2019 Ambassador Bárbara Lima
Kathryn Harden: (00:03)
Hello. My name is Kathryn Harden, and I am a former ambassador with Dance Wire in Portland, Oregon. I’m here with Bárbara Lima on Tuesday, March 12th, and we’re going to talk about her career in dance as part of Dance Wire’s Artist Stories series. So welcome, Barbara, how are you doing today?
Bárbara Lima: (00:29)
I’m doing pretty good, thank you for having me.
Kathryn Harden: (00:32)
Absolutely. To start us off, can you give me an overview of all of your current titles?
Bárbara Lima: (00:41)
I am a professional dancer, I mostly work with contemporary and urban dances. I’m also a dance teacher of the same styles, and I’m a choreographer and artistic director for Ela Fala, and also artistic director at Polaris Dance Theater.
Kathryn Harden: (01:05)
Wonderful, you have lots of different titles. What got you into dancing? When did you start?
Bárbara Lima: (01:14)
Well, I was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I lived there pretty much my whole life. I was always, I was pretty much born dancing and moving. The first connection that I had with dance was through Michael Jackson’s music videos. I think lots of people can relate to that. I was just moving around the house, performing to his music and trying to imitate the movements from the music videos. But I also grew up with my dad listening to James Brown and a lot of funk, a lot of music from the seventies. So, he would alway dance in the kitchen or in the living room, so I think somehow I absorbed that to my experience growing up. When I was around six years old I started classical ballet, taking classes. I took classical ballet and tap and jazz for a few years growing up in a really tiny studio in my neighborhood.
Actually in that period, I always knew that I wanted to be a dancer. But me and my family never really had the resources, and we didn’t really know where we could, what we could do with my passion. So I would just take classes and that would be it. But then growing up, I was fascinated with boy bands. I mean, as a teenager, I was fascinated with boy bands, and again, the music videos were always my tool to get to the dance and to see what was in the world, what was going on beyond the dance studio that I was in.
Kathryn Harden: (03:20)
What was your number one boy band?
Bárbara Lima: (03:21)
Oh, Backstreet Boys. Love it. Backstreet Boys first, and then NSYNC. I had this friend that we would actually, this was one of the ways that I started learning English too because of the music. So we would write down the music, and translate and try to understand the words. We would have these festivals in Rio where some kiddos would get together and perform, like they were the boy band guys. I would go to this place to watch them dancing. It was amazing. They would create this whole show, it was like a competition. We would stay there on this festival, the whole day would happen once a month. And we would stay there the whole day, watching them performing. Each group would have five or ten minutes on stage, and they would perform like a tour thing, like with free music or, and there would be choreography and dancers.
And there was so much passion and I, for one year, I would go there and watch, and my mom would go with me too because she loved boy bands. I would go there and watch, and I would be so fascinated by the movements. And I was like, I want to do that, I want to be part of it. So, I ended up meeting some people in this festival. That’s how I came from classical ballet to hip hop. It was not really hip hop, but that was what we knew as hip hop. It was the music video movement back in the pop culture. Pop culture, the two thousands pop culture. I met some people and I started being one of the dancers, the background dancers for this. Boy bands, Brazilian boy bands.
Kathryn Harden: (05:18)
And that was put on by students?
Bárbara Lima: (05:20)
Students and kids from different schools. This festival would happen in the school, in this specific neighborhood. And lots of kiddos from different schools would come, every single month, and every single month we would go there and stay the whole day watching people dancing. It was great, I think it was my first example of community outside of my own community as like, my family, my mom and my dad, uncles. I think it was my first sense of community outside of that. What I could grow with another people that wasn’t my family. So I start as this funny background dancer for boy band Culvers. I just fell in love with that kind of dance we would call hip hop, then through those people, I found a small group that would create routines for competitions and I auditioned for them, this company, it was called X style Dance Company. I auditioned for them, and everything started. We were this small group of teenagers, young adults that would go to this park. There was this concrete stage in this park in Flamingo, it’s the beach area in Rio. And we would stay Saturday and Sunday rehearsing routines that our leader would create. And we would stay Saturday, Sunday, the whole day rehearsing and practicing. It was a big commitment and we didn’t have, back then, we didn’t have the things that we have now. We didn’t have YouTube, we didn’t have Instagram, we didn’t have internet, it wasn’t that accessible. You had to pay for it. And no one, almost no one had a computer for that.
