An insight into the creative process of Juliano Nunes' new work, Yellow

Choreographer Juliano Nunes in rehearsals with Atlanta Ballet dancers. Photo by Shoccara Marcus.

When watching Brazilian choreographer Juliano Nunes in rehearsals for his world premiere Yellow, it is clear that he is as comfortable with himself as he is with his vision. “Yellow has been a very precious creation for me as I feel I am aligned with myself so well at the moment,” he explains. “I have gone through multiple experiments in my career, gathering as much information and inspiration as I could for my vision, language and technique. I have been able to understand so many personal directions and now feel able to translate them in such a clear way and invite people on this journey with me.” Juliano has arrived at this moment having been able to test and research without the fear of losing perspective, which he admits to having experienced in the past. “My work is driven by discovery, and I hate to confine myself to the classical, neoclassical or contemporary. It’s a puzzle that never ends for me.”

Atlanta Ballet has been privileged to obtain a rare glimpse into Juliano’s raw creative process, something he has been passionate about sharing. “The creative process is the most valuable element because I am a part of it,” he explains. “Once the piece is complete, I have to let it go and I feel as though I am not connected to it anymore.” Juliano considers the process of creation incredibly rich and inviting, akin to painting a picture of the unknown. “We all respond to creativity in different ways,” he muses. “While some people are inspired by a finished product, others can see ten seconds of a creative process and be awakened by something emotionally. I have had moments in my life where I have been so thirsty for inspiration that I find it a shame not to share my early creative process with others.”

The color yellow was the inspiration for this world premiere, a color that transports Juliano back to Brazil, reminding him of the sun, energy, and vibrancy of life in his home country. “I wondered at first if I should call my piece something a little more poetic than Yellow”, he confides. “But the piece is purely about the color in its simplest form. And I love the fact that just one word, one color, has ignited an idea because as a creator it's hard to stay simple. We always strive to over develop, over conceptualize and over communicate. The simplicity is refreshing.”

Juliano is a painter as well as a choreographer and Yellow allows him to paint a picture for the audience. “As a painter, I start with every possible color imaginable and see where inspiration takes me. I refrain from confining my creativity to just two or three colors; I like to try everything and see where it leads.” And this process translates to what we will see in Yellow. Colors will change and evolve on stage, rather like our moods, but the color yellow will always prevail throughout the piece. “It’s almost like a journey in a way. Even as the choreographic journey moves and the relationships within that journey evolve, there will always be a constant. And that constant in this piece is the color yellow.”

Vibrancy and energy will continue through to the costumes, which will be simple yellow leotards for both male and female dancers. “The costumes are going to be fun and chic,” enthuses Juliano, who is also the costume designer for Yellow, together with the Atlanta Ballet Costume Shop. “A simple, solid-colored leotard fits and moves well on the body, showcasing the distinctive movements of the choreographic language. It is almost like painting on the body in a way.”

Yellow is set to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 29 in B-flat Major, which is in some movements a sorrowful adagio. “I have listened to this piece of music many times and always go to it when I feel empty, when I feel as though I have lost every possibility of moving on,” he confides. “This is me being very honest”. Juliano was inspired by the music’s innocence, times gone by that were full of purity and artistic expression. “It is an incredible piece of music, the ebbs and flows of the composition are very conducive to storytelling.” And he feels the adagio contrasts unusually to the bright, cheerful vibrancy of the color yellow. “Finding the right balance was incredibly important to me, not just in terms of musical and choreographic balance, but emotional balance too.”

The vision for Yellow is a conversation between Juliano and history. “As I said earlier, I am at a point in my life where I am experiencing so much of my own creativity in terms of style and techniques and I feel it is important to recognize the past and how it brought me to my current state of mind. My desire to learn more about what brought me to this moment is what Yellow is really all about – it is the expansion of my horizons and ideas and bringing people into the creative process. The goal of this piece is to have a conversation between classical history and modern times.”

Choreographer Juliano Nunes in rehearsals with Atlanta Ballet dancers. Photo by Shoccara Marcus.

Relationships, connections and conversations play a crucial role in Yellow, and the audience can expect to see some intimate moments among pas de deux, triplets and quartets. “I love to showcase the encounters between the first couple and how these encounters ripple through subsequent couples, creating an intertwined conversation that continues in the same direction, never breaking apart or interrupting the infinite energy that exudes from the dancers from beginning to end.” Juliano has enjoyed revealing the differences between female and male pas de deux in Yellow. “Women’s movements are much more honest as they are connected to so many more emotions than men can ever imagine going through. So in contrast, when I work with a male pas de deux, I need them to showcase some vulnerability so they can offer as well as give support. There is so much to discover about relationships in Yellow.”

Juliano is curious to see how the audience will connect with this piece. “I want the audience to discover something new, something unexpected. I’m offering a place for them to come in and find out more about me as a young creator, and about how my past experiences have shaped who I am today. I hope they will find the space to discover themselves too. I’m grateful that Yellow has been able to open up such an emotional journey for me, because it is a while since I have felt that way.”

You can watch Yellow as part of the Liquid Motion program, on stage at the Cobb Energy Centre from May 10-12.