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Information

1968

born in Caracas (Venezuela)

1987 to 1991

Dance studies at José Ledezma's Escuela de Danza de Caracas and studies in journalism

1991 to 1995

Dance training at the Folkwang-Hochschule Essen and intensive collaboration with Jean Cébron

1995 to 2018

Member of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, as guest since 2018


Biography

Fernando Suels Mendoza

was born in 1968 in Caracas, Venezuela where he initially studied journalism. He soon discovered dance, however. In 1987 he enrolled at José Ledezma’s Escuela de Danza de Caracas, but continued with his journalism course to ensure a way of paying the bills; in Venezuela dance was seen more as a hobby so at first Suels saw no professional future in it. Ledezma’s classes were Cunningham-based but to give Suels a firm technical grounding he also sent him for ballet lessons with Lidija Franklin. It was from this former Jooss dancer that Suels first heard about the German dance revolution in the 1920s and ’30s, and about the dance department of the Folkwang School in Essen founded by Kurt Jooss. Suels developed multiple interests, working with Danza Hoy, a company in the Graham tradition, and studied Limón technique at the Instituto Superior de la Danza. He was soon given his first opportunities to perform. He danced with Luis Viana, whose works were influenced Pina Bausch, and saw her pieces for the first time on video, leaving a deep impression on him. In 1990, having completed both courses in Caracas, he had the feeling he wasn’t finished and wanted to learn more.

Movements with feeling

It was Carlos Orta, one of the early Bausch dancers, who gave him the tip to apply to the Folkwang School. In 1991 he began a four-year course there, working especially closely with Jean Cébron, another former Kurt Jooss dancer and one of Pina Bausch’s teachers. After the abstraction of the Cunningham style in Venezuela, these classes in Essen were like a revolution for Suels. Finally he could let his feelings flow into the movements. Pina Bausch kept her eye on the young dancer from the start but gave him time to develop. In 1993 he learned The Rite of Spring, and in his fourth year she gave him chance to learn the role of Pylades in Iphigenia in Tauris. He first danced it on stage fifteen years later.

Freedom and openness

In 1995, when Pina Bausch made him a full-time member of her ensemble, he felt at home with her working methods from the start. Her openness to accept all her dancers’ creations and watch them without judgement gave him all the freedom he could imagine yet also provided security. No-one had to worry about making a fool of themselves or looking silly. Everything had the same right to be included, from the tiniest gesture to the biggest move, irrespective of whether it later ended up in the piece. The dancers were thus able to develop over the years and continually discover new sides to themselves. In Fernando Suels’ case Pina Bausch repeatedly deployed his youthful charm and shrewd insouciance. Often he was the one to lead the whole group to a new start with a buoyant dance following a dramatic rupture. Or he might break up the scene with gentle irony, from which not even the choreographer herself was spared as he caricatured her in all her mannerisms with nuanced teasing. Everything was allowed and all the dancers embodied different shades and potential approaches to life. Since summer 2018 Fernando Suels has continued working for the Tanztheater Wuppertal as a guest.

Text by Norbert Servos
Translated by Steph Morris


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