JFV: We all know the dancer as well as the choreographer, but who is the real Patrick De Bana and how does a dancer become a choreographer?
PdB: Despite what people say, I believe that a distinction cannot be made between the artist and the man. To dance and to make feel like dance is life is my only truth, my only creed, my only ambition.
I am actually half African, and even if I do not want to make use of it, I cannot deny it and do not try to hide it. Africa is always with me, just as much as Europe, the land which has adopted and educated me.
My multiculturalism does not stop at bloodlines; it can also be found in my education and the aspirations I had as a young dancer. Indeed, as a pure product of John Neumeier’s conservatory, I very quickly felt that this rigorous technique, if it were to be a unique school of life, could only be an end in itself.
As soon as I had seen the ballet of Maurice Béjart, I knew my path: I was to be a dancer there and nowhere else! Such teenage dancer’s driven enthusiasm could make anyone smile if I were not, to this day, convinced by the accuracy of my decision.
I was to discover this prospective dance alongside the master in his constant efforts to participate in the invention of the future- not only that of dance- but of mankind’s which, without denying the past, incorporates it within the creation.
This school, which restricts itself neither to ballet nor to modern dance, is rather their synthesis, and it carries the germ of a never-ending development. Maurice Béjart was thereby going to produce a “Dancing-Man” out of the student, open to an increasingly broad conception of dance, of art’s possibilities and of the men who create them.
Even if, at first, this was not my idea, I am now certain that my career as a principal dancer at the Béjart-Ballet of Lausanne, and in the Compania Nacional de Danza of Spain with Nacho Duato, have exuded in me the will to create and thus, in a way, have determined my future as a choreographer.
JFV: Do the dancer and the choreographer in you have the same perception of dance?
PdB: Throughout my creations and my encounters with dancers, I have had to learn to articulate what dancing means to me.
I believe that dance is the search for the divine within ourselves. This is why I look for ideas stemming from myths, psychoanalysis, religion, or from the secret life of a population, a civilisation, or that of humanity.
I believe in the necessity of the fusion of theatre and dance. Ballet will only escape the futile by saying that which theatre alone could say, and the theatre will only be saved from verbal dullness by becoming gesture and dance, like in plays by Shakespeare or Molière …
When I meet a dancer, whatever his or her appearance, whoever he is, is of no importance. What interests me is what’s inside, his heart, his soul. I try to make an X-ray of that. It is that, and only that, which makes me want to work with him or her.
Right now, a quote by Maurice Béjart comes to mind.
“… Throughout choreography, I think I organise what dancers do. In reality, they organise and define me.”
For over ten years now, I have been able to build a universe, which is true to what I believe in, true to who I am and to my experiences.
I have been lucky enough to work with a number of dancers like Svetlana Zaharova, Manuel Legris and Ivan Vassiliev. And when it comes to companies such as the Wiener Staatsballet, Shanghai Ballet and that of Peking, or even the Novosibirsk Opera …
JFV: Could you explain what you mean by “universe”?
PdB: My creations account for what I would call my cultural hybridism and my openness to the world and its current developments. One very significant example of this wish would be “Le Sacre du Printemps”.
THE ballet I should not have touched after the anthological version by Maurice Béjart. Yet, while listening to its music I had heard many times as a dancer, it began to resonate differently in the choreographer’s ears.
I heard a vibrant ceremonial and universal celebration emphasised within my subconscious. Therefore, my dance, whose mother tongue is classical, was inevitably tainted by the Yoruba accents, those of his ancestor’s land. They arrived as an illumination to enrich and to colour my intentions. The Novosibirsk dancer’s precious spirit did the rest …
JFV: What do you believe one needs to be a great dancer?
PdB: The further I get, the more I believe dancers should attain absolute control over classical technique at a high level. Only a dancer freed from technical constraints can be available for creation and interpretation.
My expectations focus not only on the rigorous discipline of classical dancing but also on the flexibility and expressive capacities of the body, true to African dancing, that of the arms and the hands which make the splendour of Hindu dancing, the hieratic character of the Japanese nô, or even the Jazz’s syncope, Spanish dancing’s Zapateados …
To summarise this in a few words: Dancers of the world.
Once again, Maurice Béjart had a beautiful formula to illustrate this necessary abandonment of the self:
“Forget that you are a man, become the cat and the snake and the tortoise, become the eagle and find the sun. Stop thinking. Stop searching and you will find it. Dance! Fly, die and be reborn while dancing!”
JFV: To finish, what will be the dance of the 21st century?
PdB: I am not sure whether it will be very different… I humbly feel like one of the agents trusted with the path opened by Maurice Béjart who had created the greatest liturgies of the 20th century in which theatre became a place of popular celebration where biblical poems, Buddhist texts, Nietzsche’s night and that of Saint-Jean de la Croix can be intertwined within a true dialog between eastern and western civilization. A dialog where dance is la living soul, the centre of this meditation on life, death, love, solitude and, above all, on the ends of the past.
I am convinced that in this dawning century, people need images, they need emotion and lyricism. Dance enables a mix of an aesthetic pleasure, a dynamic pleasure and an emotional one. Limited explanations, limited anecdotes – yet unlimited sensations.
Echoes of Eternity
The Song Of The Earth
Creatures (new Version)
Ida Rubinstein – Cleopatra
Rite Of Spring
Ludwig II. – The Swan King
Communication in german, english, spanish, french
„Best Male Dancer“ and „Best Dance Performance“ for his Nafas Dance Company
Nominated as the best choreographer of the year with „Marie Antoinette“
Nominated as the best choreographer of the year with „Windgames“
Lotus 2013 for his choreography „Jane Eyre“
Gold medal for the production of „Jane Eyre“
Two gold medal and one silver medal for the solists of „Jane Eyre“
Four nominations for his choreography of „Rite of Spring“