Guilherme and Heleen make it in Tilburg

Photography: Nori Xhofleer and Sanne Donders

A shared love of dance and movement is the driving force behind Guilherme Miotto and Heleen Volman. With their choreographic platform Corpo Máquina Society, they bring children and youth in Tilburg in contact with dancers, actors, musicians, free runners, freestyle soccer players and other creators. From their base of operations in Tilburg Noord, they thus make special and meaningful encounters possible.

Under the artistic direction of founder and choreographer Guilherme Miotto, Corpo Máquina has been working since 2017 to create a constant dialogue between art, the street and society. From an early age, Guilherme, originally from Brazil, discovered his passion for dance and movement. After an international career as a professional dancer in Russia, Germany and the Netherlands, he developed his own "instinctive performance" approach. With this, he stimulates movement of the body from physical memories of past experiences. According to Guilherme, with this approach, behind every person is a dancer capable of overturning walls and breaking through structures.

As of 2019, co-director Heleen Volman is also affiliated with Corpo Máquina. After various artistic roles with dance companies throughout the Netherlands, she founded production house DansBrabant in 2012. At the time she was already co-producing performances with Guilherme from this production house, but after a few years Heleen decided to leave DansBrabant altogether and join Corpo Máquina. 'What appeals to me enormously in Guilherme's way of working is that it always transcends themes,' Heleen explains. 'By focusing purely on body and movement, you arrive at something in common and leave aside the differences. That works very connectively.'


Corpo Máquina works from a number of basic principles in which encounters and dialogue are especially central. A good example of such an encounter, is the project "It takes a child to raise a village." In this project, Guilherme and Heleen bring children in Tilburg between 8 and 12 years of age in connection with dance, theater, free running and music. Together they will engage in play and movement, working toward a show moment on Sunday, Sept. 17, in Schouwburg Tilburg. 'We know that this meeting and experience does not come naturally, both for the children and the players,' says Guilherme. 'And it is much needed that we facilitate this. How can you expect children to find something normal if they've never come into contact with it before?'

Last year Corpo Máquina launched It takes a child to raise a village as part of their four-year art plan, subsidized by various government agencies. The involvement of these agencies is, for Guilherme and Heleen, the confirmation that what they are doing actually matters, although they themselves also have witnessed this in the past trajectory. 'The children don't come because they pay a contribution or because they agreed to it, they show up because the door is open and because they are welcome here. It's pure intrinsic motivation,' says Heleen. 'They really feel that the adults are there to work with them. And they themselves learn to work together, they make friendships, they get the autonomy, they grow in presenting, they get attention from each other, they clap for each other, they do and watch each other.'

Guilherme and Heleen find it important to keep moving with both youth and adult professionals. Therefore, at the end of September, Guilherme will start rehearsals for Poles, a performance with pole dancer Yvonne Smink that will premiere Nov. 14 at Theater De Nieuwe Vorst. Besides theaters, they are also looking for pole dance studios to show the piece. Heleen: "For us, one cannot exist without the other. That balance between the professional work and the participatory line with youth, young people and adults from the neighborhood is essential for us.'

One step at a time

To make a real impact, Guilherme and Heleen like to work in a structural way, with a fixed place and long-term partners. For them, facilitating meetings between children from different backgrounds, for example, contributes fundamentally to a more inclusive and tolerant society. 'I was shocked to discover a few years ago in the Netherlands that you have white schools and black schools,' Guilherme points out. 'That's not right, and I find that very hard to see. When kids come together, they stay together. You solve so much with that.'

But these changes take time, Heleen points out: 'We have been very invested in exploring the relationship between professional work, participatory and talent development. In addition, it is important to invest in a good relationship with the children, the parents and the neighborhood.' Only recently has Corpo Máquina had the time and space to really go public. Guilherme: 'We think it's beautiful and important to let things grow organically. You don't want to force anything. A change has to come from content, presence and a deep connection.'

Tilburg maker city

According to Guilherme and Heleen, Tilburg is truly a city for makers and artists. They experience a strong cultural community in the city, in which collaboration and creation are central. 'You feel that people everywhere are working on things and want to do them together,' Heleen says. 'Tilburg is a maker city of its own. And this could be extended even more in the policy. Now there is already a lot of listening, a lot of conversations. The next step is to give the people who give substance to the city the space and to let them determine the direction.'

Corpo Máquina will at least get that space. Right next to the gym in Tilburg Noord where they are currently based, a permanent studio for the company will be built in 2025. 'This place and its inhabitants are very dear to me,' Guilherme points out. 'You see here a certain urgency and need for space and expression that I recognize very much from my own childhood. For me, this was the motivation to be involved with art, so I know this can be a fruitful encounter. Art offers you space and structure without restrictions.'

'The great thing about Tilburg is that we discover so much here,' Heleen adds. 'It really is our research room where we find out how to become part of society and education. And we try to teach the children we work with that the public space in the city is also theirs. That they too are allowed to discover it, to become part of it.'

Want to see more from Guilherme and Heleen? Check Corpo Máquina Society's website here, or visit the performance "It takes a child to raise a village" on Sept. 17 at Schouwburg Concertzaal Tilburg, or "Poles" on Nov. 14 at Theater De Nieuwe Vorst.

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