© Park Sang Yun

Em Circulação > one mysterious Thing, said e.e. cummings by Vera Mantero , 1996

one mysterious Thing, said e.e. cummings

by Vera Mantero , 1996

I'm writing to you because I feel I didn't explain myself well about why I created this image of a woman half black, half white (mostly black!). From what I remember now, what really impressed me, in Josephine's story, was the effect her body had in Europe (mostly in France). Men went really wild with her, with that exotic thing, that crazy, funny and sexy thing (1). Her (almost naked) body and its, let's say, dynamics (energy/movement/funniness) created a whole frisson around her. So, if I wanted to work on her I had to bring her body back somehow, there was no other way around it. And, being white, I had to become black in order to bring her body back.

Of course that, as soon as I thought of painting myself black I loved the idea because by then (and maybe still now) I was very interested in the possibility of the metamorphosis of the body.

I love whatever means changing the way we usually look as human beings, changing our image, transforming what we usually are, being other beings, if only for a little while.

As soon as I thought of it I also loved the idea because I realized immediately the very strong effect that having two colors at the same time would create. especially being black and white at the same time. There is no more one side nor the other, there are the two sides in the same place, two races in one body. "I take your colour in me". There is also the vibration or friction that the impossibility and the paradox create. (I guess this is the post colonial side of it).

And in a way Josephine Baker also became half black, half white throughout her life, because she was totally "acculturated" into white european culture.

And there is at least one other reason for this double-sided woman, which is me having to face the "mission" of doing a solo about someone else (I had already faced this problem doing a solo about Nijinsky). How do I embrace this mission? I just talk about the other person? Or should I also talk about myself?

Where do I stand in the "middle" of this person, in the middle of this work about this person? The black and white woman is also an answer to this problem, I make a sort of fusion with her.

And looking at the notes of the creation I find another interesting thing: I have one black friend who used to tell me that I'm black too! "You must be black", he would say. Because of my rhythmicity. And the very curly hair also helped! So in the notes I find "I'm already half white and half black", even before painting myself.

Another thing: black people have a (terrible) history of trying to make their skin white. I knew I was turning history upside down by painting myself black. Well, I guess this is again the post colonial part playing.

(1) that's why e.e.cummings wrote about her "one mysterious Thing, neither primitive nor civilized, or beyond time, in the sense that emotion is beyond arithmetics"

Vera Mantero
Letter to Aylin Ersöz


The solo “one mysterious Thing, said e.e.cummings” was created in January 1996 for the “Homage to Josephine Baker”, an event organized by the theatre Culturgest in Lisbon. In her vision of the life and the work of the black dancer and singer of the first half of the 20th century, Vera Mantero chose an approach that goes beyond the face of Josephine Baker. In the program she wrote: “It is one thing that I would like to find or create: a vast territory in which richness of spirit prevails. (…) This spirit I’m talking about has no wish to abolish the body, has no shame of its desire and of its sex, what this spirit wishes is to eradicate coarseness, the frightful foolishness, the deep ignorance, the poverty of horizons, the materialism, etc., etc. (unfortunately, this seems to be a long list...).”

"An impossibility, a bad way of living, a sadness, an absence, a sorrow, an inability, atrocious" are some of the words that are repeated, with an insistence growing, throughout the spectacle "where Vera Mantero precariously balances herself on goat feet and budging to the rhythm of difficulty that the words enunciate without arriving to pull out the feet of the condemnation to which they remain. Exasperating corporisation of an uncomfortableness that, as one knows, always begins by being a not knowing what to do with the body" describes Alexandre Melo in Expresso. And he concludes: "Two hypotheses to describe this generic, general, civilizational situation: there is something that lacks. Or, maybe better, there is something that is not."

Text in the press-release of the festival Danças na Cidade 1996

Ficha Artística

Concept and Performance
Vera Mantero
Make-up Design
Alda Salaviza (original design by Carlota Lagido)
Teresa Montalvão
João Paulo Xavier
Light Adaptation and Operation
Hugo Coelho - Aldeia da Luz
Executive Production
Forum Dança
Tour Management
O Rumo do Fumo
Casa da Juventude de Almada, Re.al / Amascultura
Culturgest, Lisbon, 1996 / 'Homage to Josephine Baker'
20 minutes



