Lia Rodrigues Companhia de danças
A major figure on the international choreography scene for the past 40 years, Brazil’s Lia Rodrigues has always prioritized community in her artistic work.
Since 2004, her company has been developing educational and cultural activities in the favela of Maré, located to the north of Rio de Janeiro, with the aim of fighting poverty and exclusion. This led to the opening of the Centro de Artes da Maré (Maré Arts Centre) in 2009. A couple of years later, in 2011, the Escola livre de Danças da Maré (Maré Free Dance School) welcomed its first cohort of dancer-residents.
Rodrigues’ works, performed in some of the world’s biggest theatres and festivals, are always performed in the working-class neighbourhood where they first take shape as well. Her entire oeuvre is therefore infused with a utopian spirit of togetherness, which also takes very tangible form through her social activism.
In 2007, FTA welcomed Rodrigues for the first time with Incarnat, a work bathed in blood-red hues that examines the roots of our engagement with the pain of others. She pursued this examination further in Pororoca (FTA, 2011), a heartfelt plea in the name of difference and tolerance.
In 2021, with the aim of tackling the urgent health and political crisis gripping Brazil, she created Encantado, surrounding herself primarily with Brazilian performers—many of them graduates of her school. There is no question that Rodrigues, who also founded the renowned Panorama Festival in Rio, is a visionary who has influenced an entire generation of artists, both at home and abroad.
Cadu Mello (Montreal)
A native of Brazil, Cadu Mello is a researcher based in Montreal. Since 2019, he has been conducting doctoral studies in research-creation at Concordia University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture (CISSC) in the areas of process philosophy, performance studies, and mental health.
By combining Lygia Clark’s relational objects approach and his own work on neurodiversity in Rio de Janeiro’s public mental health network, he explores the ethics, aesthetics, and political elements present in care practices. He currently serves as a research assistant for the Dramaturgical Ecologies Research Group coordinated by Professor Angelique Willkie (Concordia University) and collaborates with the Three Ecologies Institute, an independent learning organization dedicated to the emergence of new intersections between philosophy, art, and the field of ecology.
Nakitta Hannah (Montreal)
Nakitta Hannah is a film director, writer and actress, primarily working in documentary, experimental and installation films
She is based in Montreal but is originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She moved to Canada motivated to expand her filmmaking practice without the restrictions she has experienced for being a black woman, born and raised in a favela. Nakitta graduated with MFA in Film Production at Concordia University (Canada) and screened her most recent short film at Toronto, Halifax and Ottawa Black Film Festivals.
Nakitta’s artwork is an extension of the world she perceives her films take a critical view of gender, race and class issues. Often referencing culture and collective memory, her work explores issues of identity and representation of oppressed groups in cinematic narratives.