Born in Venezuela in 1965, José Navas has been based in Quebec since 1991. He has proven himself a talented and charismatic soloist on the international scene and has also created many audacious and striking group pieces. The creator of nearly thirty works as an independent choreographer or as the artistic director of Compagnie Flak, he now focuses his artistic research on the essence and purity of movement. Abstraction, sobriety, intensity and depth are the words that best characterize his current work.
- From Caracas to Montreal, via New York
- Moving forward
- A perfume of success
- The fury of movement
- A return to the roots
- Dance as meditation
- Inextinguishable passion for solos
- Cinema and theatre
- Giving back to the community
- Financial support
- Back to José Navas
José Navas began his dance training in Caracas and continued it in New York, at the Merce Cunningham Studio. During that period, he collaborated with Stephen Petronio, Michael Clark, Lucinda Childs and various other independent choreographers. Among them William Douglas, who created While Waiting for him, a magnificent solo that garnered them a prestigious Bessie Award, the New York prize recognizing excellence in choreography and performance. Together the two artists left New York for Montreal, where they continued to share their passion for dance until the death of the great choreographer and Navas’ life partner in 1996.
The arrival of José Navas in Montréal in 1991 also marked his debut as a choreographer. In 1995, he founded Compagnie Flak. He fully dedicated himself to the company and the result has been more than three hundred performances in twenty countries over eleven years. Since 1996, the artist has been honored abroad and the choreographer has been much sought after by other companies and filmmakers.
The solos Sterile Fields, Bosquejo and Abstraction figured amongst the most notable creations of the early years, as well as the duos Scattered Yields and Luna Llena. In 1998, One Night Only 3/3, a daring and provocative trio, brought Navas his greatest success to date in Canada. José Navas’ reputation has been built upon the sensuality of his work, as well as its ability to reveal the essentials. In 1999, he was named ‘Best Young Foreign Choreographer’ by the European magazine Ballet Tanz Aktuell International. It was at that time that he established the company’s studio.
In 2000, the French magazine L’Express listed José Navas amongst the ‘100 personnalités qui font bouger le Québec’ (100 people who make Quebec tick). He created his first sextet, Perfume de Gardenias, a co-production of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the Joyce Theater in New York, and the Korzo Theatre in the Hague. The poetry and fine calligraphy of the movement in the space revealed a signature that he would refine and develop further over time. The piece played to full houses during three weeks in Montreal and was also performed in New York and London, as well as other cities.
In 2001, the choreographer-dancer joined with a cellist to celebrate the music of Benjamin Britten and Allan Hovhaness in Haman/Navas Project, later called Solo with Cello. ‘At times,’ wrote a critic for Le Devoir, ‘you could say that the cellist was playing literally with his bow on the fibers of the dancer’s muscles.’ The documentary Perpetual Motion, by Laura Taler, recorded the process of creation of this intimate piece, which had a triumphant tour from 2000 to 2003 in a dozen countries including the United States, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Japan and Israel.
A work for six dancers and a live composer, Adela, mi amor, created in 2003, inspired the art film Adéla, which was selected as a finalist in the dance category of the 20th Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de Montréal. In this piece, the choreographer increased the speed of the movement in order to exhaust the body and to achieve movement that was unpretentious and entirely authentic. After its world premiere in Brugge, Belgium, and shows in Sweden, at the Göteborg Dance & Theatre Festival, the piece sold out at Agora de la danse in Montreal. The piece received both public and critical acclaim. ‘The dancers of this strong piece are among the most intense. The piece, without respite, makes a real shock wave in the theatre, which makes the chairs and the skin of the spectators vibrate and rebounds towards the dancers… only to circulate again. (…) A real success!‘ (La Presse).
A duo created for Montréal Danse in 2004, The Heavens, burning with Hours, opened a new chapter in the work of José Navas, one of abstraction and a return to pure movement. With this creation, he discovered an extraordinary richness in the simplicity and deep sense that emerge from movement beyond all intellectual intention. Taking up again the basics of postmodern New York movement, Navas deconstructed phrases of movement, repetition and geometric figures with no desire other than to explore movement and space. He realized that executing movement of extreme precision provoked a transformation in the dancer that was fascinating to observe. A particular state of mind prevailed on stage and resonated with the public, suddenly making the dance a shared experience. With this piece, which had been shown in many Canadian cities and in the United States, José Navas began a sustained collaboration with Montreal composer Alexander MacSween.
