Cecilia Bengolea was born in Argentina in 1979 but has lived in Paris since 2001. Before graduating in philosophy and art history in Buenos Aires, she studied under Eugenio Barba, founder of the International School of Theatre Anthropology in Denmark. In France, Bengolea honed her contemporary-dance-based practice with Mathilde Monnier, but always with a basis in an ethnological approach to street dance. Ragga, hip-hop, dancehall – Bengolea does them all, to every kind of music, and sometimes even puts on ballet points for classical dance. As well as founding, with François Chaignaud, a dance company with a difficult-to-pronounce name – Vlovajob Pru –, she continues to collaborate with con- temporary artists. At the 2015 Biennale de Lyon and the 2016 São Paulo Biennial, she showed videos that she made with Jeremy Deller, while more recently she has taken part in performances by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. This relationship with fine art is natural for her, since she sees dance as an animated sculpture – often humorously, as was the case, for example, with Same Same Joy, her piece inspired by Thai boxing that was shown in early 2017 at the Elevation 1049 exhibition in Gstaad. For this extraordinary performance, she danced to techno beats in a fluorescent catsuit against a colourful video backdrop projected onto a ski slope.
Numéro: How did you come to make an artistic career out of dance?
Cecilia Bengolea: In Argentina, film, theatre and literature are very popular disciplines, but not so much dance. At 18 I went on a self-discovery trip to the north of the country where I met indigenous tribes who organized rituals to help me understand what I wanted to do – rituals involving fire, snakes, mushrooms and tree branches.
Do you consider yourself an artist, a choreographer, a dancer or a per- formance artist?
Dance is a means of expression within a structure – choreography. I like to have choreographic ideas, but also to let dance speak freely, without choreography. A performance is about sharing an experience. In my videos, I can show dance from a different angle to in a gallery or a performance. If I chose dance it’s because it seemed to me the most immediate medium with which one can communicate.
“At the time, I was stripping on the Champs-Élysées, not only to pay my bills, but also because I was conducting research into erotic dance and the social conscience of sexual objects.”