Bárbara Lima: (07:27)
So it was just practicing, it was just practicing and practicing. We would have these competitions that would happen once or twice a year, it would be in another state. Sometimes we would practice six months, eight months to go to festivals that we would have to pay for it. No one was paying us for this, we have to pay for it so we would be able to perform, because we didn’t have festivals going on in Rio, not for urban dances. It was a really small community and really spread out. We wouldn’t connect a lot with other neighbors and other companies, amateur companies. We would practice six to eight months to go to one festival a year. You pretty much keep rehearsing one routine for a whole year to get the chance to perform once.
Kathryn Harden: (08:14)
And how old were you?
Bárbara Lima: (08:15)
I was 17, and stayed in the company until I was 22. It was pretty much this age, 15, 17. And we weren’t looking for anything beyond dancing together,
Just being to be able to perform and to perform together.
Together and go on a trip together. That sense of community you’re talking about. And we are so innocent and genuine with what we are doing. I’m really proud of having had that experience. Once we get to go to one of our biggest dreams of the festival, the Joy Village Festival, which is one of the biggest dance competitions in Latin America. We were so happy that we get to go there, that we were even thinking about winning. I really remember, it’s really fresh in my head. When we got to go to the festival, we were so happy and we were celebrating together. We were like, yes, we are going to go to this biggest stage, it’d be the biggest stage that we ever been, and we were so happy. I remember one of our later leaders, his name is Bruno. He was just sitting, watching us. We were like, yes, we’d just go dance. Then he was like, you know what I’m thinking? And we were like, what? I think that we can win. And we all stop. And we were like, what do you mean we, what do you mean? You really think we can win? We are just happy to go. And it’s like, no, I think we can win and everything shifted. We were like, I think we can do this. I think we can be better than we think we are. I think we are better than we think we are already.
Kathryn Harden: (10:02)
Because your focus had shifted.
Bárbara Lima: (10:05)
Because we had this goal, and once we reached the goal, he let us celebrate for like 10 minutes. We were like, I think we can go beyond that goal. We were like, really? So I think that was our first lesson. We didn’t know then, but I think it was our first lesson of, things are possible. It’s possible to make a living off dance. Although we didn’t know that then, I think it was a very first lesson of, we can do this. So anyway, we ended up being second place. Which, it was never in our head, we would be happy with 10th place.
Kathryn Harden: (10:39)
Happy, just to be there.
Bárbara Lima: (10:40)
But it just happened. I think, and the reason why I’m saying all that is that I think my experience with that amateur group set me up as a professional dancer before having a professional job as a dancer getting paid for it. I didn’t wait to get paid for it to be professional.
Kathryn Harden: (11:06)
Your passion was number one.
Bárbara Lima: (11:08)
My passion was my number one.
Kathryn Harden: (11:10)
And then when you knew you could make it a living off of it.
Bárbara Lima: (11:13)
I was making a living off of it already.
Kathryn Harden: (11:16)
Bárbara Lima: (11:17)
Because what I learned with the company is that what is the most important in what you do is what you choose to do? You better love what you get from it, right. If you decide to choose to be a dancer, which that’s why I’m so grateful for being from the generation I come from, it is that we love dance because of dance, not of what we get from it. After that things just start flowing, because we became a professional from being amateurs or whatever that means.
Kathryn Harden: (11:50)
You’re doing it for the right reasons because you love to dance and that’s your number one focus. And then everything else followed organically.
Bárbara Lima: (11:58)
I’m just so lucky that it was with the right people, learning this. After that experience just led to bigger experiences and bigger experiences.
Kathryn Harden: (12:09)
Opening more doors for you.
Bárbara Lima: (12:11)
After that I started, well, I didn’t mention that, but the reason why I went from classical ballet to hip hop was because I always knew already that I wanted to be a professional dancer, but I never had the body for it. I wanted to be a professional classical ballerina. My mindset for classical ballet, which was what I knew growing up, was that I needed to be long and skinny and have long neck.
