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Artist Profile: Cayetano Soto

“He is super-mega”

Cayetano Soto is a vibrant voice in contemporary ballet with “an abundance of originality” according to Dance Europe. Born and based in Barcelona, Cayetano has created work for major companies worldwide. His technical, high-pitched and unpredictable choreography can be seen at international festivals in Europe, USA and Canada. Cayetano is currently Ballet BC’s Resident Choreographer, and we are thrilled to have him as part of our team. 

“I don’t know if I am a choreographer, because I am still investigating myself. My choreography helps me understand my life better.” – Cayetano

A letter on Twenty Eight Thousand Waves from Ballet BC Dancer Alexis Fletcher.

Far out at sea, an oil rig is hit by 28,000 waves each day.

It was this central image that Cayetano Soto brought to us on the first day of creation for what became the intense, visceral, and decidedly beautiful piece that is Twenty Eight Thousand Waves.  Right away I was struck by the clarity of Cayetano’s vision, demonstrated not only by his very distinctive aesthetic choices, but also by the images and structure he was already imagining to accompany the powerful score by David Lang and Bryce Dessner he had chosen for the work. On the first day he started with us how he does with each of his creations: he taught us a movement sequence from the piece he had created right before coming here, and using that as a starting place, gave us specific tasks so that we could collaboratively build a whole other movement language for the piece from that original phrase. In this way, Cayetano creates a thread of connection that runs through the centre of all of his works. To me, it is a metaphor for how we hold memories: each experience we have as human beings is carried in our bodies and psyches in some way, and we carry our stories around with us, each informing the other, in our cellular memories.  I loved working with Cayetano because he is not afraid to open a real dialogue with the other artists in his process. I always felt that I was free and encouraged to propose many movement ideas to him, as well as sharing my own images or thoughts that the piece brought to mind for me. Those of us who were the original cast have now performed this signature piece on many occasions, and what strikes me each time about the work is the technical challenge and depth. I am constantly dissecting the movement and constantly finding out more and more about it each time. Cayetano is incredibly specific about what he wants, and he loves to challenge the interpreters to find more and more extremity, possibility and physical articulation in their bodies. These kinds of choices are what bring such a distinct voice to his work.

For Twenty Eight Thousand Waves, the physical extremity of the work serves an especially important purpose because it allows us to work with some central themes. We talked a lot in the process about how our personal lessons in life, like our battles and hardships, and hopes and fears (Cayetano called them our angels and our demons), come to us in waves throughout our lifetime. We are sometimes hit with many things at once like the powerful swells on a stormy sea, and sometimes there are long calm periods of tranquility. Often patterns are repeated. We discussed fear of death and the possibility of rebirth (both literally and metaphorically). We talked about how the movement had to be so extreme in our bodies because these life forces are so extreme. This continues to be the main point of resonance for me personally in the piece. It has become my “way into” the work each time we have revisited it. The piece is so technically challenging and intricate that when I am dancing it I feel intensely focused on pure physicality and the different energies each section requires. I am completely dedicated to that in the moment. It feels good to be open in this way, because when I can achieve this physical dedication it helps me feel a calm within the speed and virtuosity of the work. It also allows images to spontaneously arise – I often get the sense while dancing that I am on the rocks at the edge of the ocean – that I am flicking water off my body as I move. The feeling of wet sea spray and churning water below becomes tangible for a brief moment.  

One incredible capacity we have as human beings is to be experiencing things on many different levels simultaneously – physically, spiritually, mentally, subconsciously. I am grateful to have a work like this, which asks me to do exactly that.  This is how so many different ideas, images and points of reference can exist within a piece, even though the performer will not be intellectually holding all those ideas consciously in one moment, nor will each viewer necessarily experience them in the same way or all at once. Sometimes the ideas are not really articulated at all, but they exist for us in a more abstract way. Some viewers may see something completely different or connect to other layers of the piece in ways no one could have predicted, and I believe that this is one of the most magical things about the relationship between a work of art and a viewer. This is one of the reasons why it is important to share works of art. I hope it can be as simple as this in the end: that if I am fully present in the moment of performing, the audience can be fully present in the moment of witnessing. In this way, we are all equal and can really share something together. Then hopefully everyone can take away a feeling, thought or impression that is unique to them and meaningful for them within their own perspective.

Much of performing for me is about my relationship to exactly the life forces Cayetano discusses, such as experiences of courage, fear, surrender, and grace (whatever that word means to each of us personally). This piece has become a perfect example of how the performance space can be an arena for exploring these universally human realities. Even as I am searching to articulate it for the purposes of this post, it makes me realize how much I am learning about these things from the piece, since the experience of the physical body is always a representation of our inner landscape. I hope that as we share this work the audience can be invited into a beautiful and dramatic, yet somehow subtle experience with us. I hope it can mean something unique to each viewer, and I hope everyone can feel a part of himself or herself moving alongside us as we dance.

~ Alexis Fletcher, October 2015

Choreographer Cayetano Soto. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Ballet BC Dancers Gilbert Small, Scott Fowler and Alexis Fletcher. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Ballet BC Dancers Christoph von Riedemann and Peter Smida. Photo by Michael Slobodian.
Ballet BC Dancers Racheal Prince and Brett Perry. Photo by Michael Slobodian.