Joshua Beamish Tells All

by AVENUE insider Photographed by Craig Foster and Robert Rowland
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Next week, ballet fans in Brooklyn will have access to something very special. Saudade, a new work choreographed by Joshua Beamish, and featuring the dancers David Norsworthy, Sean Aaron Carmon, Kevin Quinaou, Dominic Santia, Timothy Stickney and Lloyd Knight, will open at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on October 11th and run for five performances. In advance of Saudade‘s premiere, AVENUE sat down with Beamish for the inside scoop.


Did you always want to be a dancer?

My mother is actually a ballet teacher, so it wasn’t really a path that I chose for myself initially. I was fairly certain that I wanted to be a film director but I ended up following a path in dance more out of convenience of already having training and contacts in that world, against knowing nothing about film.  For me, being a performer was also secondary to being a choreographer and I’ve rarely ever danced anyone else’s work. In a weird way I don’t really consider myself a dancer anymore, because what draws me to staying involved in dance is the shaping and crafting of it, not its performance or embodiment.

Did your passion for choreography come later or were you always making up routines in your head?

I became the primary choreographer of my dance school by the time I was 14, but I have been performing improvised and self-made choreographiessince I was 5. I was lucky to have a mother who saw that she had a strange child, who was destined for a life in direction. She gave me the space and platform to create and show work at that young age. I don’t recall her ever saying no to my ideas or requests for what I thought I needed to make.

What is your creative process like? Do you go into the studio with a set idea of the movement you want to explore? Or does it all just happen on the spot?

Generally I create everything on the spot. I almost always choose the music first though. I like making phrases with other people around. I think a sense of community is important in making dance, since I’m rarely the one performing what I end up making on my own body. When I work with ballet companies, I almost always make the movement phrases on my own in advance, because you never get enough creation time and the dancers are almost always running from rehearsal to rehearsal. To make the most of your limited time, you need to help them stay focused and energized. It’s hard to do that if you’re stopping to think of where a creative impetus should come from.

What’s coming up for you and your company? 

The big thing coming up is our debut at the BAM Next Wave Festival. I’ve created a new full-length work entitled Saudade which features six outstanding male dancers whose collective credits include leading companies such as Nederlands Dans Theater, Martha Graham Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Sasha Waltz & Guests, and La La La Human Steps. Saudade plays Oct 11-15, 2017 at BAM.

Could you talk a little about how Saudade came together? And the inspiration behind it?

A generous supporter of my work gave me enough funding to bring a group of guys together for a month for a limited number of hours per day. I didn’t realize that I was making an autobiographical work until it was ultimately blatantly obvious.

Saudade is a Portuguese word that has no direct English language translation and I came across it when I was looking to title the piece and had no idea what I was making. For me it directly reflected the way dancing exists – it is abstract, your experience of watching a dance piece would be complete different from mine, because generally dance as a language is less literal and therefore you are projecting your own experience onto it (to a greater degree than something like watching a movie in a language that the whole audience understands). I liked that the word is as abstract to the English language as dance is because saudade has no direct translation in English. The language that I write and speak in, has no single composite for this incredibly complex state of emotional being, so I can only attempt to communicate it through physicality.

The word describes a deep state of melancholic longing for something that may never have happened, for something that you’ve lost and can’t get back, or something that you desire that you will never receive. It is not attached to a particular state of time, so the word can evoke past, present or future. It’s this idea that you can long for things that you don’t even know you want yet. It’s like this weight and this feeling that you carry around with you that is relative to something… an emptiness of some sort.


Saudade runs from October 11 to 15. More information can be found here.


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