Kathryn Harden: (12:43)
There’s a stigma around that.
Bárbara Lima: (12:44)
And I would never have that because my body, I’m a short person. My arms are short. My neck is short. And the concept back then, for being a professional dancer, was that. And pretty much the urbanness saved me from that heartbreak. Of knowing that I wouldn’t be able somehow to have that in my life, but actually I did. All the dreams that I had learning and wanting to be a classical ballerina, I achieved as a hip hop dancer or contemporary dancer.
Kathryn Harden: (13:19)
That’s incredible because you’re a beautiful mover.
Bárbara Lima: (13:23)
Thank you. After being with this hip hop company, I felt that I could do more, so that’s when I found the contemporary dance that I worked for five years and from when I was 22. I started when I was 22 years old, I started taking contemporary classes with this company. My outcome was just getting better, that was my outcome. Just being able to take classes in Brazil, I think it’s a gift because it’s a different culture. Especially back then, I didn’t have the money to pay for classes. I was really lucky that the things that I was doing with passion led me to my path, so the place that I wanted to go with my heart. I started taking those classes and this company on the studio and they had a company called Groupo Tap and then one day I looked at the company and again, it was that really genuine and innocent feeling of like, I can do this. I don’t do three, four spins. I’m not super, I don’t have great lines, but I can do this. I have the body, I have the passion.
And I know my limits, and I know how far beyond I can go my limits. I want to do this. So I talked with the director and the choreographer, and it was funny. I literally was so confident about it. It was like, I’m going to do this and I’m good for you. I want to be part of it. And no matter how long it takes me, I’ll do it. I remember that back then, I had the chance to come to the United States for the first time with some friends. We wanted to go to New York, which was my big, first passion. We were like, I’m not doing it. I had the tickets to go to New York, and I was like, I’m not going to do it, I’m going to be part of the company. That’s what I want to do. I ended up being in the company, and I didn’t go to New York. I stayed in the company and it was like another part of my life that really helped me to know who I am in dance and helped me to grow and to connect with both worlds, contemporary and urban dances. That was a moment in my life that I really grew as an artist. After that I was part of a hip hop company, this time professional. It was interesting how I jumped in back and forth, hip hop and contemporary, classical ballet, contemporary again, and hip hop.
Kathryn Harden: (16:05)
It just made you this well rounded mover.
Bárbara Lima: (16:07)
It was interesting because I really had to stick to it. When I was in the contemporary, I took classical ballet classes and modern classes and floor work classes and was really specific, and I wasn’t doing much with urban dance in that period. When I went to the hip hop company, it was a lot of b-boying things and tricks. It was really interesting how much I get to go deep in each one of those things.
Kathryn Harden: (16:38)
It’s kind of, instead of scraping a surface, you’re diving.
Bárbara Lima: (16:41)
Exactly. And from that I could pull up something, the things that I could, oh, I can do this.
Kathryn Harden: (16:47)
Because you have a foundation.
Bárbara Lima: (16:48)
I can add this to my style. I can add this to what I do. I can add this to what I like to teach. It’s funny because before I got into the professional hip hop company G um, I had another opportunity to come to the United States again, I don’t know what it was with the United States. I bought tickets again, and I didn’t come again. The third time that I decided I left the hip hop company and I was working as a freelancer, and I had the opportunity to come again, and another company reached out and said hey, you like to work with us. I was like, I think if it happens for the third time, I should break the pattern. So I was like, no, I’m going. I decided to come, and I applied for my visa, and I got my artist visa. There’s a lot of things in between that gap of coming and now. But here I am right now.
Kathryn Harden: (17:51)
That’s amazing. Well, we’re glad you’re here and for what you have to offer. You have an incredible story, as far as how you got into dance, and you had mentioned that dance is not as accessible where you were raised. So it obviously has a special place to you, because you wouldn’t keep doing it if you didn’t love it. If you could sum up what dance means to you, and how it’s affected your life, I know you’ve already talked about that. What does dance mean to you?
