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Change is Imminent

April Dalton 1

Today is Earth Day

Diane Parkes speaks to Daniela Cardim about her new ballet Imminent which is inspired by climate change.

Imminent, which forms part of the Curated by Carlos season at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, 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.

Designs © April Dalton

‘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.’

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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.’

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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.

‘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.’

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 am working 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.'

Curated by Carlos is at Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 10 to 12 June. Book here.