“When you free your mind, that’s when creativity happens”: Sadler’s Wells Gets Creative with Clara Andermatt

Get Creative is a major annual celebration of the nation’s arts, culture and creativity, highlighting the central role that creativity plays in people’s lives. From 11 to 19 May, Get Creative invites the entire nation to get involved and share its creative talents.

We are passionate about the power of creativity and believe it offers something special for everyone. For the fifth year in a row, we will be taking part in the Get Creative festivities with two dance workshops on 13 and 17 May: one for over 60s and another for young children aged 2-4 and their carers.

Ahead of this, we speak to Clara Andermatt, renowned Portuguese dancer and choreographer, who will lead the first workshop alongside our over-60 resident company, the inspirational Company of Elders.

What does creativity mean to you? Why is it important?

Creativity to me is when you are able to transform somehow, to transform reality. I think everyone has the capacity to be creative. Creativity depends on imaginative minds, the ability to materialise and realise creativity in a personal and unique way. Sometimes you are more creative in your head than whatever you are trying to show in your materialisation, because the mind is so immense. I also feel that creativity never ends. There’s this sense of constant possibilities, and I think everything can feed this creativity. It really depends on the way you look at things.

Clara Andermatt. Image: Ines D’orey

How does dance help you to express, experience and explore this creativity?

I think dance has the capacity to open up channels in your body and in your mind. I have a phrase that I say a lot to my students: “The more you can free your body, you free your mind, and when you free your mind, that’s when creativity happens.”

It’s an amazing and beautiful thing, to dance, to move. When you move, you don’t need to think about anything. It’s also something you can use to get more in touch with yourself. And you don’t need to make it beautiful – you can move and it can be ugly but it’s so wonderful to yourself!

It’s also really a physical thing – you make all your systems and metabolism dance also. That is so important for your creativity. You are able to open and relax, and when your mind relaxes your creativity can flow. Your body expands, your creativity expands. As Merce Cunningham said: “When we dance, we feel alive.”

Clara Andermatt. Image: Ines D’orey

How valuable are the arts?

Art has the capacity to transform people, and to make them think and feel. When you watch or experience some form of art, you also become that thing somehow. You experience it in your mind and on your body, even if it’s just through observation. It’s fascinating really and I believe it’s been proven. Art enables you to discover yourself, to get closer to your own thoughts and feelings. It opens up many questions, and questioning things is really a way of getting to know yourself and discovering things about life. The more you know yourself, the more you can participate in the world around you. You can be part of the whole. There’s a lot to do in life, and I like to participate.

The arts are different from science and mathematics. There is no right or wrong. It’s something that can expand your own being and the way you express yourself. The more you discover in your interior, the more you can then exteriorise it. The arts have this amazing power to be able to do that.

In your opinion, do the arts offer something to people from all walks of life?

Absolutely – from all ages and all bodies. My work has a lot to do with that. We all have unique bodies. It’s the expression of this singularity, of each person and each body, which makes up the full potential of the performance and of the world. Otherwise we’re all the same, we all do the same, and that’s so narrow. What is beautiful is to showcase the many expressions of different bodies and personalities with different qualities. Different forms and deforms. The importance lies in mixing it all. We learn so much from experiencing and by watching and seeing. It’s important for us and it’s important for others.

Company of Elders. Image: Ellie Kurttz

Your career as a world-renowned dancer and choreographer spans over 30 years. What are the key ingredients for a long creative career spent doing what you love?

There’s no secret (laughs). When we have secrets, we don’t profit from them – the more you share, the more you gain! I would say my key ingredients are the passion and the love. My dad used to say that love is attention and dedication and the older I get, the more I understand this. So if you love something that you do you, put that energy there. The energy is precisely that attention and dedication you give, as well as the time you spend on it.

Clara Andermatt. Image: ACCCA – Companhia Clara Andermatt

Of course I can’t put luck aside. Luck is also something that life presents to you. It’s up to you to grab it, you know. And I jumped into life from my mother’s womb straight to a dance studio! There was no question about it. In a way, the questions only appeared later. Dance was something I always loved to do.

It’s also important to live in the present, to be fed by the present. That and the energy that other people give me keeps me going. I’m much more of a collaborative than a closed person. That’s where you really generate creativity. There’s no secret really – I just like to feel the intensity of life, to be in the world and not of the world.

Clara Andermatt (left) and Mickaella Dantas in collaborative dance project ‘A Educação da Desordem’ in 2018. Image: Alípio Padilha

What words of advice or wisdom can you offer to first-timers considering attending our open session for over 60s?

Again, as Merce Cunningham said: “The only way to do it is to do it,” (laughs) so if you are willing to experience something new, just come and have the experience. I think experiencing new things in life is a sign of being alive, of being curious about things. Of course it takes courage, but when you take that step you continue wanting to discover yourself, to keep transforming yourself and the things around you.

I also think it’s a very strong and powerful experience to actually be in a class with other people that are moving, and you are communicating and sharing things with your body. You don’t have to talk. There’s a kind of language you are using to communicate with yourself and the others.

Clara Andermatt. Image: Estelle Valente

There’s a first time for everything, and it’s important not to take things too seriously, to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Maybe you won’t like it, but maybe it will just connect with you and suddenly it may change everything. You have to be willing to continue finding different connections in life. Maybe it’s not dance, but you’ll never know until you try!

You can find out more about Clara’s work and keep up with her company via Facebook and Instagram.

The Company of Elders will perform a mixed bill of exciting works in the Lilian Baylis Studio on the 14 June. The evening will see a revival of Natural, a piece combining text and dance created by Clara for the company in 2005. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Get Creative is led by BBC ARTS and What Next?, in collaboration with various arts, cultural and voluntary organisations across the UK. For more information about the campaign, and how we are getting involved, click here.