Bárbara Lima: (18:31)
Well, I’m very introverted person. So, dance helped me identify myself with the world. I remember the first, every first rehearsal that I would go, I would sit in the corner and I wouldn’t talk with anyone because I was just incapable of talking with people. But once I would start dancing, I would do it with so much passion and it would be so honest that, well, I’m saying that in a really humble way, but I think it’s important to say that there would be no way that I wouldn’t shine. And I think it’s important for people to know, when they do something that it’s real, there’s no way for you to not shine. So I found my light through this mix of emotion.
Kathryn Harden: (19:26)
No, I love it.
Bárbara Lima: (19:27)
I found my life through dance. I found myself through dance, my identity, my voice. Mostly I found presence in a world that goes so fast all the time. We are always thinking about, what can I do next? What can I do next? Or where did I mess up? It’s always in the past or in the future. When I dance, or when I’m in a creative process, or when I’m improvising or even doing a routine, but trying to figure out other ways to improve I go to this void of nothingness and everything at the same time, and it keeps me in the present moment. It’s almost like a *snap* turn off and then two hours later, three hours later or whatever, it’s like, oh, okay, I’m here again. Like, you’re from your world. I come back to the physical matter world, but when I’m dancing, I go to this timeless place.
Kathryn Harden: (20:32)
That’s beautiful. I can see that when you move too, it’s incredible. That’s a real gift as an artist to be able to make your audience come with you on that journey. I think that’s the goal.
Bárbara Lima: (20:49)
That’s the goal, right? To, to dance and.
Kathryn Harden: (20:52)
Make someone feel something.
Bárbara Lima: (20:54)
In community, to create art.
Kathryn Harden: (20:57)
Love it. I know you touched base a little bit on this too, with knowing your limits and not being what, in your mind, as a young student, what the ideal dancer body is maybe for classical ballet, but can you hit on the topics of challenges that you faced in your pursuit of dance? And how that brought you to where you are now?
Bárbara Lima: (21:29)
Just so many.
Kathryn Harden: (21:30)
Or any ones, or maybe a specific event that you remember that really stuck out to you, that was hard, but because of that experience, you’re really grateful it led you to the next opportunity?
Bárbara Lima: (21:49)
I think because of the fact of where I’m from, I think everybody’s constantly living with challenges. I was always a really hard worker, and I always knew my weakness. I always try to work really hard on my weakness.
I think every, every single thing learned, especially in the beginning of my career, was a challenge. The money for public transportation, staying outdoors for Saturday and Sunday the whole day, not having money to buy lunch or snacks or something. And we always, even when we had money, if we could figure out a way to have money. It was not just for me, it was for the whole groupm, so we always break down to buy water together? So everybody would put like, I would say dollar, we put down a dollar to buy water for everybody or put a dollar in to pay for batteries so we’d be able to have sound.
Kathryn Harden: (23:25)
Bárbara Lima: (23:26)
When I stop and think about it right now, every single little thing was a challenge. Dancing in the summertime, which was like a hundred degrees outside, not having money for public transportation, for basic needs to make our growth happen. But at the same time, that’s what made me and the other people that were there strong. There were a lot of challenges and there are more challenges, even more now, but I can’t complain about them because they made me who I am. You know, coming here and having to let go of my ego, because I was pretty successful in Brazil. And here, I’m starting from zero, but I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m starting from zero being 30 years old. So there’s a lot of internal challenges.
But I can’t complain of them, because if I know how to look the right way, they make me stronger ,a they make me who I am, they lead me to where I need to go. If it wasn’t my struggle, I wouldn’t be able to, or my challenges, I wouldn’t be able to dig deeper, and be honest with myself, because when I’m honest with myself and I can be myself in the world. I’m honest with other people, and other people can see my truth and be like, oh, I know I like her truth. I like what she has to say, come here with me. And that’s what Polaris did for me. I was genuinely with them working with them. I would be there at ___ classes. Robert invited me to choreograph, set up some choreographies for the company.
And I would just sit with him, and genuinely talk about art and talk about myself and my story. And in my vulnerable, challenging place, being in another country, dealing with money and relationships and friendship and community, he looked at me and he saw my truth, whatever it means to him. And he gave me his hand and was like, hey, come work with us. What do you want? I believe in what you have to say, what do you want to say? And like, I want to say this, and he’ll be like, okay, I’ll give you that, you work on that. I think if we see our challenges. Because there’s just so many and right now, there’s a language challenge, there’s the culture challenge, you know? I think every single thing, it’s a struggle. I’m not romanticizing the challenge, but it will eventually, you will get out of there.
