Patrick de Bana x Masakatsu Shimoda
The dancer and choreographer Patrick de Bana visited Japan in March with Manuel Legris’ concert “Stars in Blue” where he created a new work for star dancers Manuel Legris and Olga Smirnova called “OCHIBA～When leaves are falling〜(commissioned by Aichi Prefectural Art Theater)".
During the tour, we had a photo session which was quite unique, collaboration with the artist Masakatsu Shimoda who creates sculptures of stuffed dinosaurs made with cotton canvas that you can wear. The dinosaurs were worn at the Paris collection runway of the fashion brand Commes des Garcons Autumn/ Winter 2018 which surprised many, even the artist himself.
Masakatsu Shimoda has loved dinosaurs since he was a boy and started making dinosaurs because he couldn’t find what he wanted at the dinosaur exhibition of National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. These came to be recognized as a cool high art all over the world.
Masakatsu arranged a large number of headpieces in the studio on the day of shooting and put them on Patrick by himself. Masakatsu shined his eyes on the figure of Patrick dancing as soon as he wore it, and said, “It seemed like a secret ritual. Patrick was like a god.”
We had a word with Patrick the day after the shooting, just before the performance.
we all felt connected to Africa
“I showed today the photos from the session to Olga Smirnova, Silvia Azzoni and Semyon Chudin, they were like whoa! Normally you know the dancers are always taken the same pictures, they are always the same. This shooting was perfect, I had a partner, it was like a performance, I forgot I was in a shooting, I forgot about everybody. This was like a life,”
“Dinosaurs were the first animal, it was our ancestors I think it was nice because everybody in the shooting were calm, and this is a good sign, because you know when things are right, you don't need to be stressed. It was very easy. It was a nice photo session and with nice results. Yumiko chose a very good team. There was the same vibration of the people, so immediately when I opened the door it was wow. We spoke the same language inside.”
Patrick dressed in those dinosaurs showed the many faces of his diversity (his father comes from Nigeria while his mother is German) with grace and dignity.
“It was like creating a new choreography. The dinosaur is not a sculpture and not a skeleton because it has life. The pictures were emotional pictures, they spoke about danger, love, reject. The stuffed dinosaurs were a moving art, it depends on which angle you see, it looks different by seeing from different sides. You know what I felt yesterday? I felt very tribal, very African. I didn't feel like European. Yesterday it was my African side. Or like Native American. I had lived in Africa and suddenly I could smell. I could feel the drums. The music was Anthony and the Johnsons but I could hear different music from the universe, the beat of the drums and the jungle. Because life begun in Africa. Dinosaurs were in Africa. Africa was the origin of life. It was like a ritual yesterday. I felt old yesterday, but so nice. I think we all felt connected to Africa. The pictures are almost diabolic.”
“When I say diabolic it is not to be afraid. I love vampires. I love Dracula. They are a creature that reached eternity. But it is very sad because everyone else dies the ones you love. I love them not because of the blood. This creature is not human, and very sad. It is a curse.”
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I want to give a voice to the animals
Patrick de Bana’s new work "OCHIBA～When leaves are falling～" was a beautiful and lyrical piece of silent and impossible love that perfectly fit two stars Olga Smirnova and Manuel Legris, and was highly praised by both critics and fans.
“Tonight you will see this kind of emotion in my work "OCHIBA～When leaves are falling～". I was reading the book "Silk" by Alessandro Baricco before creating "OCHIBA～When leaves are falling～" and you know when time stands still. I wanted to open a door a little bit to eternity. Everything is fading away in life. Everything is dying. We have the cherry blossoms, everyone loves it but it falls and it is like a funeral. Life is a gift but at the same time very sad. The things I love and the dogs I have”.
“That is why I want to give a voice to the animals. They cannot speak, oh they do speak. The animals they know much more than we do. They don't need to talk, they look and they feel, they smell. They can smell if someone is afraid. They can smell animals and they can smell if someone is sad. It is communication in a different dimension. It is higher, much higher. The whales, when the whales go down the ocean, they make a sound. When we take communication we have to explain everything. That is why “Ochiba”, my piece is a quiet, silent one. Manuel said to me, just do what your heart tells to do in this moment. Whales go down like 1,000 meters, into the darkness, no light. They go down and swim. I was trying to feel their power. What they hear, what they receive. The sound they give it is like gods, heaven speaking. I think heaven is speaking through animals. They are the messengers. The humans are saying they are so big, so powerful and wonderful. We might be very advanced, but we forget to feel. So basically when someone forgets to feel you are not powerful. Money doesn't make you powerful. High position doesn't make one powerful. Because you know, at the end, you have the good memories to take with you. So when you die it is the soul that you take with you. When the rich people die, they die the same way as the poor people.”
