Andre Rebelo is the Rehearsal Director and choreographer for the Gulbenkian Youth Dance Company. The company is for young dancers aged between 14-18 and is run in partnership with Jasmin Vardimon Company and Kent Sport. Sessions are held weekly, more info available here.
We caught up with Andre to discuss his work with the Youth Dance Company and how he got into a career in dance.
Q: What do you do with the Youth Dance Company?
I’m the Rehearsal Director/Choreographer. Jasmin Vardimon Company have been asked to lead the first two terms for the new Gulbenkian Youth Dance Company and so I am leading the sessions. The first term focussed on creating a piece to be performed at the Kent’s Sporting Legends Event, and so I began by working with the youth company to teach them some repertoire from Jasmin Vardimon Company. Working with the dancers, we then worked creatively to develop the repertoire into a brand new piece of choreography using the dancer’s own movements and creative ideas. This was mainly based around a specific section of repertoire called ‘Walking’, which is quite a signature piece of repertory for the company. Using all of the dancer’s ideas and input, I then start looking at how we can put it all together in a cohesive order to make sense to an audience, so we can make a finished piece. Once we’ve got an idea of the piece, we’ll then try that out in a full run. Once I feel like we’ve found the best version of it, we’ll stick with that and rehearse it. As the rehearsals goes on, we might still adapt and change some areas, depending on what opportunities are presented during the rehearsals, so we keep everything very organic. I don’t try and control it too much, thinking about the end result of the project. It’s very much a two-way process, 50/50. They’ll produce a lot of it and I’m just there to make sure they’re going in the right direction.
Q: When did you start dancing?
I started when I was 18. I did a Musical Theatre course in Cambridge, at a performing arts college.
Q: Did you know you wanted to be a dancer/choreographer at that age?
At that age, no, because I was doing acting, singing and dance. I wanted to do a bit of everything, so I didn’t know I wanted to be a dancer. I knew I wanted to do dance as part of it, but not specifically just dance.
Q: What made you then end up wanting to be a dancer?
It was a natural thing that just really happened without me knowing. After three years of doing a BTEC, I started noticing that I wasn’t very good at singing. I was OK at acting, but I was actually really evolving in dance. I thought I’d stick with dance, as I found out you can still do Musical Theatre, but in a dance strand, with more dance than singing. I did that, and then I auditioned for a degree. In the first year I didn’t get into many places, so I had a gap year and then auditioned for more colleges the year after that. I got into a few places, but the one that had most funding for me was Laban. As it was a contemporary college and I was very Musical Theatre, I didn’t think I wanted to go there but I used it as a stepping stone for me to move to London. The plan was to go there for a year and then re-audition for other colleges. However, I went to Laban for my first year and completely missed all the deadlines for other college auditions! So I stayed for another year, and by the end of my second year realised I really liked it there. The longer I stayed at Laban, the more I started to let go of the commercial and Musical Theatre thing – it became more of a hobby. Then in my third year, I got really into it. I had a teacher called Fernanda, who was actually a performer in Jasmin Vardimon Company years ago and I really liked her style. So I auditioned for JV2 – Jasmin Vardimon Company’s Professional Development Diploma and got in, and I just felt like this was the right way to go. I didn’t even think twice about it, it just felt like I should go there. That’s the pathway that I took. After JV2, I started getting work as a contemporary dancer. I still do some commercial stuff, but it’s mainly contemporary-heavy and worked with Jasmin Vardimon Company, performing in Tannhäuser at the Royal Opera House as well as now leading on educational projects for the company.
Q: What are your ambitions for the future?
I basically want to do everything! I want to be a dancer, a teacher, to choreograph and to have my own company. I’m not sure in what order though! Being a freelancer, you tend to have big gaps in work so I’m hoping I can do choreography when I’m not dancing or performing. I can do teaching all throughout the year as it can be a regular thing and if you are lucky you can be flexible with teaching. So mainly I’ll do teaching, but then stop that for a while when I perform and then hopefully get choreography when I’ve got gaps in performing. The Youth Dance Company at Gulbenkian has been a great opportunity to work choreographically with some really talented performers.
Q: What advice would you give to young people wanting to get into contemporary dance or choreography as a career?
I’d say you need to be determined in whatever you want to do. You need high self-motivation. Some days it can be really hard to get out of bed in the morning when your body is absolutely in pieces and you have full days of rehearsals. It’s different to dancing as a hobby as sometimes you might not connect with the piece that you’re doing or the choreographer that you’re working with. You have to be able to look past that and learn how to look at things in a different light. Then again, I’ve been quite lucky and haven’t had much of that. Everything I’ve done I’ve actually really liked, so it’s always been a pleasure to get up and work, even when my body’s in bits! From my year at Laban, there’s about 96 of us that wanted to be dancers, and only about 20 of us that are actually doing it! It can really get on top of you but you just need to learn your own way of dealing with that, because it’ll be different for everyone.