Anderson Carvalho is a Brazilian-Dutch choreographer who is based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. His company Anderson Carvalho Dance & Choreography (ACDC) was established there in 2018. Each year, Carvalho lives and works for a few months in Cape Town. ACDC is committed to fostering the intersection of dance, across nations, geographies, cultures. In 2022, ACDC, launched a dance platform in Cape Town, featuring a work by ACDC and works by guest companies. This month, May 2023 and it is launching its Inaugural Dance Intersect platform in Cape Town – with two works by ACDC and works by three guest companies from Cape Town. Dance Intersect is on May 18, 19, 20, 2023 at the heritage venue, The Joseph Stone Auditorium in Athlone – a space which was a beacon of hope during Apartheid for creatives on the wrong side of the colour bar. ACDC’s new work, The Intimacy of the Skin, will be premiere at Dance Intersect 2023. Read on for more about this company, which is completely self-funded and has not looked for sponsorship in South Africa. With Dance Intersect, Carvalho and ACDC is dedicated to providing a platform and remunerating, South African dancers and independent companies so that they benefit creatively and financially. It is envisaged that Dance Intersect will tour the African continent. Europe and USA:

Origin story

Where in Brazil did you grow up? Can you tell us about your life?

Anderson Carvalho: I come from Fortaleza, one of the biggest cities in Brazil, located in the North East and known for its beaches. I grew up in a favela – which is the Brazilian equivalent of a township. I come from a very poor family. My parents divorced early in my life. My mother had to work when I was very young. My sister of nine years old had to become our mother, taking care of my brother and myself. I grew up living in the streets; living from social projects to social projects, eating at the neighbours. I know what it means to have poverty at the table: I witnessed my mother crying many times because we didn’t have food to eat for days. I know tragedy in the living room. When I was young, I used to knock at peoples’ doors and ask for food and I would take that home. I collected garbage and sold whatever recycled material there was- to get some money – to buy food for our family.

The journey to dance – through clowning and making people laugh

Do you come from a dance inclined family? What led you to dance?

Anderson Carvalho: I come from a family where art was never an option. The only aim was to make sure that we had at least beans to eat and survive. I am the one and only in my family to have a degree, – a masters degree in art. My father was a building constructor. He used to write when he was young, but he had to work and leave his dreams behind. I started to have a connection with my father the past few years. He passed away December last year [2022].

What led me to dance was the need to escape poverty and have a place to eat. My first contact with art was when I visited an amateur circus that arrived in my neighbourhood. I made friends with the artists. They allowed me in for free. I was enchanted. I asked my mother if I could attend a social circus art project, Circo Escola Bom Jardim, near our house because I wanted to be a clown. I wanted to make people laugh, wanted to make people happy. The social circus project was first a place to escape from poverty. We knew that we would get a meal a day and would be off the streets, while my mother was working as a cleaner.

Experiences of dance/theatre

What is your first memory of seeing dance in a theatre or a performance or perhaps in the street or at a carnival or parade?

Anderson Carvalho: My first memories of seeing a performance was an amateur circus performance. It was magic to see all these people who lived in poverty having a few minutes of happiness. I was around eight years old, I would watch the show and learn all the steps by watching it. After the circus left the neighbourhood I would get their garbage, left-overs such as pieces of rope, plastic and pieces of the tent. I would take these home and build my own circus in the shade of the tree in our backyard. I taught my cousins the clown jokes, we used tooth paste or natural charcoal (carvão) to paint our faces. I would teach my cousins the steps of the performance of the elastic (flexible) woman. And then I would invite all my neighbours to watch our performance at the backyard of my mother. I would even make cocada (or Brazilian coconut bars) a tropical, quick, sweet treat typical to North Eastern Brazil, to give the audience when they arrived at my circus. It was magic, it was real, and it was very important for me as it was the moment of transformation.


Who has influenced you- present and past?

Anderson Carvalho: My life began to change when I took the opportunity to be part of the drama lessons at school, EEMTI CAIC Maria Alves Carioca. My drama teacher, Robinson Aragão encouraged made me to think and question my own reality. Through these drama lessons I learned the power of art- as a tool and vehicle of communication and transformation. I would learn and absorb everything and bring my lessons back home to share with my cousins and friends who were not able to attend the lessons.

