Johan Inger is back with Carmen

Johan Inger visits our headquarters to begin the rehearsals for Carmen. An original creation for the Compañía Nacional de Danza (Spain) that premiered in 2015 and which is back to the stages in Úbeda and Seville.

We made the most of his visit to get to know more about the creation of this ballet, the challenges he faced when remaking a classic, and how both the costume and set design complete a piece that was a turning point in the interpretation of a constantly changing myth.


Johan Inger, the choreographer for Carmen,(one of our Company’s most iconic pieces), made a version of this classic in 2015 with the big challenge that it meant. The Compañía Nacional de Danza (Spain) has taken this piece to the best national and international stages. This summer will be the Festival de Úbeda and the Teatro de la Maestranza from Seville the ones to host such an incredible work.

Johan Inger was awarded with the Benois de la Danse in 2016 for this incredible piece in the category of best choreogapher. We took the opportunity of his visit to interview him.

¿How was the process of creating Carmen?

The process of creating Carmen was very exiting because it was the first that I did a narrative. Something that was very nice about the process was that we did it through a whole year. This enabled me to work in bits during a whole season. Therefore, I could very easily take a step back and get distance from the piece, and see how I could make it better.

¿Which were your three favourite moments of the ballet?

I think there’s the big Pas de deux by Don José and Carmen from the second act that I think is very especial. I also like the part of the toreador when we are in this little room. Besides, the finale with the shadows is something that goes very well with the music and the choreography. There are many moments that I am actually very proud of in Carmen. There are many moments that I am actually very proud of in Carmen.


Was it a challenge to make a version of such an iconic piece?

I think it’s always difficult to do. I think you need a reason to do another Carmen,or at least you have to ask yourself why do you want to do it. In our case we tried to focus in the violence, between them, explore why men are violent with women and what causes it. The strategy we used was creating the role of a young child who witnesses all this violence through the piece. The question is: will she be affected, will she continue the cycle of violence? Or, will she find a different way? That was our entrance to do another Carmen.

You have created several narrative pieces, is Carmen the one that you are most proud of?

As I said, Carmen for me was a sort of a game changer in the sense that it was the first time that I did a narrative piece, so it will always be special to me. I think i will always carry it with me.

The set design is really special with a minimalist but powerful touch.
What was the source of the idea about including mirrors?

It was the set designer Curt Allen Willmer that came up with the ideas for the scenography. Once we knew that we will have a mirror on one side and pieces of concrete and a sort of black steel on the other side me and my dramaturg started to arrange the elements. We tried displaying the elements in different positions that would suggest the scene that we were working on. I thought the set was great in the sense that it could be very versatile and give us lots of different spaces.

You always work with the dramaturg Gregor Acuña-Pohl. What type of relationship do you have when facing the creative process?

Our relationship started many years ago, we’ve been working for a long time together and we are very good friends. It is a partner when it comes to plan the piece as to what we can do, how can we meet the piece, and he helps me prepare through dialogue all that preparation process and what I would like to do. For me he has become an incredibly important partner in my narrative works.

The costume design of the ballet is absolutely exquisite, how was the creative process? How involved were you in its development? What ideas did you pass on to David Delfin to create the figurines?

With the costumes it was the first time I was working with David Delfin, and the only time I did. I said to him from the beginning that I wanted something timeless, and we went a little bit towards the sixtees. I also wanted to have a little bit of tint of the Spanish folklore, similar to the cigarreras and that sort of stuff. I think he ended up doing an incredible job with the costumes, it’s very solid work. Unfortunately he left us, and i think of him dearly and I miss him.

Many of the dancers you were based on to create Carmen not longer work for the Company. How important is the dancer’s implication in the creative process?

Of course, I made Carmensix years ago based on dancers that are no longer here. Is always interesting to see new dancers meet the roles and meet the choreographic material, and even though I try to be loyal to the original idea I also have to try to have an open mind. I understand that there are different dancers taking the place, so they gave to addapt to me and i have try to addapt a little bit to them, and bring them into making the part and the material their own.

Storytellers: Jose Ramón Ibañez and Maite Villanueva

Interview: Monse Martínez Zabaleta

Transcription and translation to Spanish: Sandra Cadenas