This interview with choreographer Silvana Cardell was conducted by Josh McIlvain in October 2019, as the company was preparing for performances at Drexel University. Supper, People on the Move opened in 2015, and has since been presented at La MaMa Moves Dance Festival (New York), Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center (Ashville, NC), Ferst Center for the Arts (Atlanta), the Dance Complex (Cambridge, MA), and the EDANCO Festival in the Dominican Republic. This interview took advantage of the choreographer’s ability to reflect upon the journey of work, as well as her thoughts about the immediacy of the upcoming performances. (An interview in 2014, in which Cardell details Supper’s origins as the dance was being made, is found here.)
Silvana Cardell: The work explores a moment crossing a border, of defiant bodies. The movement is arduous, laborious, and embodies how people take a risk to follow impulses to expand possibilities. With all these in mind, each time I introduce a new dancer I make sure that the movement design, performance qualities, dramaturgy, and rhythms are integrated in proximity to the original design; I make sure the dancer understands and is able to recreate the initial impulse that originated the movement and the performance structures. It is a wonderful moment for me, I am able to sit back and watch how the work has a life of its own and it lives in the performers interpretations of the ideas that created the work, the entire cast contributes to integrate the new performer. My role at this point is to make sure that the new performer understands the experience and relates to the immigrant stories that inspired the work.
Q: Which moments still affect you the most?
Silvana Cardell: Supper unfolds like an experience, the tension of the first entrance, the playfulness of the performers’ gathering, the changes in mood, but the most satisfactory moments for me are when the dancers unfold tables to portray a difficult departure and a bumpy entrance. We call this scene “truck.”
Q:. Can you explain how the “stage” and audience are set up?
Silvana Cardell: The piece is performed in the round—audience and performers are in constant connection. The audience is “in” the performance, immersed within each set change and moods.
Silvana Cardell: Supper was inspired by my own displaced family and my experience feeling in between places and cultures. The piece has matured with each performance and during each reconstruction. Since the premiere in Philadelphia in 2015, we have performed in five different cities and venues, including an international presentation in Santo Domingo, performing for a Spanish speaking audience, one of the most engaged public we have had. In this venue, the performers who did not understand Spanish had a very different experience communicating with the audience at the end of the piece.
Q: In final rehearsals, what do you emphasize most with your dancers?
Silvana Cardell: I emphasize the connections among themselves and the audience. The choreography was designed in such a way that the dancers depend on each other to move
Q: Does the present political climate change the atmosphere at a performance?
Silvana Cardell: Right now, there is a lot of information and emphasis on The Wall (the Mexican/ American Border) that Trump uses to provoke voters. When we first performed the work we had to explain to the audience much more about immigration because there was much less information in the media. At this moment, there are more stricter immigration laws and longer delays to obtain visas and permanent residency documents. I thought the theme of the piece would wear out, but unfortunately it has not, the political climate became more hostile toward immigrants all over the world and especially in America under this administration.
Photos by Bill Hebert.