‘Something new and fascinating is emerging here in the choreographer’s work,‘ wrote a critic from Le Devoir regarding Portable Dances. Created in 2005, the piece confirmed the artistic turn taken by José Navas. From this point, his research has concentrated on the simplicity of movement and the resonance of bodies in the space. What results is harmonious and complex movement requiring total concentration and presence on the part of the interpreters. The power of this meditative experience – which comes from its unpretentious poetry – has unanimously seduced audiences in Québec and Europe alike.
In 2006, José Navas pursued this approach with Anatomies, a quintet in which he revealed a mechanic precision of bodies in movement. Clarity and formalism are at the source of this choreographic poetry, where the spirit of a dance meditation is stronger still than in Portable Dances.
In 2007, the choreographer’s work entered in to the repertoire of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal with his first solo choreographed on point. Entitled Límpido amor, it was performed by the prima ballerina Anik Bissonnette for her farewell gala.
After seven years devoted to creating group pieces, José Navas renewed his passion for solo work in 2008 with Miniatures. For the first time, he revealed parts of his personal history in a series of seven abstract and romantic solos set to songs he chose due to their personal significance. Choosing to engage in the pure pleasure of dancing, he offered a pause in the pursuit of pure movement with a work full of emotions, overwhelming to both the public and the critics. With this work, he showed the strength and subtlety of a mature dancer and reaffirmed his passion for solo work and his desire to pursue further solo creations.
Since 1995, José Navas has choreographed for and danced in many highly acclaimed films. The Village Trilogy, by Laura Taler won the Prix Cinédanse for Best Canadian Dance Film and Lodela, by Philippe Baylaucq, earned José Navas the prize “Choreography for the Camera” at Toronto’s Festival of Moving Pictures. In 1999, he was nominated for a Gemini Award for his performance in The Golden City, a film by Moze Mossanen. In 2001, filmmaker Laura Taler shifted genres from dance film to documentary, recording the creative process of Haman/Navas Project and the relationship between the choreographer and the cellist.
At the invitation of Wajdi Mouawad, playwright, director and future winner of the Molière prize for Best Living Francophone Writer (2005), José Navas directed the play Les Fleuves profonds, based on a novel by José Maria Arguedas. The play was shown at Théâtre de Quat’Sous in Montreal throughout May 2002.
An engaged citizen in his field, José Navas has made his studio a research centre, a meeting place, and a laboratory of ideas. Seeking to promote the interaction between cultures, disciplines, and generations, José Navas/Compagnie Flak have initiated various activities relevant to the artistic community.
- Choreographic seminars
Initiated in 2000 in Montreal, the Choreographic Seminars bring together five choreographers and five composers for five consecutive days. The purpose is to create one short public performance per day. Each piece involves one to five dancers. The format was so stimulating that it inspired future work by the participants. For example, Richard Siegal, an American choreographer based in Paris, created a solo during the 2000 seminar which he later transformed into a duo presented in New York with Vancouver’s dancer-choreographer Crystal Pite.
- Residency program for young choreographers
From 2000 to 2017, Compagnie Flak offered an artistic residency program. Intent on energizing, equipping and developing the dance milieu, Compagnie Flak offered free studio rehearsal space to young choreographers.
Over seventeen years, more than twenty choreographers have benefited collectively from more than 1500 hours of studio time for their artistic research, choreographic work and, more generally, their professional development.
Over the years, José Navas has given master classes and improvisation classes at P.A.R.T.S (the Belgian school of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker), the Isola Danza Academy of Venice (by invitation from Carolyn Carlson), the Frankfurt University for Music and Performing Arts, the Rotterdam Dance Academy in Holland, in Mito and Tokyo, Japan, as well as in Montreal.
Compagnie Flak has benefited from the financial support of the following co-producers:
- Concertgebouw Brugge (Belgium)
- L’Agora de la danse (Montreal)
- The Joyce Theater (New York)
- Danspace Project (New York)
- CanDance Network Creation Fund (Canada)
- Danse Danse (Montréal)
- National Arts Centre (Ottawa)
- Canada Dance Festival (Ottawa)
- The Centennial Theatre (Sherbrooke)
- Cultuur Centrum Brugge (Belgique)
- Danceworks UK Ltd. (Sheffield)
- Korzo Theater (The Hague)
- Holland Dance Festival (The Hague)
- International Tanzwochen Wien (Vienna)
- Culturgest (Lisbon)
- Kaïitheater (Brussels)
- Springdance Festival (Utrecht)
- Berchem Cultural Centre (Antwerp)
- Merseyside Dance Initiative (Liverpool)
- Tanzprach (Vienne)
- Danse-Cité (Montreal)
- Banff Center for the Arts (Banff)
- Trafo (Budapest)
- Dance in Kotrijk (Courtrai)
- Göteborg Dance & Theatre Festival (Sweden).