Why you have to be a star to make magic? Your body should be able to speak something to the world
Patrick has been working a lot with some of the biggest names in dance, although he always stays humble and modest, warm. You can see his secret in his words, the love of all animals in the word.
“Animals don't make the difference whether you are white or black, Japanese, Chinese, Korean or Australian. I think that is what the world should be; even the dance world should be like this. I say, why you have to be a star to make magic. I think it is a shame about the star system. I am lucky because I work with wonderful people, Zakharova, Legris, Smirnova, Guerin, Dupont, Vasiliev, my CV is full of big names. My mentor Maurice Bejart, he didn't care if you had a big name or not. He cared about if your body is able to speak something to the world. This is what is missing in the dance world. I was born in Germany, I have lived in Africa, my mother is white, my father is African, and since I was very small I was always Ying and Yang, night and day. You know the magic is not inside the title. This is why I like doing back to the animals, because they don't care who you are. They don't care where you are from. All they care is love, unconditional love. They always give back the love you give.”
Patrick is often disturbed by the brutality people show with game hunting, and posts many images of the harm given to the animals on his Facebook.
“I post a lot about animals on my Facebook, and there are people who don't like it. Life is not easy, so why should we pretend. I'd like to speak about everything. Speak about the good things and speak about the bad things. I'd like to speak about the things that really hurt me, what they do to animals in Africa, like cut the head off the elephant to get ivory for ivory trade. I put those pictures on Facebook because I think the world has to know the truth. People sometimes write to me, "Why do you put this, I was about to have breakfast but now I can't have breakfast because I feel sick". But I will do this until my last day. And that's why I love Sylvie Guillem so much. Because she has a lot pf love to the animals, and to the environment. You know she is awake; Sylvie Guillem is connected to both ballet and reality.”
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We have to know about other worlds
The super star ballerina Sylvie Guiellem who retired in 2015 tried to save the animals left behind after the earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan that occurred in 2011.
“You know, you can never leave a dog behind, he always reminds of his master. Of course I know about the dog Hachi that became a statue at Shibuya Station. He was waiting for his master for years every day, in the morning and in the evening, but his master was dead and did not come, but his dog was there until the last day. This is real love. “
“I know Sylvie Guillem performed “Bolero” in Fukushima after the earthquake, she is so powerful. I know her through Manuel when we did the Manuel and Friends with her. I appreciate so much of her; she is one of the greatest. She was, and she will be. She is unique and coming from another planet, and one day she will go back to her planet. But what I like very much with her is that she is not limited and I think this is so important. “
“Dancers are focused on themselves but you know there will be a life after dancing, the life after will be waiting for us. So if you don't take care of this, you will have a hard time. One day the curtain will go down and will not go up again. This day will come to all of us. We have to know about other worlds. I was very lucky since I was young, because I could not be one way, I had to try to be special, I just had to try to survive myself, I just tried to find the best way for myself. I tried to make it poetic, beautiful, and dreaming as possible. There is not one formula. All of us are unique, so that is why it is important that each one of us find his own personal logic for life.”
I think the most important thing we did yesterday was, we were dreaming. We were playing. We were thinking that your wonderful occasion was just enough, you just have to wish, or believe like Yumiko's little daughter seeing things at the photo shoot. It was like “The Little Prince”, "We should not stop dreaming" There are things that are not visible but we can see. Life is inspiring. But maybe you don't recognize the moment when it is happens, but many years later maybe you will see. “
I love working with diverse cultures
Patrick de Bana is in full demand as a choreographer, and has many plans coming. And his viewpoints are truly unique.
“Last week I was in China rehearsing my ballet "Echoes of Eternity" at Shanghai Ballet, it is a 1,500 years old story from the Tang dynasty, and after that I will start a new ballet in Moscow, Stravinsky's "The Wedding" (Les Noces) at Sats Theatre. After this I go back to China, I give master classes in Turkey in the summer, and I will start in Autumn my personal private project, "Medea" for one singer and five dancers, and I will do Death. I love this working with diverse cultures. In “Medea” the singer will be from Iran, TARA TIBA is her name. The more different,, the more colorful, the stranger, the better.”
As he mentioned, Patrick is inspired by many Japanese artists such as the designer Yoji Yamamoto, but his utmost idol is the Kabuki actor Tamasaburo Bando, who is a National Treasure in Japan and known for his collaboration with diverse artists.
