Jose Navas

Maturity and Refinement

Founder and artistic director of Compagnie Flak, José Navas, born in Caracas (Venezuela) carries out his overall artistic approach in three distinct ways: he dances with intensity in solo shows charged with emotion, he constructs abstract and captivating group pieces, and he creates pieces of contemporary ballet with classicism and sensitivity.
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As an Associate Dance Artist of the National Arts Centre, José Navas has presented his work in 30 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

© Nina Konjini

José Navas began his choreographic career in 1991 and was quickly recognized on the international scene as a talented and charismatic soloist. His first group creations were characterized by their assertive sensuality, bold statements and unexpected universes. These pieces included an element of theatricality that is reflected today only in his solo work. Since 2005, Navas has opted for sobriety and the pursuit of pure movement, giving his artistic approach two distinct directions.

As a dancer, José has devoted himself entirely to his passion for solo work, exploiting the wealth of his maturity to create more personal, sensitive works, with transcendent musicality. As a choreographer of group work, he has an entirely different voice. Fascinated by the resonance of the body in space and by the calligraphy of formal movement, the choreographer shows himself to be an architect in his group pieces. A worthy successor of Cunningham, he constructs abstract pieces geometrically, which are always delivered by virtuoso performers. His choreographic scores, created in a similar manner to a musical composition, fascinate the viewer with the successive structures they reveal in the space. They are characterized by their hypnotic beauty and their meditative character and sometimes by the vivacity and playfulness of the movement that points discreetly behind the sleek lines and technical prowess.

His Career

  • 1995 – José Navas receives a ”Bessie Award” for While Waiting, a solo choreographed by William Douglas. Founding of Compagnie Flak in Montreal.
  • 1996 – The choreography for Philippe Baylaucq’s movie, Lodela earns
    the prize ”Choreography for the Camera” at Toronto’s Moving Pictures.
  • 1999 – Named ”Best Young Foreign Choreographer” by the European
    magazine Ballet Tanz Aktuell International.
  • 2000 – José Navas named amongst ”100 people who are changing the
    face of Quebec” according to French magazine L’Express.
  • 2001-2003 – Triumphant tour for Solo with cello (2001) in a dozen countries including the United States,
    the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Israel.
  • 2002 – Invitated by Wajdi Mouawad, the choreographer directs a play based on José Maria Arguedas’
    Deep Rivers for the Théâtre de Quat’Sous in Montreal.
  • 2003 – World premiere in Brugge (Belgium) of Adela, mi amor, for six dancers and live composer. The
    piece will sell out in Montreal the following winter.
  • 2005 – World premiere of Portable Dances in Quebec City. Director Jocelyn Barnabé creates Adéla, an art film broadcasted on CBC and ARTV, inspired by Adela, mi amor.
  • 2006 – World premiere of Anatomies in Montreal.
  • 2007 – The choreographer’s work enters into the repertoire of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal with his first solo choreographed on pointe, Límpido amor, created for prima ballerina Anik Bissonnette.
  • 2008 – World premiere of S – first creation for the large stage – in Brugge. World premiere of the solo show Miniatures in Montreal.
  • 2011 – World premiere of the group piece Diptych in Brugge. Choreography for the experimental movie, ORA, directed by Philippe Baylaucq. Presented during the Toronto International Film Festival, the film was selected as one of the ten best Canadian short movies of
    the TIFF.
  • 2010-2013 – Invited by Artistic Director Emily Molnar to be choeographer in residence at Ballet BC for
    three years; he created his first group works on pointe, including an iconoclastic
  • 2014 – Quebec tour for Miniatures (2008) including six Maisons de la culture as touring sponsored by the Conseil des Arts de Montréal. European tour for the solo show Personæ (in Germany, Croatia, and The Netherlands). International tour with the company’s eight dancers for Prélude à Diptych + Diptych. The show visited the Netherlands, Costa Rica (a first time in Latin America for the Company), and cities elsewhere in Canada.
  • 2016-2017 – Tour for the solo show Rites in Germany, Quebec, Belgium and the Netherlands.
  • 2017 – Presentation of the new group piece On from October 11-14, 2017 in Montreal
  • 2017-2018 – Tour for the solo show Rites in Germany, Quebec and Belgium.

Repertoire

Portable Dances

2005

Portable Dances is a piece in three parts, working with the simplicity of movement and light. It includes a duet (Pas de Deux for four dancers), a solo by José Navas (Solo with Light) and a trio (Trio in White). Bodies in motion construct and deconstruct lines of movement across the space, abstract cartography. Between meditation and acceleration, fluidity and contrasts, they become traces, lines and characters. They seek the calligraphy of movement in what is simplest and most essential. Alexander MacSween has composed the soundtrack, using the voices of the dancers.

Photo: Michael Slobodian

Anatomies

2006

Five bodies in movement revealing the mechanical precision of the human anatomy. In a space stripped of all décor, three women and two men give themselves up to a wave of movement, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but always clean and precise. Graphic and incisive. In solos and trios, in duos and a quintet, the bodies dance the silence of an interior peace. They are living channels for a meditation in movement. They are agents of humanity.

More information

  • Choreography: José Navas
  • Dancers: the Company
  • Music: Alexander MacSween
  • Lighting: Marc Parent
  • Costumes: José Navas/Compagnie Flak and Vandal
  • Length: 60 min
  • Premiere: 8 November 2006, Agora de la danse, Montreal (Canada)
  • Original cast: José Navas, Mira Peck, David Rancourt, Ami Shulman, Jamie Wright

Photo: Valerie Simmons

S

2008

Dancing the silence. Inhabiting the long phrases of the music of Erik Satie. Inhabiting the space, living it like a white page on which movement inscribes itself with the precision and energy of calligraphy. With S, his first piece for the large stage, José Navas evokes human nature through the expression of pure movement.

