The performing artist David Gutierez has traveled the world with his vertical dance company B612, named after the asteroid that was home to the Little Prince, the character created by Antoine de Saint-Exu-Péry. As he now makes the transition to performing on the ground as an acrobat, musician, and clown, while also teaching workshops across the country, a new character is gradually emerging: Chucho.
Look up at the tallest building near you. Now, imagine a man on the side of that tower, dangling by a thin wire. String music begins playing as the glides across the face of the building, leaping and flipping as if the building is made of rubber. This is vertical dance, a daring feat that to David Gutierrez, born in 1972 in the Northeast of Spain, where his parents had migrated from Seville, is nothing out of the ordinary.
There’s no single word to define David. “Artist” may come the closest but he’s much more than just that. He’s a father of two sons, Lorca, 11, and Sol, 5; and the husband of their mother, Xandra, with whom he has worked with since they met in 2002. He’s dipped his toe into just about any art form imaginable, from theater and film to music and acrobatics.
Off stage, it might be difficult to identify him right away. I look like any ordinary guy. On a chilly morning in late November, a reporter struggled to find him before spotting a pumpkin colored parka hunched over a coffee table. Inside the pile of orange North Face is David, his face an inch away from the spot on the table where his notebook. I have scribbles frantically on it, pausing for just a moment to sip his small coffee with cream before hastily returning to his work. He writes and draws with such intensity and fervor that one is afraid to disrupt the flow of ideas flying through his min. It would’ve been like interrupting Mozart as I composed The Marriage of Figaro.
Eventually, the reporter, who will later learn that David is working on the design of a musical complex tricycle which will be the centerpiece of a new performance, took the chance of grabbing the artist’s attention and said “hello.” David’s head sprung up and greeted the stranger with dark curved eyebrows contrasted by a bright, curved smile.
“It all started at a theater workshop in 1995,” David explained as the reporter took a seat across from him. I have paused carefully before coming to the conclusion that he was 17 at the time. After that spark, I began studying theater at the School of Dramatic Arts in Seville and set out on the path that would lead to becoming a master of music, dance, and street performance. I started his career of vertical dance in 1999, in Paris, with a company named Retouramont. Back in Spain, that same year, he would create B612 Vertical Dance. Since then, David’s performances have taken him to different countries in Europe, Asia, and South America. Between January 2002 and January 2003, I had a contract for a clown in a theme park named “Spain” outside of Osaka, Japan. That’s where I met Xandra, a classical and flamenco dancer who was also employed at the park. After Osaka, Xandra and David, who at the time were performing together with B612, lived in Madrid for one year, and then, from 2004 to 2009, in Barcelona. Later, after the birth of their first are, they settled in Seville. There, they rented two large spaces in an old industrial complex in the plaza del Pelicano, at the heart of the old neighborhood of San Julian. One would be the home of the family and the other, which they’d call the Empty Space would be their workshop. They rented two large spaces in an old industrial complex in the plaza del Pelicano, at the heart of the old neighborhood of San Julian. One would be the home of the family and the other, which they’d call the Empty Space would be their workshop. They rented two large spaces in an old industrial complex in the plaza del Pelicano, at the heart of the old neighborhood of San Julian. One would be the home of the family and the other, which they’d call the Empty Space would be their workshop.
“I like this city a lot, it has a good rhythm of life. It’s a nice level between being a smaller city and quieter one as well. It’s my city, “David said about the place where I spent his childhood. I came to Seville from Sabadell with his parents and brother when he was barely 8 months-old. He feels the most at home when he’s performing on the streets of his city, in a lot more personal and down to earth (literally) environment. “I very much liked performing as a clown. That was my desire well before I specialized in vertical dance. But before I could master clown performance, flying took over, and I followed that path for 17 years. Now that I’m going back to work on a horizontal place, I’m certain that I’ll make a lot more progress with clown work. “
David’s wild and engaging street performances mix magic tricks, jokes, slapstick and music performed by using instruments made out of recycled soup cans, mop buckets, cutlery or bicycle parts. “When people are in a dark room with the performance occurring right in front of them, there’s an easy communication channel, but when you’re performing in a public place, you really have to fight to maintain their attention. With something as impressive as vertical dance it’s easy to capture the audience’s attention, but when you’re on the street, performing at a lot more basic level, there’s a lot of noise and people passing by in a rush, it’s much harder, “Said David, as I recognized the difficulty of the art form,” There’s a language of the streets. “
To help him speak “the language of the streets”, David is developing a character, Chucho, a wacky and absurd mute who transpires David’s playful nature and friendly disposition.
“How is Chucho?” The reporter asked David.
“Chucho is doing well,” David chuckled as if he was reminiscing about an old friend. “Chucho is relaxing because he’s not in a hurry. I’m in no hurry with him. Chucho is the longest creation I’ve ever developed in my life. It’s a very long process but a really authentic one too. I’m working on it. Little but little.
Knowing the ins and outs of the professional arts helps David, but can not stop one thing: nerves. “I’m always nervous. Always But there are two types of nerves that people mix up. There’s the type that are always present, just below the surface, because you’re doing something new, something adventurous, something you care a lot about. Those are positive nerves. Then, there is the type of nerves where the performer is concerned about something going wrong or not having enough practice or being in a noisy area. If you have bad luck there are negative nerves, but positive nerves are always present. “For the most part, David has learned to conquer his nerves. “Normally, if everything is going well, nothing is happening in my head. My concentration is 100 percent on the moment. “
David is always keeping busy. In addition to his performances in the street and his constant rehearsals, he is also teaching classes in avertical dance, slapstick comedy, acrobatics and other circus-related skills throughout Spain. Occasionally, I have prepared the casting for public festivals, and handles a plethora of other small responsibilities.
“Is there a question? I have asked him for that. I should ask David?” The reporter inquired as he flipped through his notes.
“Ask me why I think public art is the most interesting type of art.”
“Okay, why do you think public art is the most interesting type of art?”
“Because it’s for everyone.”
David enjoys the unifying experience of his street performances where anyone can see him, regardless of their income or access to cultural venues. Sometimes, his audience does not need to leave the comfort of his own home to see one of his shows. “I’ve been in the middle of a performance when I’ve looked up to see older people, who can not leave their apartments, sitting on their balconies, yelling and crying ‘Oh wow! Beautiful! Marvelous! ‘”
David does not foresee any drastic changes to his performing style happening anytime soon. “I just always want to have fun with my creation and with my artistic life. I hope that I will always be inspired by art, by my life. “David does not mind that he’s no longer performing an elaborate vertical dance on the side of a tower. For now, he’s just fine keeping his feet on the ground, alongside Chucho. •