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Newton Moraes turns life into dance


By Marcio Rollemberg . photos by Cylla von Tiedermann

Newton Moraes lives to transform moments that mark his life, whether positive or negative, into dance. The oldest son of a nurse and a shoemaker, Moraes came to dance through the influence of his father. “My dad loved to dance the tango, and did it very well,” he says proudly. Newton, who as a child wanted to be a soccer player, realized when he bacame a teenager that dance was his real passion.

Winding up in Canada was no accident 26 years ago. While living in Porto Alegre in southern Brazil, Newton met an anthropology professor Robert Shirley. They moved in together and in 1991 came to Canada. So Newton, a graduate in Physical Education and then-owner of an aerobics dance gym in Brazil, dropped everything and immigrated to Canada. He became the first Brazilian to join the School of Toronto Dance Theatre, one of the best dance schools in the country. “Bob told me that Canada would be a great country for my career as a dancer. I always trusted him. He was my mentor.”

After his partner passed away in 2008, Moraes wanted to leave everything and go back to Brazil. Once again a difficult phase was the inspiration for Newton Moraes, who last year created his performance “Ihu,” a tribute to Robert Shirley. “In this dance I pictured my life before, during, and after Bob,” he explains.

A devout member of the Batuque faith, Moraes uses symbolism in his performances and is inspired by African life and religion. In “Ihu”, the presence of white balloons represents his personal loss. “I want to dance forever, but I’m almost 50 years old and I know one day I will have to stop. Being a choreographer gives me the opportunity to continue creating, even with physical limitations.”

Dancing his way through the world

With the support of Robert Shirley, in 1997 Moraes founded the Newton Moraes Dance Theatre, a dance company that merges Brazilian dances with contemporary ballet. With the support of several Canadian agencies, Moraes has performed frequently in Germany, Brazil and several cities in Canada. In 2000, the company presented a performance in honour of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Brazil.

After finishing his Masters in Fine Arts at York University in Choreography, Newton Moraes has plans to expand his dance school. “I want to promote the Brazilian culture, as well the Canadian one. Both countries are a very important part of my life and I think we have to show more of their culture. I want to focus on the aboriginals, they are people that have a rich culture of art that should be further explored”, he says.

In June, Newton Moraes will perform in Saskatoon and has plans to create a special performance to celebrate the 14th anniversary of his dance company next summer. It should be a show full of beautiful movements and a choreography that reflects Moraes’ philosophy: life is the main source of art.

Bavia Arts: 898 St. Clair West, Toronto, ON
Ballet Creole: 375 Dovercourt Road, Toronto, ON
T. 416 997 28 83.

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