Culture, Globe, Latin America, On Stage, United Kingdom

Renato Rocha: accelerating understanding of diversity

He is the Director of ‘Acelere’ the production by Circolombia now in London: a different way of using art as a means of social integration. The Prisma’s Memoirs. May 2015


Renato Rocha

Interview: Juanjo Andrés Cuervo


Born in Brazil, Renato Rocha has spent many years working in London.

His main interest is in the convergence of so many cultures here, and bringing them together in theatre as a way of “understanding and respecting differences”.

As a director he has worked in many countries: India, Tanzania, Egypt, Kenya, Germany and the US amongst others have seen his work. And London has been the city which has been witnessing his work in recent weeks, with applause and good critical reviews in the press.

This is not by accident because his intention is that through his work artists find their places and “take the risk of making decisions”.


“Acelere” is about understanding the world in its diversity, and with this in mind he was concerned to include a team of Colombians that would combine “the grace of contemporary circus with the rigour and danger of traditional shows”.

The Prisma listened to Renato, inquiring about his opinions and experiences in travelling and sharing his art.

From his travels he says that he has learned about the value of people and diversity, and that “each culture contributes new things”.

He is sure that he is “learning many things from each country”, especially how to “look more deeply into the nature of the human being, without being prejudiced, and to value intercultural exchanges”.

He also says that the world, artistically speaking, “is very interested in Latino people”, because “we have something special, we train ourselves differently, we have hot blood, and that means we have an intense relationship with our audiences”.

Apart from its theatre productions, Circolombia is involved with the Circo para Todos foundation (Circus for All), which helps children from poor homes to develop their artistic talents.

How did the idea for “Acelere” come about?

The idea came from the Roundhouse. I directed “The dark side of love”here in 2012 and it was a good experience.

Circolombia was looking for a director and The Roundhouse asked me if I could direct the project.

For me the human being is very important and this is a work involving people.

In “The dark side of love” the actors were from Brazil and London. Was there a feeling of togetherness among them?

Sure, and I have always been interested in London because it is a place of convergence, where people from many different countries live together. Each culture can offer new things and the exchange makes us more complete as human beings. I have worked with Arabs, English people, Italians, Spaniards and Brazilians . . . . It was a very good experience.

As a Latin American living in London, do you think there is discrimination against immigrants?

A little. There is the fear that immigrants are taking jobs from English people. Personally I don’t feel any discrimination because I am here as an artist and am well received. But I think we have to understand immigration in its entirety. So my task is to bring different cultures to work together, so that we can understand and respect our differences and in doing so become more complete ourselves.

How long did it take to put on this production?

We began work in October, first with a search to find the artists. Colombia possesses many interesting contrasts and we wanted to include this diversity in our team. And to do that we wanted to bring together contemporary and traditional circus. The first thing was a discussion between the different circuses to fuse together the beauty of contemporary circus with the rigour and danger of the traditional kind. The next stage was developing the acts, and the third was the rehearsals. Besides that we spent a month in Paris working on the final details.

Is Latino art important on a global scale?

We Latinos have something important which other continents don’t have, so they are interested in us as artists.

We train ourselves differently and we are hot-blooded; we have strong relationships with our audiences because we use our bodies differently. I have worked in many countries and I am always well received as a Brazilian.

And I am learning a lot in each country, how to look at the human being in a deeper way, not to have prejudices, and to value cultural exchanges.

Among the countries you have worked in where would you prefer to live?

London is the place that has contributed most to my work, but I always have a special welcome in Africa.

It is like being at home because they have a cultural link with Brazil.

In India too we were very well received and it was very positive for my work.

Circolombia supports children from poor backgrounds, how is ‘Circo para Todos’ developing this work?

Circolombia would like to show these children a different way of taking risks, not in the streets but through art.

The Circo para Todos foundation has changed many lives and continues to work very actively.

From now on we want to offer people a qualification and find work for them as artists.

In recent years the countries of Latin America have been encouraging an ideal of cooperation. How do you see the situation?

It is good; we have to help each other because if we join together we can travel further. We need to understand that each person is unique and different; that each culture has something special. If we succeed in understanding how much we can grow in our diversity, this cooperation will be very rich.

Where does the name “Acelere” come from?

We have to find our own space in the world, where we can stimulate our surroundings, and as human beings we need to understand this dynamic.

“Acelere” deals with understanding diversity and being connected to the world.

We are very interested in talking about the human being. I think that in big productions the motivation is much more important than the ‘show business’.

I always work with people, and through these artists, to show the possibilities of a different world. “Acelere” consists in taking care of this platform so that artists can find their places; so that they can be daring when they take decisions and not allow social systems to do it for them.

What is your next project going to be?

I have two. One is to direct a Brazilian circus company which began 15 years ago as a social project, and is now also a professional circus. We are taking this company on tour around the world to showcase Brazilian art.

And we also have a project for the International Theatre Festival in London. The idea is to enrich the artists based here, and at the same time to promote an exchange so that artists from different cultures can work together.


 (Translated by Graham Douglas)

(Photos authorized and provided by David Levene)


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