Eight dancers, stunning in their presence and vulnerability, present a choreography structured like a musical score. The choreographer likens these men and women to instruments crafted by Stradivarius. These virtuosos satisfy the highest technical demands, making the most formal movement personal and dramatic. An abstract and organic work. An encounter with grace.

More information

  • Choreographer: José Navas
  • Dancers: the Company
  • Music: Erik Satie (GnossiennesGymnopédies)
  • Piano: Claire Chevallier
  • Lighting: Marc Parent
  • Costumes: José Navas/Compagnie Flak
  • Movement vocabulary was made in collaboration with the dancers
  • Length: 50 min
  • World premiere: December 10, 2008, December Dance 08 Festival, Concertgebouw in Bruges (Belgium)
  • Original cast: Alejandro De Leon, Hanako Hoshimi-Caines, José Navas, Mira Peck, Eldon Pulak, David Rancourt, Chanti Wadge, Jamie Wright
  • Photos: Michael Slobodian

Miniatures

2008

“The first solo performer I ever saw was Risa Steinberg, back in the early 80’s, performing pieces by Isadora Duncan and other pioneers of dance. The show awed me and shaped my desire and love for the solo format. As a young artist, my first ventures in choreography took the form of solos. Dancing solos is like singing a cappella: as performer you are exposed. It fails utterly unless you connect your body and soul.

In painting, miniatures are fastidiously small, highly detailed representations of reality. At first the naked eye sees a tangle of colours on the tiny surface. But if you look closely, the details reveal a surprising landscape and a whole reality. Miniatures consists of movement landscapes, translations into movement of my own fields of memories. They are short glimpses of love stories and of carnal desire. After more than twenty-five years as a dancer, with my body changing faster and maturing, these landscapes are my declaration that my love affair with solo work will endure, regardless of age and circumstances.” – José Navas

More information

  • Choreographer and dancer: José Navas
  • Music: J.S. Bach, Vincenzo Bellini, Frédéric Chopin, Claude Debussy, George Gershwin, María Grever, Antonio Vivaldi (read more)
  • Rehearsal director: Ami Shulman
  • Lighting: Marc Parent
  • Costumes: José Navas/Compagnie Flak
  • Length: 60 minutes
  • World premiere: October 23, 2008Agora de la danse (Montreal, Canada)
  • Photos: Valerie Simmons and Michael Slobodian

Diptych

2011

José Navas’ new group piece, Diptych, is set to the music of J.S. Bach. The first part is set to pieces drawn from Books I and II of the Well-Tempered Clavier. The music for the second part comes from the sonatas and partitas (or suites) for solo cello. While in some previous works Navas has collaborated with contemporary composers, here he continues his exploration of the potential for his choreographic vocabulary to resonate with classical music. He had previously used piano for the group piece S (2008) and the cello in Solo with Cello (2001).

José Navas’ work is known for combining extreme technical control and architectural precision with organic, fluid and passionate movement. In Diptych, Navas seizes the opportunity presented by the diptych form to segregate his two sides as choreographer and dance artist. The first part, set to piano, is structured, controlled, precise, angular, and architectural. The ten dancers are following the structure of the music. The second part is entirely different. More fluid, joyous, and improvised, here the dancers are listening to the heart of the music and dancing from it. Relative to previous work, the two parts of Diptych reveal greater classical influence.

More information

  • Choreographer: José Navas
  • Dancers: the Company
  • Movement vocabulary was made in collaboration with the dancers
  • Music: Johann Sebastian Bach (Well-Tempered Clavier, Cello Suites)
  • Lighting: Marc Parent
  • Costume Design: José Navas
  • Fabrication: L’Atelier de Couture Sonya B
  • Length: 60 minutes
  • Photos: Valerie Simmons
  • World premiere: May 14, 2011Domein José NavasConcertgebouw in Bruges (Belgium)
  • Original cast: Douglas Scott Baum, Lindsey Renee Derry, Sarah Fregeau, Alexandre Jolicoeur, François Richard, Lauren Semeschuk, Emilie Tremblay, Maleek Washington

Personæ

2011

persona is the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others. Derived from the Latin for mask, it is also a role or character adopted by an author or actor. Personæ is the new solo work performed by José Navas. The six aspects or characters of the show lead the audience through Navas’ intensely personal meditations on desire and divinity, presence and absence, and how they intersect and merge.

Personæ is in many ways continuous with Navas’ preceding solo show, Miniatures (2008). This new piece, too, explores the delicious encounter of solo dance and music, with nothing else besides the performer, his spirit and the space. Here again the performer remains on stage between pieces, rather than breaking the spell by exiting to catch his breath and change costumes. He is always exposed. In a similar vein, Personæpresents solo work in a classic format, intimately and delicately. Yet this new work sings to its audience in a different register, one that is darker and more primal. The brightness and exquisite beauty of the earlier work is back, but at moments the show is more raw, even disturbing. This is very much a show for adult audiences, by a mature performer at the height of his powers. Personæ leads the viewer on a journey through the soul via music by Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Verdi, Vivaldi, and Patti Smith.

More information

  • Choreographer and dancer: José Navas
  • Music: Agustín Lara, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Maurice Ravel, Patti Smith, Giuseppe Verdi, Antonio Vivaldi
  • Rehearsal Director: Ami Shulman
  • Lighting: Marc Parent
  • Length: 60 minutes
  • Production: José Navas/Compagnie Flak
  • Co-production: Danse DanseLa Place des Arts (Montreal)
  • Creation residencies: Cinquième Salle, Segal Centre for the Performing Arts (Montreal, Canada)
  • World premiere: May 15, 2011Domein José Navas, Concertgebouw in Bruges (Belgium)
  • Photos: Valerie Simmons

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