“Hopefully I manage next week to see Tamasaburo Bando whom I love; he is the peak of ancient art. he is representing male and female in one person, I know him, we talked a lot and met many times, and he has a certain vibration around him, which is like not human, he is coming from a long time ago. He has reincarnated, he is an Onnagata (male actor playing female roles in Kabuki) this life, but he has last 10 lives. For me he is perfection, he is Ying and Yang, male and female, he has both. I was there when he collaborated with Jorge Donn. It was my first year at Bejart's company. That is when I fell in love with him, met him for the first time. I thought I saw what my eye could not take. So I thought, he is a creature, a heavenly creature. He is like the phoenix. He is sacred.”
The totally expressive and one of a kind artist Patrick de Bana, unique and independent, is also a deep and warm person, his harmony with the ancient creatures from another era made an unforgettable impact and was, stunning.
Transparent coat￥51,000／A.A.Spectrum （WANDERLUST DISTRIBUTION）
Print shorts￥42,000／yoshiokubo （yoshiokubo）
Leggings￥20,000／CW-X×Nishioka Pencil （ESTEEM PRESS）
Starring: Patrick de Bana
Headpieces: Masakatsu Shimoda
Photographer: Yumiko Inoue
Stylist: Aya Fukushima (OTUA)
Make Up: Itsuki (UM)
Interviewer: Naomi Mori
Art Director: Yuichi Ishii (OTUA)
Special Thanks: Aichi Prefectural Art Theater
Transparent poncho￥38,000／Yeti （BUTSU / YOKU STORE）
Patrick de Bana
Born in Hamburg by a German mother and a Nigerian father, Patrick de Bana studied at the school of Hamburg Ballet, before he was engaged at the Bèjart Ballet Lausanne (directed by Maurice Bèjart) in 1987, where he shortly after got promoted to a principal dancer.
He left Bèjart Ballet Lausanne in 1992 in order to join the Compania Nacional de Danza of Spain (directed by Nacho Duato). As a principal dancer he stayed over ten years. In his repertoire are choreographers such as: Nacho Duato, Jiri Kylian, Ohad Naharin, William Forsythe, Mats Ek, Hans van Manen, etc.
In 2003 he created his own company, the Nafas Dance Company. With his company and as a guest artist, Patrick travelled throughout many countries around the world: Turkey, Holland, Cuba, Israel, Colombia, Japan, South and North-America, Australia, New Zealand Patrick choreographed and performed in the movies „Iberia“ (2004) and „Fados“ (2006), both directed by the well known Spanish film director Carlos Saura. One year later he toured around Europe with the world famous Fado singer Mariza.
Patrick de Bana created a new version of „Marie-Antoinette“ for the Wiener Staatsballett. And he also created „Rain Before it Falls“ with Svetlana Zakharova and „Lost Heaven“ with Mathieu Ganio and Hervè Moreau of the Paris Opera Ballet.
In 2017 Patrick premiered his triple bill evening „Three colors of Love“ (including „Rite of Spring“, „Ludwig II“, „Windgames“) at the Shanghai Ballet in China. Also in late 2017 Patrick de Bana participated in gala performances of „Manuel Legris and Friends“ in Tokyo, Japan. In 2018 he created and premiered the ballet „Broken Wings“ for the Bundesjugendballett of the Hamburg Ballett directed by John Neumeier.
Mid 2018 Patrick created „Medea“ as a Solo-Version for Laura Hecquet, Etoiles of the Paris Opera Ballet, which was premiered at „Un Violin de Sable Festival“ in France. Patrick de Bana closed the year 2018 with his inspiring creation of „Dreams of a Traveller – A Tale from Muharraq“. It was created in Madrid, Spain and premiered successful in Bahrain in November 2018.
In March 2019 Patrick premiered his new ballet „Silk/Ochiba“ at the gala performances „Manuel Legris and Stars in Blue“ in Tokyo, Japan. This emotionally intense duet was danced by Manuel Legris and Olga Smirnova.
In terms of upcoming projects Patrick de Bana is preparing several new productions for the Ballet Company of the Butler University Indianapolis, the Moscow State Academy Theatre, the Shanghai Ballet and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
In 2020 he will premiere his latest ballet „Notre Dame de Paris“ which he is currently creating for the Liaoning Ballet in Shenyang, China.
Masakatsu Shimoda was born in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan in 1967. He began to draw portraits with color pencils of people he met during his travelling in the period of 1994~6. He started to create handmade stuffed dinosaur masks for his private work in 2011. The fashion brand Commes des Garcons made use of his stuffed dinosaur masks for their 2018 A/W Mens Collection in Paris, which became his Paris Collection debut. He has several publications, the recents ones including "Dinosaur Humans" (PARCO Publishing) and "There was a Dinosaur" (Switch Publishing)