Kathryn Harden: (26:43)
Bárbara Lima: (26:44)
And if you can see it as something that builds up your strength, it’s okay to have some challenges.
Kathryn Harden: (26:50)
Absolutely. We can acknowledge that things are hard, but there’s always a positive side to it. I think you’ve really shined in that, in turning that around for yourself too. Your experiences have a true meaning for what community is for where you’ve come from. And that’s awesome.
Bárbara Lima: (27:12)
I think one of the things that I’m learning is that things are hard, but things also are simple.
Kathryn Harden: (27:18)
Sometimes we overcomplicate.
Bárbara Lima: (27:20)
Exactly. Sometimes it’s just a matter of like, just say what you want.
Kathryn Harden: (27:24)
Just ask for what you want, which I think as artists we struggle with this, it’s so complex.
Bárbara Lima: (27:35)
Yeah. The reality is that just, it’s simple. It’s just like taking classes to be a professional dancer, the steps are this.
Kathryn Harden: (27:46)
Break it down.
Bárbara Lima: (27:46)
You learn, break it down. It’s simple, but it’s hard.
Kathryn Harden: (27:49)
But it’s hard. Absolutely.
Bárbara Lima: (27:51)
Amounts of hours and years and commitment.
Kathryn Harden: (27:55)
I think it’s awesome that Polaris and Robert gave you a platform for your voice, I’m glad they did. It’s very special.
Bárbara Lima: (28:06)
I’m just so grateful for it.
Kathryn Harden: (28:07)
Awesome. Well, you hit on the hit the next topic, which are the resources. What resources and people and opportunities helped you the most, or just helped you in general to get you to where you are? You had mentioned Bruno was your first director, teacher. I’m sure you’ve worked with a lot of wonderful teachers and choreographers along the way up until now with Robert. What are some that really stand out to you that helped you in each chapter?
Bárbara Lima: (28:48)
I think one of my biggest resources and support comes from the people that are close to me. That includes people that come to my life and eventually get closer. I’m not talking just about my parents, which I needed, I would have to start with them. Because if it wasn’t for my parents, I would still be in Brazil doing steps and at the concrete stage in the park, pretty much, they were the biggest supporters of my life. Actually, the only reason why I went to dance college was because of my mom, because back then I thought I wouldn’t be able to make a living with dance, and she stood up and she was like, I believe in you, you gonna do this.
Bárbara Lima: (29:44)
So I’m really grateful. Thanks mom for that. Thanks mom. And also my dad, he was always really supportive. My friends, not just the people that I danced with, I think all the people, all the people that are close to me. Now, I feel like somehow Polaris or something that it’s like closer to me. And what I mean by that is that we keep such a clear communication that I think that brings us closer and closer and closer and we are able to listen better and see it better and speak better. I think because of that, we can be more clear about what I’m talking about myself. I can be more clear about how to ask for help, without pushing any boundaries or anything, but also because of that, I can be more clear with myself and less ashamed of asking for help.
Bárbara Lima: (31:06)
Because we all need help. The people that I live with, Jocelyn, which is, she’s the director of the full length documentary that I’m part of, which is called Believe the Beat. And it’s about a story of dancers in Brazil, and I’m part of it. It was finally out last year, and it’s getting so many hip hop film festivals, dance festivals, documentary festivals, which is awesome. It’s something that we started doing for just because, just for fun, because we needed to do it, but it’s not expecting anything from it. We just needed to do it. And it took thirteen years for her to do it.
Bárbara Lima: (31:54)
Anyway, she’s one of my biggest supporters, her husband, Alec, my American parents. I’m so blessed for this community that I built around me here in Portland, before building a dance community or a career community or an art community. I think this was important for me. Because again, dance was something that I needed to understand who I was. But also at one point in my life, I needed to let go of that and understand who I was as a person. So all these people that know me as a person and not Bárbara the choreographer, Bárbara dancer, Bárbara who did this, this and that, they know me as Bárbara, Bárbara. That person that would sit and laugh. And we watch that movie, like to eat something, those people are the people that support me the most emotionally, financially, in all ways.
