Inspired by two months spent in a monastery in India, Jose Agudo creates a visual celebration of discipline, commitment and dedication in A Thousand Shepherds showcased as part of double-bill MANA from ACE Dance and Music. 

Interview with Déda Artist (2008/9) Jose Agudo

Jose Agudo started his career in Andalusia where he began performing as a Flamenco dancer. He studied at Centro Andaluz de Danza in Seville and at the Choreographic Center of Valencia. During this time Jose created work for Certamen Coreografico de Madrid and Certamen Coreografico de Andalucia, receiving awards both as a dancer and as a choreographer.

Since his departure from Spain, Jose has performed with Charleroi/Danses, Ballet de Marseille, T.R.A.S.H, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance and Akram Khan Company. In 2008/9 Jose was artist in residence at Déda.

Choreographic commissions have included; Ki for Phoenix Dance Theatre; Time/Dropper, with the support of Déda and gDA; A Thousand Shepherds for ACE Dance and Music; Arctic for LCDS and his last new commission for Zfin Malta Dance Emsemble SELAH. He has also created new work for Intoto Dance Company, English National Ballet School and London Studio Centre. Jose is interested in the collaborative process, working with composers such as Scanner, Vinz “The Artist” and Giuliano Modarelli; dramaturge Lou Cope; costume designers Kimie Nakano and Elisabeth Kinn Svensson; and lighting designers Guy Hoare and Moritz Zavan Stoeckle.

Jose has worked for Akram Khan Company for 4 years collaborating as a rehearsal director and shadow for Desh; movement assistant and dancer for the 2012 London Olympic Games opening ceremony; assistant choreographer and dancer for iTMOi; rehearsal director for Torobaka, Khan’s new duet collaboration with Flamenco pioneer Israel Galvan. Jose is currently assistant choreographer for Until the Lions and a new work for young audiences Chotto Desh.

HG: Hi Jose, it’s great to be able to speak to you in the run up to ACE Dance and Music this week. So, let’s talk about right now - you’re in South Africa currently – what are you working on?

JA: I am working with a company called Cape Dance Co. on my piece A Thousand Shepherds for an anniversary celebration in March. We are restaging with original music and choreography, but working with 28 dancers – that will eventually become 15. I am here for another week.

HG: That piece, A Thousand Shepherds is part of the double-bill MANA - The Power Within presented by ACE Dance and Music at Déda this Thursday and it’s sold out! What is it that is so special about that company? What are they like to work with?

JA: The humanity within the company and connection, we spend lots of talking and I love spending time with them – discussing potential ideas. It was ambitious to produce this piece, but they are a company that always say yes and they are always happy to try things out. I also feel that the company are very careful to ‘serve’ the work and are just so passionate. They’re not afraid. This double bill connects cultures and backgrounds and has enabled me to explore my own identity – with my upbringing in Spain and the start of my career in flamenco. They were so positive about showcasing this style and this history.

HG: Your residency here at Déda through 2008/9 seemed to spark a period of new opportunities – can you tell me a bit about that please?

JA: I was in Brussels at the time and work was so experimental – there weren’t many opportunities around to explore dance. It was the right time for me to start making my own work using movement to explore myself and my ideas. The opportunity at Déda came up and came with such trust, as well as space and financial support; I had the chance to play! Claire (Cunningham) was the real enabler for the connection with the composer Scanner and this collaboration led to many new ideas being developed during that time. I had a desire to create and we created the duet 4m2 which was selected for a national tour as part of D3 (NDN’s showcase for “next generations of dance makers in the UK"). It is so important to tour and present your work. This is when the work develops, and as you receive feedback it grows. It is so different in different places – depending on culture and how people understand the work. We did festivals in Seville, Valencia and went to Greece. People really responded to have text provided to contextualise the work, which was something new. Following that, Stephen (Munn) also helped to support the development of my solo Time/Dropper in 2011. He has a phenomenal ‘can do’ attitude.

HG: What were the highlights of your residency here?

JA: It was such a fantastic opportunity. I remember one day that I was on my own in the studio (upstairs, the one with the arched ceiling) and I was thinking of a story a friend told me about silence and being alone. The memory became a beautiful movement and really formed a basis for the piece. That was a great moment.

HG: You fulfil many roles within your career – whether as a rehearsal director, choreographer or actually performing, as you did at the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony – where do you feel most comfortable?

JA: I feel I am ready to create as a choreographer, although I still perform and love performing. I use my body to find my own ‘voice’ so I’ll always feel most confident working like that.

HG: You have recently worked on a piece with Akram Khan for younger audiences – Chotto Desh – can you explain how the process differs when creating for children?

JA: Well, I’m assistant choreographer for that piece and Claire is producing it, which is great. We worked with Theatre Rites director Sue Buckmaster and she was so amazing – asking ‘why’ about each and every movement, asking for justification, meaning. With children, you have to be so honest, keep their attention and be almost confrontational. You can’t take the engagement for granted – which I think we can do a bit with adult audiences. We have to work in a less abstract, more direct way and find the real meaning of the work and each thing we were doing. Continually asking ‘Why are you doing that? What does that mean?’

HG: We are proud to house a BA (Hons) Dance degree in partnership with the University of Derby within Déda now – what would your advice to our current students be?

JA: Time as a student is so precious. Be present – take as much as you can from teachers and guests and embrace every opportunity but don’t forget to GIVE. We often expect a lot but forget that we also need to give. Challenge yourself, challenge your teachers, push yourself. Once you’re working as a professional, well that’s a totally different stage so don’t focus too much on what happens next – focus on now.

HG: Thank you so much for your time Jose – it has been wonderful to speak to you. Enjoy the rest of your time in S.Africa.

JA: Thank you Heather, I hope Thursday goes really well.

This year will see Jose travel to choreographic centre Circuit-Est in Montreal and Norrdans Company. He will also be working on a new full length piece for ACE Dance and Music during 2016.

You must install Adobe Flash to view this content.

4m² - developed at Déda with partner Claire Cunningham and composer Scanner during residency 2008/9