Feature: Avatâra Ayuso – “It’s like cooking – a little bit of this and that until the recipe happens!”

Spanish-born, London-based choreographer Avatâra Ayuso has been dancing since she was seven. Now, at Sadler’s Well in London, she’s launching her own company in the UK for the first time, after having performed and choreographed throughout Europe.

Ayuso describes her style as “a mixture of everything that has happened in my life… It’s a mixture of who I am.” Her work incorporates elements of ballet, contemporary, tango and flamenco as well as inspiration from genres such as Japanese butoh dance and martial arts.

She sees contemporary dance as more freeing than some more traditional forms, as “I can say things in the way I like and they can be read in many different ways.” She explains that while ideally an audience will get the essence of what she’s trying to say, there is more freedom for interpretation. “But the experience you might get with ballet is another type of experience of precision and pure beauty… it’s very important to have that also.”

The work she’s created for Sadler’s Wells is called Provisional Landscapes. It’s a collection of four dance pieces – a solo, a duet, a dance film and a quintet – and an exploration of the ever-changing nature of the urban world. “My aim is to talk about those urban landscapes that get changed constantly. You know how cities change… and at the same time how humans have to adapt to the new situation constantly. So it’s those two things – landscapes changing and citizens changing to keep up.”

Ayuso has been nurturing the idea of the show for a long time, inspired by her experiences of different cities. “It came to my mind basically through my experience travelling here and there – migrating from Spain to the UK and then to Germany.” This will be the first time she’s brought these pieces together into one night and one show.

Sat in the small neat café at the Sadler’s Wells, adjacent to the Lilian Baylis Studio where the pieces will performed at the end of the month, Ayuso describes her creative process in detail: “I always work with collaborators right from the start, even though it’s much more difficult. I don’t like working on my own, it just doesn’t work for me, I like communicating with the audience but also with my team.” Apparently the trait she values most in a collaborator is not being afraid to say what they think. Even if it means disagreeing.

“I always start with an idea and then I do research – reading, watching documentaries, going to see shows on that subject. So the concept maybe takes months, sometimes years, to develop.” After the original hunt for inspiration comes a search for funding and many calls and conversations sent out to potential collaborators. Once funding materialises it’s off to the studio to explore the ideas drawn from early research. “I try some of those ideas with the dancers, always in collaboration – I don’t give them the movement and then they copy behind, I give them tasks and then we develop that, and I start choosing and picking out from here and there. It’s like cooking – a little bit of this and that until the recipe happens!”

Even then a work isn’t ever completely finished. Ayuso muses that a dance is like “a canvas that constantly gets new details and things that get erased”. She’s happy to go on tweaking and perfecting pieces, well, basically for ever.

This might be her first choreography in the UK, but Ayuso has been creating shows for going on seven years and, given her love for collaboration, thoroughly enjoying it. “I consider myself a dance artist not just a dancer, that means of course obviously I dance but I do teach and choreograph as well, and I enjoy all the three things.” Being a choreographer allows her to share the joy of creating and exploring different subjects and being a teacher gives her an opportunity to help others grow, and to develop confidence, creativity and skills not necessarily tied to dancing alone. When she’s being a dancer on stage the pleasure is in being able to communicate directly with the audience. “They can see your sweat, hear your breath and everything makes sense when you are on the stage…”

When putting on a show like this, funding is obviously a big concern, and Ayuso thinks current cuts show that art and dance are not being treated as a priority, especially in certain countries. “Spain is cutting in arts completely because they think that’s not a priority. UK is cutting but in a different way. They can see that art is part of the society and has to be there so even it there are cuts they are still promoting art… other countries – like Spain or Italy or Greece – they just cut, they don’t help you to find other resources. There is more competition and less resources so obviously something is not working quite so well.

This competition is making it more challenging for young people trying to work their way into the dance industry. “On the other hand”, Ayuso says “that makes those dance artists stronger.” Those who get in are the ones that really want it. “I think if it’s what you really want to do, go for it… what you cannot expect is getting up there without a lot of effort.” Her advice is to prepare yourself, train yourself, try techniques you think you might not like, explore dance styles you think are outside your normal field of expertise and make sure you watch a lot of dance!

Provisional Landscapes will be in the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells on 24 and 25 November. For more information and tickets, visit the ticket website.

Photo (c) Pau Ross.