Kathryn Harden: (33:02)
That’s special. Because we are people, I think growing up with dance, it’s hard to identify ourselves because dance is such a big part of who we are, and to be able to find that separation in a sense and figure out who you are without dance is something we all need to go through. And it’s hard, and it’s a constant battle.
Bárbara Lima: (33:22)
It is hard, killing the ego.
Kathryn Harden: (33:25)
And he is still gonna be there.
Bárbara Lima: (33:28)
It’s one of our best and worst friends, but absolutely.
Kathryn Harden: (33:32)
Absolutely. What stage do you feel you are at in your career currently? And how do you want to move forward? What are your goals with that? Loaded question?
Bárbara Lima: (33:51)
I just feel that I don’t know anything, and it’s okay. That part. I think we all go through that. We have the vision for our lives or the vision for our project. And of course, the vision is always bigger than the place you’re at. Now putting into practice, now with Al I’m finally putting into practice it’s interesting for me, which is like really obvious what I’m going to say, but actually it took me to put things into practice to understand that is that the vision is bigger, but you gotta understand the place you’re at, not in a way that you can go move further, but you gotta understand that in a practical way, there’s other things that you need to add into the actions.
I’m learning that sometimes I need to step three steps back in order to step five in front of me, and it’s really scary to step back. It’s something that I’ve every day being a leader now, in the position of leader, which is something new for me. It’s something that I need to learn constantly. And it’s something that I need to do every single day. Every single day, I need to take a deep breath, understand that I need to step, twice back. In order to step five.
Kathryn Harden: (35:32)
Bárbara Lima: (35:33)
Kathryn Harden: (35:34)
It’s like going back to take a beginner technique class. You, you need that dose of medicine.
Bárbara Lima: (35:41)
Absolutely. Learning that also I have the vision, but I might not have the skills for something. So I need to acquire it slower. It’s like learning a new language, you know? I cannot form a phrase if I don’t know what the words mean, the foundation, I can’t read the phrase. I can see the shape of the words. But I don’t know exactly, what does it mean? I have the feeling of what I know, what I want to do, and I have the vision, but I also need the humble acknowledgement that I’m where I am, where I am and I need to learn the tools. I know the vision, but I still don’t know how to get there. But I know that I am in a place that I can work. I have my body and I have my mind and I have the people. So I’m just going to put into work what I have. And again, with passion and truth, I know that eventually I’m going to get there. And the challenge that I face now is that also the patience that we all do. Just every day being patient with myself and understanding that, okay, you are going to get there, or even if you don’t, what are you going to do? You’re not going to do it. You know?
Kathryn Harden: (37:12)
Figure something else out.
Bárbara Lima: (37:14)
Just shush your impatience for a little bit. Do what you know how to do and learn, how to improve everyday. If you can check it out, how did you improve? Or if you are improving, that sounds good.
Kathryn Harden: (37:31)
I love that. It’s honest.
Bárbara Lima: (37:32)
It is honest with yourself and with your humanness.
Kathryn Harden: (37:40)
Do you have an artist statement or a long term vision that you hope to accomplish through your work now that you have this company that you’ve started? Can you elaborate on that?
Bárbara Lima: (38:05)
It’s funny. I think everyday it’s a different thing. If I would say something about that today, I think once I accomplish, if I ever will, living a holistic life in terms of connecting everything I do with everything I am as a whole, and finding the balance between those things, between dance and life and relationship and health and mindfulness and spirituality, I think once I find the balance in between those things, that’s what I want to be. That’s my ultimate goal. And I think Ela Fala is, it’s somehow my product in the world that wants to say that too. I want to be able to, everything that I learn as a human being, I want to be able to show that in the form of art. I want to be able to have this product in the world that’s physical, but wants to talk about spirituality, wants to talk about art, wants to talk about time and space, and how there’s no such thing.
I want to find a holistic approach. And also Ela Fala, we want to be a bridge for connection. Not just with the world, but with other kinds of art. With photography, we start Ela Fala with photography, which is funny, before dance. We want to create this holistic vision and connection and wholeness. We want to be one single thing. We don’t want to be just dance. Just like I don’t want me to be just dance. I think it’s a reflection of me, because I believe that art is everything we are doing here is art. Me being able to speak in another language is art, to think about in another language is art, the light that comes from the window, it’s art.
