Valentine Nagata-Ramos, is coming to Australia for the OzAsia festival, at which she will breakdance in the show Kata and also lead a masterclass “Hip Hop from Paris”. We spoke to her about the roles dance and break in particular play in her life.
Tell us about the show Kata that’s coming to the OzAsia Festival in Adelaide and your role in it.
Kata is an hour long show for 8 breakers. I am the only feminine character in the show (unless there’s a replacement).
It’s a show which questions the similarities between breakdance and martial arts.
Breakdance like martial arts evolved in the cities, as a defence to all the urban agressions. I play a valiant and sensitive character, scrambling both good and evil face to face with these men through the image of the world of breakdance.
Tell us also about your masterclass “Hip Hop from Paris”, also happening at the OzAsia Festival, in which you will share your unique style of breakdance, as well as that which we see in the show Kata. How is your dance style different to that choreographed by Anna Nguyen?
During the masterclass, I plan to introduce the fundamentals of breakdance to the general grand public in a fun way (Toprocks, Footworks, Freezes…), so that the participants can then use these movements to construct something (phrases and connections) more personal.
There will of course also be a work of musicality because listening to music and the execution of the basic movements of breakdance are in correlation.
It will finish with a workshop for everyone to work on their creativity in little groups (to find katas, to find avatars of yourself) in a nod to the show Kata.
Normally, each dancer, regardless of his/her common vocabulary, will have their own dance, their own way of moving. It’s typical of breakdance. If we look alike, we are less credible. Everyone is quite different to each other, physically, psychologically.
Anne Nguyen and I have been compared to each other for a long time, but working together we have understood that we don’t have the same energy.
Anne is supple and fluid, whereas I am the opposite in my movements. And even if we have similarities in our dance, I find that Anne is more aerial than me.
We each have our own training, influences and Anne knows how to use the qualities of each dancer without asking us to dance like her in her shows, and for me, she has well understood the spirit of hip-hop.
You founded the dance company Uzumaki. Tell us about this company and why you started it. Also, what does the name Uzumaki mean? Being a Japanese word, do you have a strong link with Japanese culture?
I created my company in 2011, in order to be able to create by myself with my own ideas.
Having worked for a lot of other companies, I wanted to open the window to my choreographic world.
Being a dancer for other choreographers taught me a lot about me, my dance, the interpretation but choreographing, defending my ideas, pushing myself to places I hadn’t yet been able to go, seemed obvious.
So I was able to create my first solo in 2011 : SADAKO ( inspired by the Japanese true story of Sadako Sasaki who lived through the Hiroshima bombing. I adapted it with a giant origami dancing Breakdance and Butoh), then into a duo performance in 2014: JE suis TOI (break duo treating the theme of shadow and into a quartet in 2018: #MMIBTY (My Mom Is Better Than Yours) in which I wanted to showcase Voguing and Bboying on the theme of the mother.
For the moment, I still like creating with the base of Breakdance (my dance of preference) that I try to put into another energy (slowed or to ternerary music… I like to break the rules of this dance, which amuses and surprises me).
Little by little, I have started to work with other disciplines such as live musicians/composers or Voguing like I did in my last piece…
It opens me up to another perspective and it’s a real challenge to be able to properly adapt it to Breakdance.
Uzumaki means whirlwind in Japanese. Whirlwind like when you spin on your head when you do headspins, but also the whirlwind is the circule in which we develop breakdance, it’s an universal planetary movement, it’s even a vital movement. It’s within the framework of the whirlwind that we find focus.
Sot that’s why I aspire to in the end like in interbreeding Hispano-Japanese.
Going towards the focus, while taking inspiration and knowledge from everywhere areound us…
In effect, I am inspired by Japanese culture and I think that it can be found in my shows.
Having said that, it’s not necessarily conscious or wanted, I think it’s just a part of me that is expressed in that way.
You’ve danced with some of the big names, including in the MTV dance group, Black Blanc Beur, Montalvo/Hervieu, 6° Dimension, Fantastik Armada. What’s been your career highlight so far?
I have lived many beautiful things with these companies and crews.
Experiencing national or international battles at the beginning of my Bgirl career, was paramount in my technical training, I was able to assert myself thanks to that.
To do TV shows with the MTV dance crew allowed me to see and to experiement in a more commercial space.