I would create my own plays. I began to question my own sense; my own space. I knew I was changing, I was hungry for art and change. The German author, poet, and playwright Bertolt Brecht played a crucial role in this process. I became an observer of my own reality, I was building a sensitive knowledge about myself and my surroundings. At the age 14, I had my first dance audition and was rejected. I was told: “Unfortunately, you don’t have talent for dance”. They simply turned me down, but what they didn’t know that I was hungry. The year after that [age 15], I made my way to the same school to attend drama lessons at that school. A few years later, I was one of the main dancers of the company, EDISCA. At the age of 18, I was the drama teacher and contemporary dance teacher – at the same institution – that had turned me away. There I started to choreograph. This institution was established and supported by Airton Senna, the famous Brazilian Formula 1 driver. As it was a social dance institution, there was no need to pay and I value that I had this incredible opportunity.


Where in Holland do you live? You divide your time between South Africa and Holland?

Anderson Carvalho: I am currently based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I live between Cape Town and Amsterdam. We spend our time in ‘Summer Amsterdam’, and come to Cape Town when the summer arrives on this side. My partner doesn’t like winters….

The pull to Africa

What brought you to Cape Town? You studied at UCT? What brought you here – to Cape Town – and when was that – the year that you first came here? 

Anderson Carvalho: I always had a dream to do volunteer work somewhere on the African continent. And in 2013, I had my first opportunity to connect to a social dance project in Cape Town.  I got in touch with Philip Boyd via my partner, and he offered me the opportunity to work with the students of Dance For All. I have a strong passion for and commitment to social art projects that use art as tool for social change.

When my partner proposed me to come to Cape Town, I did not hesitate. I knew it would be life changing. I wanted to learn and I had knowledge to share. I wanted to inspire others who live in a similar social context that I used to live in. I have now worked in Cape Town for the ten years. I come every year to Cape Town to teach workshops and to create dance work for dancers, from the townships. I had few works presented at the Main Programme of the Baxter Dance Festival. []

Cape Town – a hub of art as a tool for social change

You are passionate about Cape Town and South Africa. Can you talk about that? Do you regard Cape Town as a 2nd home?

Anderson Carvalho: I am indeed passionate about Cape Town. It is a beautiful city in an amazing country with wonderful, warm and welcoming people. I recognize many of the challenges Brazilians have to live through in the daily lives of the South Africans I engage with. I must admit, as foreigner and a person of colour it can also be challenging to live here. I have heard many times: You blend”. Today I am privileged to transit between different worlds in Cape Town, but I used to live here full-time [2014-2017] and a lot has happened. I heard so many things to contend with, such as: “You have a white soul”, “You are a such coconut”, “Who is this coloured guy with a funny accent?”. There were many rejections, many judgments. We still have a lot to do as a country [South Africa] and as a community we need to learn to walk together. And there lies the importance of art -as a tool for social change, as a tool for transformation.

Dutch in SA – working in the wake of the colonial past

The Dutch East India Company was established in 1652. The number of Dutch in South Africa was around 90 in 1652 and reached 16,000 in 1795.  Cape Town is a port city – with a lot of flux. Your thoughts on working in Cape Town, right now, with load of the history of Colonialism, lingering in South Africa and Holland?

Anderson Carvalho: As I mentioned before, I am a Brazilian of birth and of a disadvantaged background. I therefore can relate strongly to the sensitivities around colonialism. Although the descendants of the native Brazilian population have “blended” more or less with the descendants of the former colonisers, there is still a painful divide between the groups that are perceived more “Native” versus the groups that are perceived more “European”, where the “Natives” are forced to live in favelas where the “Europeans” live in villas and palaces. As I belong to the group perceived as more “Native”, I have grown up in the favelas of the North East of Brazil in a situation that is not much different from the situation of the people that live on the Cape Flats. So I feel their pain. I share their sensitivities regarding colonialism and institutionalized segregation.

I have been a Dutch citizen since 2018 and have lived most of the time in the Netherlands since 2012. This is a country that was once the coloniser of the part of Brazil where I come from as well as the coloniser of South Africa. Living in this former colonising country [South Africa], I can for the first time in my life, live a life where the limits of what I can do and reach, are not dictated by the effects of actions by foreign nations of a few hundred years ago. And although perhaps easy to forget in a country like the Netherlands, I still carry the sensitivity to the issue of colonialism and its inheritance for the millions people that are impacted by its consequences, in every day of their life, on my skin. It will always be with me.

