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A male and female dancer performing a duet, the female lifts her leg high in an arabesque as her partner holds her hand

Meet Daniela Cardim

Diane Parkes speaks to Daniela Cardim, Choreographer of Imminent

Imminent explores the feeling that something significant is looming and change is imminent. The production grew out of Daniela’s concerns about climate change and extreme politics.

‘I’m from Brazil and when we started discussing this work there were these terrible fires in the Amazon forests and I had been reading all these articles about climate change and how politicians were making wrong decisions about that. It felt so urgent and yet no one seemed to be doing enough.

‘At the same time you saw political polarisation increasing everywhere and it felt like the world was stepping backwards, that people were losing dialogue and connection.’

A group of ballerinas all hunched over facing the floor. One solo female dancer stands and looks into the audience
Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet in Daniela Cardim’s Imminent © Johan Persson. Image description: A group of ballet dancers wearing cream coloured outfits, all hunch over facing the floor. One solo female dancer stands amongst the group and looks into the audience.

Daniela and Dramaturg Lou Cope then needed to distil this sense of unease into a theme that would inspire this new abstract work.

‘I couldn’t do a ballet about climate change, it’s too big a subject, but Lou and I realised that what we were really talking about was the feeling that something really bad could happen and you would feel powerless to stop it. We all know this feeling one way or another,’ recalls Daniela. ‘You either can’t stop it or sometimes you choose to ignore it, or you think it’s too big to worry about, or that other people need to worry about it. Until it hits you – and then you have to deal with it.’

‘This could happen with anything, with climate change or even with disease, when all of a sudden you get sick and your life changes and there is nothing you can do. It’s strange because we were talking about this before COVID happened.’

COVID’s impact on Imminent was immediate. ‘We were about to start rehearsals last year when COVID happened and everything was postponed until further notice,’ Daniela recalls. With the easing of lockdown restrictions, the team returned to work this spring. But the worldwide pandemic and its effects on people led Daniela and Lou to re-think some of the emphasis in Imminent.

Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet in Daniela Cardim’s Imminent © Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Imminent is born of hope, of the importance of letting go of the past and moving boldly on

Lou Cope, Dramaturg

‘We thought about what COVID had taught us. It is, of course, a terrible thing but we learned that, if we work together, we can make a difference. COVID made it more evident than ever that it’s possible to make a change but we need enough people to choose to do it. So, for example, if everyone locks down then the number of COVID cases comes down but you need everyone to do it for this to work.

And we realised how we depend on people who we took for granted. We need nurses, we need people on the front line, people growing crops and working in the supermarkets. Hopefully now we don’t take them for granted as much and there is a bit more kindness and caring for people. COVID is a tragedy but hopefully we can learn that we need to respect each other, be kinder to each other – that we need people.’

A distorted image of a man running across a stage
Haoliang Feng in Daniela Cardim’s Imminent © Johan Persson. Image description: A distorted unfocused image, consisting of lots of orange and warm toned colours moving. In the middle we can make out a male dancer running through the business.

There’s a window of opportunity and we can make a positive change if enough people choose to act.

Daniela Cardim

And this new sense of hope has filtered into Imminent. ‘If people start to acknowledge the problem, they can begin to address it. And thus now we see the inspiration for the piece through the lens of people gradually facing up to the need to change,’ says Daniela. ‘There’s a window of opportunity and we can make a positive change if enough people choose to act.’

Born in Rio de Janeiro and now based in London, Daniela danced with Ballet do Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro for five years and with Dutch National Ballet for 11 years before turning her talents to choreography. For Daniela, one of the benefits of this project has been the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals.

‘Very often, when choreographing, I have worked with only a designer and the dancers. For Imminent I have worked with a great team who each bring their own expertise to the work. Paul Englishby’s music is epic with touching melodies, Lou Cope helped me shape what I wanted to say and how we could translate that into dance, April Dalton has created some beautiful designs, and it has been brilliant to be able to work through choreographic ideas with Peter Leung. It’s also been great to have lighting designer Peter Teigen involved with the project from day one. It’s been a long journey for all of us, but our relationships, and hopefully the work, has deepened because of that.’

Diane Parkes is a freelance journalist specialising in the arts. A reporter for more than 30 years, she has worked for newspapers, magazines, online and arts organisations locally and nationally

The Music

Composer Paul Englishby tells us about his new score for Imminent

How did you go about reflecting some of the ideas and themes of the ballet in the music?
In the case of Imminent, we spent a long time discussing what we wanted to express all together, choreographically, musically, design and lighting wise. The piece began in early conversations as a study of the elements fire, water, earth and air, and through brainstorming how we could resonate with a current audience we found ourselves talking about climate change among other things. We wanted to explore the idea of beginning with harmony and order, and that being disrupted, upset or infected somehow, and the ensuing disorder and chaos, ending enigmatically with a possibility of hope; that nature or life will find a way back.

So the piece could be a metaphor for our earth and our effect on it through over consumption; it could also reflect a disease of the body or mind, or a virus; little did we know when we began that our very plans would be disrupted and thrown into disorder by a pandemic. So musically the structure is as above, beginning with a steady repeated ground bass over which a long canon grows and multiplies like natural growth, representing the Earth, possibly, and harmony. The development of that material gets disrupted, chopped up, disarranged, and eventually destruction is described in the orchestra. After which there is a barren spacious landscape from which a small idea creeps through allowing for the possibility of hope.

Three pairs of ballet dancers wearing cream coloured outfits hold a balance in unison.
Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet in Daniela Cardim’s Imminent © Johan Persson. Image description: Three pairs of ballet dancers wearing cream coloured outfits hold a balance in unison. The three female dancers are held by their male partners, their left leg straight with their right leg bent, pointing their foot into their knee, and their left arm stretched elegantly behind them.

What are the joys and challenges of writing for dance? Is it very different from composing scores for film or theatre?
One of the joys is that the music comes first, before the choreography, so it’s a little like writing a score for a film before the pictures arrive. There is freedom to express, within a preorganised but flexible structure, which is just about the ideal way to write for me.

What have you enjoyed most about working collaboratively with Daniela and the team?
Very lovely people, and always through the process of deciding what we are hoping to produce, we have all had our say and expressed our points of view; it’s been fascinating. Daniela is extremely inclusive and encourages open discussion. Once our idea was fairly concrete, I wrote an initial draft and made a demo, after which Daniela has had requests for extending, cutting, or further development, and we eventually arrived at the piece that I then orchestrated.

I would obviously love to work with Daniela again, it’s been a joy.

Paul Englishby

Have you got any future plans to compose for ballet/dance?
I’m lucky enough to work regularly with choreographer Will Tuckett, and we have some plans for work next year, and I would obviously love to work with Daniela again, it’s been a joy.