So, I think my everyday artist statement is, how can this be art, how can everything be art? Because everything is art. This helped me to see the world, not in this way of, I need to do this, and I need to do that, and I need to make a living, and I need to be happy, and I need to be healthy. It helps me to see the world in a way that I am already. I am already healthy. I am connected to everything, and I am not just this body. I am beyond this body, and I want to be able to be that, and put a product in the world, which is able to speak something like that too. So again, still learning, still learning and hopefully I’ll get there. And if I don’t, I can guarantee that I will be searching for it.
Kathryn Harden: (41:51)
That’s awesome. So with all of that, and your process through your company and everything that you just stated, how would you describe the current dance scene in Portland? Areas that you see Portland is really excelling at, or could use, you know, some touching up? Maybe experiences with your company or your process coming to Portland?
Bárbara Lima: (42:33)
I’ve been here for two years, but connected with the community only for the past year or so. So, I don’t have a lot of things to say, and it’s hard to talk about the community in general. But I can talk about my story and my perspective and what I’m working with Ela Fala. I think one of the things that I notice that it lacks is the commitment. I come across this word because Ela Fala in the first year and it’s an independent, we are under Polaris’ umbrella, but it’s an independent company. We don’t have any money, we don’t have donors, we are still growing. So I don’t pay for the dancers. I don’t pay for myself. It’s all about making art, creating art in collaborating. And I’m really grateful for the girls that I’ve been working with. Through this really short experience, I came across this word, the volunteering word, and it’s such a tricky word for me because I feel that when there’s a volunteering word connected to what you’re doing, it feels like you do that sometimes. You do that this day, and maybe the next day you won’t, and it’s okay because it’s volunteering.
Bárbara Lima: (44:19)
Where I’m from, this word doesn’t make any sense, and the way we use this word doesn’t make doesn’t make any sense. I just feel like sometimes there is a lack of commitment.
Kathryn Harden: (44:42)
All right. How would you describe the current dance scene in Portland? What are things that Portland really excels at in the dance community and maybe some things that could use some TLC?
Bárbara Lima: (45:10)
It’s a hard question for me because I’ve been here for a really short period of time. I’ve been connected to the dance community for the past year, although I’ve been here for two years, but for only a year that I started getting to know the artists and the dancing. I think one of the most wonderful things that we have here, as far as I can see, and not because I’m a messenger or because I connected to Emily Running, but I think Dance Wire, it’s pretty neat. Especially for artists like me, which is, as individuals that arrive here, not knowing anyone. It’s kind of like this site, Twitter gathering thing. And I think it’s so nice, because even sometimes when you go to a show or something, you don’t get to talk with the artists. I think the buzz builders, it’s pretty neat that you can go somewhere and connect to the artists. They just have to go. Otherwise it makes it really difficult. But it’s really nice.
I’ve been to one, the first one this year, and I get to know like two ambassadors and connect. There’s this dance teacher at Polaris that I never get the chance to talk with her, and I could talk with her and have a conversation. So, this is really important for building the dance community, especially because Portland, it’s a small city compared to Rio and New York. It’s a small city, but there’s still, there’s not 150 big companies, but there’s 15, there’s 20.
Kathryn Harden: (46:54)
It’s a closer knit community.
Bárbara Lima: (46:55)
Exactly. And because there’s 20, it’s easier, or it should be easier to connect with, because we don’t want to just grow our own work. We want to grow the community. That’s where one of our focuses should be too. I think Dance Wire website and the buzz builders, and all the people that are connected to and making that work, I think that’s a pretty cool thing that happens here in Portland. It’s really nice to go to the website and see all the companies and the classes that you could go get, rather than Google it, and you have to go in each one of them.
It gives you a platform for the dance community.