Dancing the creations of Black Blanc Beur, 6eme dimension, Montavo/Hervieu and others really allowed me to know all sorts of contexts and to learn the scenic game. I am still learning and in audition today I find it really cool to feel your evolution.
If we speak about the physical highlight, I would say that it was when I was between 26 and 32. I could perform battles, shows, tours without breaks. But today the body is more tired, but the head works harder. Which is surely better for the body…
Similarly, is there someone with whom you dream of collaborating?
I would like to collaborate with musicians, dancers from other horizons, comedians, directors… All of them!
I like passionate and real people, that inspires me and I find that if I find a common middle ground and inspirations and aspirations in common, I can do and create beautiful things.
It’s all a quesiton of time, of meetings and of means as welll…
You’ve already worked with Anne Nguyen in Square Root and Yonder Woman. How did you both meet?
Anne and I used to meet in battles back from 2000-2005, we were in rival groups. We were also the 2 girls that people liked to compare as our physiques were similar and we didn’t like that.
We were able to work together in Black Blanc Beur.
But our real meeting was when Anne called me to replace her in Square Root. I was really able to discover a side of her that I didn’t know.
In battle, we show a facette, we show-off… In creation, we cannot hide, we are obliged to be serious and honest in front of the audience, otherwise it doesn’t work.
Anne, in engaging me in her company, opened up her heart and her spirit to me. I am really happy, she taught me a lot.
Do you see dance differently having now worked as both a dancer and a choreographer?
You don’t look at dance in the same way as a dancer or a choreographer.
Being a dancer is in the feeling, the sensation, even the execution sometimes. We let the body speak with movements, we are in the physicality. We also obey…
Being a choreographer is a much more global feeling. We take into account the technique of the movement but we also analyse what it can say in the ensemble. We look for meanings. We direct. It’s also about taking things into account a lot more, the dancers, the ideas, the out of scope as well. The eye is sharper when we are in this position.
For example, I love the creation period, to see how my team understands my ideas. The challenge is to bring them into my universe and to make them understand my world so that they can also tell me their reflections. It’s a give and take of thoughts which are as enriching for me as for the dancers I think…
When and how did you know that you wanted to be a dancer? Did you take dance classes as a child?
I think that dancing for a living first came to mind when I was about 20 or 21, given I was spending an enormous amount of time in training. I wanted to train more than I wanted to attend my classes at the Pscyhology Faculty, so I plucked up the courage to leave my region in the South-East (of France) and to go up to Paris to progress and attend auditions.
Once I was accepted in Black Blanc beur, with the contract in hand but doubt in my head about putting my studies aside, I decided that I didn’t want to get to 30 years of age and have regrets and be frustrated having not tried.
Since then, I dance… Without frustration. Completely… Not really knowing what my future would be.
Tomorrow everything could go up in the air and that’s why I always take advantage of the present.
Ever since I was little, I tried many types of dance but without pushing: 1 year of classical, 1 year of contemporary, 1 year of jazz, 1 year of couples dance, African dance… But love at first sight happened at the end of 1998 when I discovered hip hop.
What is dance for you?
Dance is an introspection of yourself: in me, in you.
Thanks to my body, my spirit speaks. It’s a form of language. I express myself thanks to my danced vocabulary. I shout, cry and laugh through it.
My body moves to this music, instinctively. In it, you see some of me, of you, of us.
Everyone knows how to dance.
Not everyone accepts their inner-selves so a lot of people are scared to dance because of that…. It’s a rapport with love. To love oneself it to accept oneself, to accept oneself it to be able to dance. Dancing is also a letting go.
My dance is like a therapy. It makes me sweat, expel my toxins, my malaise. It hurts me, it also makes me feel alive.
It also makes me reflect, it allows me to know, to know my limits, my weaknesses, my strengths.
Dancing is freedom.
INFO & TICKETS
You can see Valentine Nagata-Ramos in the show Kata at OzAsia Festival. Kata is only on for three shows: 11am and 7:30pm on 17 October and 7:30pm on 18 October. Adult tickets cost $45.
Tickets are available via this link: https://www.ozasiafestival.com.au/events/kata/
The “Hip Hop from Paris” masterclass will take place at 2pm on 16 October. You can reserve your place via this link: https://www.ozasiafestival.com.au/events/dance-masterclasses/
Do you like break?
You may also like to read our interview with Hadi Zeidan about his OzAsia festival shows.