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DIVING DEEPER: Q&A with Bruno Roque

Bruno Roque
Q: How did you first become interested in dance?

A: “It was complicated. When I was around 12 years old, my mother decided to go to drama school at the Lisbon Conservatory. She wanted to be an actress, and as a young single mother she had to work at night to support us. We hardly saw each other that first year - that was really hard on her. At the time, theatre and ballet were in the same building, so she asked if I was open to changing schools. I had never shown any desire for dance. I was actually into martial arts, and pretty good at it! But I said “yes” to my mom primarily because I felt that this was important for her. That was how I was parachuted into dance, and I ended up loving it. Literally, the first class I was like “this is amazing, how lucky am I!”

Q: How did you get into film work and editing?

A: “That was also a fluke. I was always interested in film, watched a lot of movies, learned English by watching movies growing up. When I was midway into my professional career as a dancer, I did a lot of dance films for fun with my friends. The passion was always there, but it was really just an outlet to express myself without any pretentiousness. When SDC did their “Continuum” program, Noe and James knew I had some editing ability and asked me to make a documentary from all the footage everyone captured during the process. That’s when things started getting serious. I said, ‘okay let’s do this for real, let’s learn about it more, and see how well I can do’. I guess this was the turning point. I enjoy doing it tremendously, and that was a bit of a surprise.”

Q: What is it like stepping into this role as a videographer?

A: “It was a little bit nerve-wracking. I wasn’t just editing, I was also capturing the images, and that’s a whole different beast. You can be a great editor and not necessarily be a great ‘capturer’. There’s a whole technical side to knowing how to work with your equipment which has a steep learning curve. I had some of the theory, but I had to educate myself, learn the camera, and how to control it and use all the hardware. Stepping into something where I didn’t feel I had the same command as I did in dance was stressful. And though I have an immense amount yet to learn, I now have a brand new set of skills.“

Q: How has your background as a dancer and choreographer influenced your choices as a videographer and editor?

A: “I think it has been a huge advantage and has been incredibly helpful. It allows me to make arguably better choices in both editing and capturing. A lot of the same skills and qualities that serve me as a choreographer, serve me the same way as an editor - structure, narrative building, harnessing and pinpointing the viewer’s attention where you want it, literarily puzzling it out.”

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced as a videographer?

A: “There’s a lot of production hell stories in the cinema industry, and filmmaking in general always presents unexpected challenges. But in FLOCK’s piece [5 Favorite Things], there was a physical mountain to climb because they wanted one continuous take of the 25-minute piece. My rig wasn’t light to start and it felt extremely heavy as time passed. Initially I wasn’t sure I could physically get through it. As we rehearsed, I had to learn the piece and figure out my choreography in a way, and in the end I was able to successfully film in one continuous shot. With Robyn’s piece [Where You Stay], we only had two days to film on the property. It was a dusk shoot into night, it was hard technically. Long takes across opposing light conditions with limited time is never easy.”

Q: Who has had the most influence on your career?

A: “It’s hard to pinpoint - but I can tell you that as a dancer I grew up watching Baryshnikov. He was my guy. I learned a lot from obsessively looking at his videos. If anyone inspired me and pushed me forward, Baryshnikov is that person. On the contemporary side, the first time I saw NDT [Nederlands Dans Theatre], and particularly Johan Inger doing the Black & White ballets from Jiri Kylian, it blew me away. As a choreographer, Kylian, Ohad Naharin, Mats Ek & Pina Bausch were the people that really inspired me in my formative years. As a filmmaker everything is an influence, but if I have to give some names. Stanley Kubrick, Akira Q Kurosawa & Quentin Tarantino.”

Q: Out of the pandemic arose a new opportunity to put dance on screen. Once companies return fully to live performance, will there be a place for the dance film?

A: “I hope so! I think it will now be a medium within dance that will be taken more seriously in the post pandemic. I think people understand the potential of what you can do with dance on film. It’s surprising to me that this was never explored more before, because when you think about acting in theatre or movies, they still share a lot of the same fundamentals, it’s still storytelling, a script instead of a play, a camera instead of an audience, but they come from the same place. And one doesn’t invalidate the other, so hopefully this can happen with dance as well. The potential is there and we have a lot to gain from it as a community.”

Q: What’s next? Any new projects you have coming up?

A: “I have some film-related projects in the works and I’ll also be staging Christophe Maillot’s Romeo et Juliette at Pacific Northwest Ballet soon.”


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