I think it’s really cool, Dance Wire. It’s a pretty neat opportunity if we can, we as artists, can see that as an opportunity. And I think something that could be lacking, again, it’s hard for me to speak generally about the community, but I can speak related to my own experience. My background being a professional dancer in Brazil, and my own experience here with my collective and the people that I met is I think the lack of, I forgot the word, commitment. Yes. The lack of commitment. I don’t know if, because we see in different, because of each one’s experience, of course you see things in a different way. But I think sometimes, I would say, especially for the youth, the young dancers, is that if you commit to something, it doesn’t mean that, well, it’s twice a week, two hours. Just doing that doesn’t mean that you have a commitment. When you commit to something, you want to give your blood to it. It’s two hours, but for two hours, you’re just so present and you’re going to give everything you have. It’s twice a week. Twice a week. You’re going to be there twice week with everything you have, and understanding that you’re not doing something for someone else, you’re not doing something for a choreographer.
You’re doing something together. So if you come to a dance with Ela, you are not doing something for me. You are doing something for us. We are doing something for us. Sometimes I feel like there’s a lack of commitment. Sometimes I feel there is a degree of commitment and that’s unreal. That doesn’t exist. That’s an illusion. If you commit, commitment is a hundred percent commitment. If you’re 90% commitment, there is a degree there. So maybe you shouldn’t be doing that. If you feel like this is more important, this is less, isn’t that less important? If something it’s alright for you, just don’t do it. Don’t be with people that you don’t want to embrace it, or don’t work with people that you don’t want to give yourself completely, or don’t be with people that you don’t feel that they’re giving themselves to you completely. So really, I would say for, especially the youth, to sit down and think about what commitment means to you. Because things are so close to us now. Back in the days, I wouldn’t imagine working with dance, the possibilities of being part of a company or working as a background dancer, like nothing would be in my reality. And these days, you just grab your phone and this is on a reality, you can see the opportunities, the opportunities everywhere.
Kathryn Harden: (50:48)
Without in your room.
Bárbara Lima: (50:48)
But the difference is the space in between where you’re at, and the opportunities are in this gap, there’s a lot of work. Sometimes I feel like some people are not willing to put the work in that is needed in order to get that opportunity. There’s a lack of hard work and commitment. Especially in the youth community, but again, I’m not being super general. I’m just talking related to where I come from, and what I see so far with what I experienced.
Kathryn Harden: (51:28)
Right. Because commitment was such a big, it was how you started. You committed, you volunteered your time, not because your parents were paying for you to be there, but because you wanted to be there. And I think you hit that on the head. Last and final question. If you were to paint a really idealistic picture of the dance scene in 10 years, what would that look like to you?
Bárbara Lima: (52:02)
To be able to connect with people and artists and companies as a whole. And what I mean by that is to have, and I wouldn’t say all the time, to have moments where we could all drop our titles and accomplishments and to sit down, gather and talk about how can we improve art? How can we improve as human beings? How can we improve dance? So we could let go for a minute, for a few hours, all our titles, accomplishments and connect in a genuine way. Connect and be equal for a moment.
Kathryn Harden: (53:17)
Let your guard down, be present.
Bárbara Lima: (53:18)
Let the guard down and connect and see, how can we grow? What can we give, what can we get, in a balanced way. And then we can come back to our lives after that, but if we can periodically drop our guards and see the whole picture, and be part of the whole picture and in a way to find ways to grow, we are talking about dance, find ways to grow dance. I think that would be my perfect place, reality, to be part of it. To sit in a place in a room with the biggest choreographers and beginners choreographers, and talk about how can we make art together? Not being in a position of, oh, I’ve been doing this for 10 years, so you’re starting. Okay. So, I’m going to talk with people that have been doing, you know, like we drop all that, all the background and being in a room with different styles and different backgrounds, different stories, and offer something to that.
Kathryn Harden: (54:35)
I love that.
Bárbara Lima: (54:36)
I don’t know if that makes sense, but in my head it does..
Kathryn Harden: (54:40)
In a perfect world, I think that would be beautiful. I love it. Well, thank you so much, Bárbara, for sharing your story. You have a phenomenal story, and I can’t wait for others to hear it as well and for you to do great things, not just in Portland, but in the dance world.
Bárbara Lima: (55:00)
Thank you. It was really fun to have this conversation with you.
Kathryn Harden: (55:04)
Thank you, good. We’re done, we did it! Good job.