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Tatyana at the Barbican 2013

Deborah Colker: five things you need to know

Get acquainted with the Brazilian choreographer throwing herself into the London dance scene

By Lyndsey Winship
She may be small in build but she's huge in Brazil. Here are five reasons you should take notice of choreographer Deborah Colker, as she brings her production of 'Tatyana' to the Barbican.

1. She’s Brazil’s biggest contemporary choreographer
Deborah Colker launched her company nearly 20 years ago and has amassed a huge audience. Her latest piece played a two-month season in Rio. ‘Two months! Contemporary dance!’ she says. ‘You know what I’m talking about!’

2. She’s a complete force of nature

In person the diminutive Colker is a total dynamo, like the Tasmanian Devil with a much, much nicer personality. She’s a former classical pianist and professional volleyball player but dance is what drives her and she never stops. ‘I’m busy, I’m tired, but I have pleasure,’ she says. ‘It’s more than pleasure, it’s like I need this to survive. It’s an emergency for me.’

3. She thinks some people in the dance world actually hate dance

Colker’s athletic, accessible movement style is a welcome antidote for anyone nonplussed by dance theatre that puts concepts over steps. ‘More and more I love strong technique,’ she says. ‘There are some people inside dance, and from my point of view they hate dance – because they don’t like music, they don’t like steps, they don’t like movement…’

4. She’s an obvious choice to lead Rio’s Olympic opening bash

Colker created a huge mass-market show for Cirque du Soleil, ‘Ovo’ – the first woman to direct for the company – so she can handle the scale, but she has nothing to disclose just yet. ‘It’s still in discussion,’ she says. ‘It is very political.’

5. Her latest piece, ‘Tatyana’, has just arrived in London
Based on Pushkin’s great Russian novel ‘Eugene Onegin’, it’s not a straight narrative but a study of the four main characters and Pushkin himself. ‘I want to talk about the human condition,’ she says.

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