5 June 2022, Cycle "What my dance says" dedicated to Vera Mantero by Serralves, Auditorium, Museu de Serralves, Fundação de Serralves, Porto/Portugal
30 June 2019, Festival Inequilibrio, Armunia, Castiglioncello/Italy
15 March 2019, Teatro-Cine de Torres Vedras, Torres Vedras/Portugal
7 February 2019, Festival Escenas do Cambio, Museo Centro Gaiás, Santiago de Compostela/Spain
19 - 20 October 2018, Festival Contemporâneo de Dança, Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil, São Paulo/Brazil
23 November 2017, KINANI, Centro Cultural Franco-Moçambicano, Maputo/Mozambique
21 October 2017, Blue Summer Festival, Centro Cultural de Lagos, Lagos/Portugal
30 - 31 August 2017, Les Brigittines, Brussels/Belgium
6 May 2017, La Friche/Marseille Objectif Danse, Marseille/France
24 February 2017, Nova\Velha Dança cycle/Associação Parasita, Teatro Sá da Bandeira, Santarém/Portugal
4 - 7 October 2016, LE CND, Pantin, Île-de-France/France
26 June 2016, Festival Extension Sauvage, Château de la Ballue, Bazouges-la-Pérouse/France
16 October 2015, A Moagem, Fundão/Portugal
31 May 2015, Maria Matos Teatro Municipal, Lisbon/Portugal
6 December 2014 , Rivoli Theatre, OPorto/Portugal
5 October 2014, Festival Krakow Theatrical Reminiscences, Cracow/Poland
26 June 2013, INFANT Festival, Novi Sad/Serbia
12 April 2013, Teatro Municipal de Almada, Almada/Portugal
4 November 2012,  Festival B.A.D./La Fundición, Bilbau/Spain
14 January 2012, Centro PárragaMurcia/Spain
29 - 30 January 2011, Festival Escena Contemporanea, Madrid/Spain
10 October 2010, Festival SIDance, Seoul/South Korea
29 September 2010, Southbank Centre, London/England
17 September 2010, Festival Materiais Diversos, Minde/Portugal
14 August 2010,  Festival Escritas na Paisagem, Évora/Portugal
7 May 2010, Teatro de la Laboral, Gijón/Spain
7 - 8 November 2009, Festival Panorama, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil
24 October 2009, Bienal de Par em Par do Ceará, Fortaleza/Brazil
19 - 20 October 2009, Festival Piccola Europa, Rocca dei Bentivoglio, Bologna/Italy
18 September 2009, Teatro da Cerca de São Bernardo - A Escola da Noite, Coimbra/Portugal
9 - 10 September 2009, Centro Cultural de la Cooperación. Sala Solidaridad, Buenos Aires/Argentina
12 July 2008, Centro Cultural Vila Flor, Guimarães/Portugal
8 December 2007, Le Vivat, Armentières/France
12 - 13 November 2007, National Theatre Festival, Bucharest/Romania
10 - 11 October 2007, IDans Festival, Istanbul/Turkey
8 October 2005, Festival Tensdansa, Terrassa/Spain
20 - 22 May 2005, Dansens Hus, Oslo/Norway
18 March 2005, Le Lieu Unique, Nantes/France
14 - 15 January 2005, Casa de América, Madrid/Spain
16 - 17 October 2004, Teatro Sérgio Porto, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil
4 September 2004, Teatro Apolo, Recife/Brazil
14 - 15 August 2004,  Festival des Arts Vivants, Nyon/Switzerland
6 - 8 February 2004, Culturgest, Lisbon/Portugal
17 January 2004, Kunstencentrum Vooruit, Ghent/Belgium
4 October 2003, ZOCulturale, Catania/Italy
19 - 20 September 2003, Chão de Oliva, Sintra/Portugal
30 January 2003, Tanzquartier, Vienna/Austria
1 December 2002, Espace Pier Pasolini, Valenciennes/France
15 - 16 November, Teatro Viriato, Viseu/Portugal
5 - 6 August, Kasino, Vienna/Austria
23 October 2001, Le Quartz, Brest/France
17 - 18 August 2001, Les Brigittines, Brussels/Belgium
14 July 2001, Teatro do Campo Alegre, Porto/Portugal
10 March 2001, Panacea Festival, Stockholm/Sweden
2 December 2000, Cie Man Drake/Toméo Vergès, Paris/France
1 November 2000, Festival Dancing in November, Helsinki/Finland
9 October 2000, CityofWomen Festival, Ljubljana/Slovenia
7 June 2000, Zagrebacko Theatre, Zagreb/Croatia
18 May 2000, Théâtre Louis-Jouvet, Tours/France
16 May 2000, Théâtre Pôle Sud, Strasburg/France
12 May 2000, Centre Culturel Triangle, Rennes/France
11 - 12 September 1999, Festival of Geneva, Geneva/Switzerland
23 - 25 August 1999, Podewil, Berlin/Germany
27 June 1999, Teattro Cavallerize, Regio-Emilia/Italy
30 May 1999, L’Usine, Dijon/France
8 May 1999, Kunst Museum, Bonn/Germany
23 April 1999, Tanzsprache, Vienna/Austria
4 - 6 March 1999, Culturgest, “Mês de Março, Mês de Vera”, Lisbon/Portugal
9 October 1998, Auditório Conservativo, 4a Mostra de Dança Contemporânea Devir, Faro/Portugal
1 - 3 September 1998, Centro Cultural de S. Paulo, S. Paulo/Brazil
20 - 21 April 1998, Centre de Développement Chorégraphique, Toulouse/France
27 February 1998 , Studio CNDC l’Esquisse, Angers/France
29 November 1997 , Ballet Teatro Auditório, Porto/Portugal
12 October 1997, Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt/Germany
12 - 13 July 1997, Sommerszene Festival, Salzburg/Austria
23 May 1997, Centre Culturel Aragon, Tremblay-en-France/France
1 April 1997, Rennes/France
14 February 1997, Grenoble/France
14 - 17 January 1997, Thêatre de la Bastille, Paris/France
13 - 15 December 1996, Festival DanzarTeatro, Sardenha (Sassari e Cagliari)/Italy
26 - 27  November 1996, Festival Danças na Cidade, Lisbon/Portugal
26 October 1996, Limelight, Kortrijk/Belgium
5 - 6 September 1996, Fest. Bellonne-Brigittines, Brussels/Belgium
3 May 1996, Hippodrome, Festival Tendanses Nord , Douai/France
Premiere - 11 - 14 January 1996, Culturgest, Lisbon/Portugal