The Art of Willpower

Students perfom respiratory exercises / ELENA ESCRIBANO

Since 1996, Danza Mobile is a space of creation that unites the arts and intellectual disability. From their rehearsal studio under the bridge of Crito de la Expiración of Seville, they rise the motto of the overcoming and use art as an instrument of personal development.

The classroom is full of fantastic wire figures covered with colored threads. Scattered on the shelves or hanging from the ceiling like children’s mobiles, there are dragons, birds and fish. From an orange wall, a mirror stands out that reflects all the students as they imitate the exercises performed by the theatre teacher, Arturo Parrilla. Suddenly, everyone sits at the back of the classroom between puppets and paintings, except for a boy and a girl who, with their backs to their classmates, put on masks. They are not themselves anymore. Now they are the old Pantalones and the seductive Colombina. With soft music, they begin to dance across the stage, approaching each other timidly, looking from one end of the room to the other, moving away in anger or jumping with joy together. Words no longer exist, only the improvised language of gestures.

The dancer Esmeralda Valderrama and the psychologist Fernando Coronado began the project Danza Mobile, which was created in 1996 in collaboration with the School of Dance, with such success that was later expanded to the Creation Centre and the Danza Mobile Company. “I’ve always been very attracted to diversity because I think different bodies greatly enrich the scene. Then, a choreographer friend told me that in Madrid there was a woman whose disabled daughter was working with a group. So, I went to see her. It was the Psycho Ballet School of Maite León,” explains Esmeralda, director of Danza Mobile. “When I came back to Seville, I founded Dance Mobile.”

For these classes, where they breathe creativity, there are about 90 students per year whose ages range from 2 to 60 years. In this centre, they learn a wide artistic range with the goal of developing themselves personally and professionally in this field. They learn the magic of improvisation with theatre, the movement of the body with dance, the imagination of creating a caracter in the puppet workshop or how to weave their own clothes in the textile classes, among other training activities. “My favourite class is photography. In fact, I have exhibited with several of my classmates and I sold a few pieces,” says Carmen Candelera, a student, sitting on the floor of the theatre class with her legs stretched out and hidden under a white tracksuit. She has short, brown hair, with a cheerful look behind her metal glasses and a smile that lights up her face. She has been with Danza Mobile since she was six years old, along with her friend Rocío Flores, one of the first to enter. Now she is 29 and continues day by day in the centre. “The school is a family to me and I want to continue on with them and learn new things,” she says as she tightly embraces her schoolmate Dania Mellado. Carmen also participates in a project of community living organized by Danza Mobile. This project involves several students living together in a flat in Triana along with a monitor of the school who teaches them different home tasks so that they can take care of themselves. “I already know how to scrub, use the washing machine, go grocery shopping and also cook,” Carmen says. “And I make delicious breaded fillets,” she says, bringing her hand to her mouth as a sign of absolute exquisiteness.

Helliot and Irene, students at Danza Mobile / ELENA ESCRIBANO

Each one is a great creator in the City of Art. Apart from Carmen and her talent with the camera, there is the actor and dancer, Helliot Baeza, a member of the Danza Mobile Theatre Company. He is a young man, 28 years old, tall, strong and with brown hair. He also has a beard that outlines his childish face. “Thanks to the theatre, I have travelled to Russia, Italy and Spain. Now, I’m going back to Germany for a couple of days with the José Galán Company of Flamenco, with which I’ll put on the work El Aprendiz, he shares with a smile while looking at all his colleagues. “My dream is to know all the world and become a profesional dancer. In addition to continuing in this school, which I consider my home,” confesses Helliot, receiving a loud applause from the students for his sincere words. His classmate, Luis Postigo, a 26-year-old boy with shaven hair, rectangular glasses and loose clothes, wants to follow in the footsteps of his best friend in school. “I want to become a great dancer, like Helliot. We go to school together and we are very good friends. In the future, I would love to be as good as him,” he confesses timidly with his eyes lowered. In addition to their fondness for dance, they are inclined to paint and do oral narrations. He, along with his classmate Dania Mellado, is going to take part in the storytelling Los diseñadores de insectos, directed by teacher Esther Yamuza and interpreted at the XI Festival Escena Mobile. Dania will also perform at the inauguration of the event with the Batucada, a drum and dance circle. “I really like music, especially playing the xylophone. It’s my favourite instrument,” says this curly-haired girl with a broad smile, proud of her talent. “I also love theatre classes with Arturo, where I act like Doctor Pluscuamperfecto,” says Dania putting her voice deeper, putting her hands on her hip and raising her face seriously to embody the character. Her comrades laugh and applaud the excellent performance.

Arturo Parrilla gives Felipe instrucions before acting / ELENA ESCRIBANO

In Dance Mobile, teaching is a mutual process. At times, the teachers are the ones who take life lessons from the students, like with actor and theatre teacher, Arturo Parrilla. “The day I come with my mind open for them to break from my outline is wonderful because their spontaneity, language and imagination make me discover things I didn’t see. It is a joint trip between them, as a group, and I, as a teacher. We find the road together, but we don’t know which it is yet, because something new is always being added.”

The talent of these young people will be demonstrated from April 19 to May 12 at the XI Escena Mobile Festival, which will unite art and diversity in Seville’s streets and stages. This event features the Welsh theatre company Hijinx Theatre, the French storyteller Marc Buleón and the Cordovan association Alas Circo Teatro, among other national and international collaborators. In addition, this year the First Choreographic Contest Mobile Scene of inclusive dance premieres, to which pieces are presented paired with an interpreter with a disability. This show brings together the diversity of art and disability so that different companies learn from each other and form new friendships and projects to create together to fight for these groups.

When the song ends, Pantalones and Colombina say goodbye. Each one goes to one end of the stage with his back to the audience. They remove the masks and turn to their companions who receive them with applause and cheers for their excellent improvisation. The performance is over, but Danza Mobile is always on the move.