I bring this sensitivity to my choreographies, The Intimacy of the Skin being the prime example. But I also bring this sensitivity to the way we work in South Africa. Colonisers strip a colonised country of everything they can put their hands on. ACDC therefore adheres strictly to the principle- that we only bring to South Africa. We do not take anything away from South Africa. ACDC does not look for South African sponsors or funders. The company sources its funding from overseas. We strongly believe that the limited funds available in South Africa should be for South African dance companies only. We also try to make sure that we pay everyone that participates, assists or contributes in any way to our projects, a very fair remuneration, when possible at premium. And we share our stage with local dance companies and choreographers- offering them the opportunity to perform their art, not for ‘exposure’, but properly commissioned works, remunerated fairly. The latter because we believe that as artists we need to support each other and not treat our arts as a zero sum game, where the success of the one comes at the expense of the other. It doesn’t mean that we have unlimited budget, far from it, but we want to share our privilege of being European funded and the possibilities it brings with the local dance companies that think the same way. Unfortunately not everyone can see it this way, but that is their prerogative. Or maybe it is also the impact of colonialism. Which I understand.

Connecting through dance in Cape Town

How did you connect with Elvis Sibeko and SboNdaba, Mavis Becker? You seem to know everyone in dance in Cape Town?

Anderson Carvalho: I studied for two years at UCT when I lived full time in Cape Town [2014 – 2017], and during that period I was introduced to the Cape Town art scene as I was working with social art projects, parallel to my studies. Since then, I have built a network of people in the art scene. So I know some people, but I am sure I don’t know everyone. I met Elvis in Cape Town during my studies and we met again when we were both working for DOX, an Utrecht/Netherlands based dance project. We spoke about working together. Last year [2022], Elvis partnered in the programme of our first Cape Town performance, When I left The Room. From people in my network, I heard about the wonderful, energetic works that SboNdaba is creating and these people really recommended me to get in touch with the company. Mavis Becker was my teacher at UCT. We always had a great connection.

ACDC – a company is focused on “artistic creation, socio-artistic empowerment”

Your company, ACDC, is focused on “artistic creation, socio-artistic empowerment”. What led you to establish it along the four Pillars Concept: Connection; Relation; Creation; Transformation? Were you inspired by another dance/theatre company in this regard?  When did you establish your company?   

Anderson Carvalho: ACDC was established in 2018 as company, and today [2023] we are a Foundation for Contemporary Dance in the Netherlands.  The Four Pillars Concept was developed based on my experiences and the need for social transformation: Connection – to connect people from different backgrounds, and countries to share their life experiences and artwork; Relation – to create a space to maintain and improve the social relation between artists from different background; Creation – to create a space to allow creation to emerge, give each other an opportunity to create and share their work within an international context; Transformation – To evolve and exchange different knowledge and support one another’s social and artistic growth.

Who is Anderson Carvalho?

Insights into the creative and individual?

Anderson Carvalho: I am an artist, and observer and researcher from my own life, own experiences and the world I live in; I feel the need to connect the world through art, not as an art entertainment, but as a transformative and inclusive process; art to tell a story, art bringing a message. Art as a tool for change. I personally believe that a choreographer, or an artist in general, is a story teller. Art without a story feels just like an empty canvas to me. I am passionate about bringing stories and emotions to an audience.

I feel the need to unite emerging and professional artists; to walk together. As artists we need to leave our shells and reach the ones who are in need, who are starting… it’s about helping each other. Together we are strong, while a divided art scene doesn’t work, just as a divided house cannot stand. I believe that we in the Art Community too often fall in the trap of being divided. We need to move away from approaching our work as a zero sum game, where the success of the one is seen as the loss of the other. Shared platforms, shared audience, jointly developing the art scene, sharing opportunities to travel abroad, etc. ACDC is very open to collaborations with local and international artists and where we can we want to share opportunities with others. Being creative in finding synergies, finding opportunities within the budget limits we all have to deal with.

I know about the transformative power of art through my own personal experience and life story. My involvement in the arts changed my life in unimaginable ways. From collecting garbage to survive, to living in Europe and South Africa, being able to chase my dreams.

My work is a call for social change and goes beyond a set of movements. It is about walking together as a community and understanding where we come from. As an artist I like to take different routes in a creative process, allowing exchange of knowledge. I believe in co-creation; in shared process and the ability to connect with each other, in a different level that goes beyond words.

Choreographing intimacies and connections: Anderson Carvalho. Pic © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.
Anderson Carvalho Dance & Choreography (ACDC) on Social Media

Instagram: @andrsoncarvalho

#dance #art #contemporaryart #brazil #netherlands #southafrica #choreography #acdc    

Watch trailer of The Intimacy of the Skin [premiering 2023]:

✳This interview has been marginally edited for length and clarity. Images: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn:

Dance Intersect 2023 – announcement:

When I Left The Room [2022]- review:

When I Left The Room [2022]- preview: