Kevin Bago is a 30 years old professional dancer. Growing up in Paris with his mother, his sister and brother he always knew that he wanted to follow his dream and to dance from a very young age. When he had an eye-accident 10 years ago that lead to loosing the sight of his left eye some things in his life changed forever but not his love for dancing and life.
With this insightful portrait film female director Nathalie De Lopez presents a part of his story that is full of resilience. “Dance or Die” carries a message of hope and strength at a time when the world most needs it.
Tell us about your career as a dancer?
I started dancing when I was 18. I followed my best friend to a nightclub where I saw people dancing electro so I wanted to learn it too. I joined a group called Alliance Crew and I had training and championships with them, battles, solos, …all went really, really well. And from there, a friend of the group introduced me to Bianca Li, a choreographer-director, who had the idea of starting a new company with a new style of dance. She offered me to do a show with her and that’s where I started to perform on stage. At the same time I was in training to learn other things: I learned classical, contemporary, modern dance, tap dance etc. The paradox was that I was still in school and already dancing professionally on stage. I started working as a pro dancer very quickly, but in my head, I wasn’t really one yet: I knew I still had a lot to learn. To me, someone who is pro is a chameleon, someone very versatile. It took me a long time to think of myself as a pro. Then from Bianca Li, I moved on to other choreographers, other styles of professional dance.
Why did you choose dance?
What attracted me to dancing was the freedom of expression. Each person has his own way of expressing himself in movement, it can reveal the diversity found in other people or yourself. I would describe my dance as “Plural”. I want to convey emotions and messages. Dance should not be inaccessible. Everyone can dance, but they may not realize it.
What happened during your accident?
I had an eye accident. That was 10 years ago when I was 20. We were at a music festival with friends from dance training, in the Saint Michel district of Paris, and there were people a little more drunk than others who were having fun throwing bottles. Unfortunately, a bottle landed on the head of a friend who was on my left and as the bottle burst I turned around and a shard landed in my left eye and it cut the pupil. I had to urgently go to the hospital for an operation and that is where my life turned upside down.
I lost vision in my left eye while I was still training and had to relearn how to manage space and balance. At that point, I was very hesitant to continue dancing. I doubted it for a while. But I had no choice, because it was all my life… so I just kept going, I persevered and then there you go…
“What attracted me in dancing was the freedom of expression.”
What do you remember from this moment?
At the time, I didn’t realize what was going to happen. It was after the doctor’s visit to the hospital, when he delivered his verdict, that I realized the seriousness of the accident and that it would change my whole life.
I had the support of my family, my ex-girlfriend, a lot of people from the training. I was surrounded by many but, in the end, you sleep alone. There are always those moments that come back, when you are in your bed and you say to yourself: “what am I doing here, why was I there, why did I do that, why did I not come back directly? ”
I was in great pain but at the same time I was confident. I knew I would get used to it over time and that anyway, I had no choice. I had to live with it. There are many dancers who are missing a leg. In my case, I’m missing an eye. I told myself that I was also able to continue without it.
What has changed: the relationship with others, the look that is especially important in dance… even socially in everyday life. This accident made me think differently, and it changed me. Today, I feel okay with myself. For example, I fully accept my eye and have managed to make it a strength. From the moment you assert what people on the outside might see as a flaw, then you immediately see it as something extra, which sets you apart from other people. I then learned to deal with it, and to have it as a weapon as well.
Your outlook on life today?
I approach life with optimism. I advance. I ask myself a lot less questions. I restrict myself a lot less. I do things for myself, for my artistic journey and for my well-being as well. In the ends, this event gave me confidence, motivation and it showed me that you can go through tough trials. I realised I have support and resources so I’m a lot less afraid of what may happen tomorrow.
“The accident changed me. I approach life with optimism. I ask myself a lot less questions. And I do things for myself, for my artistic journey and for my well-being as well.”
Any advice to share?
The advice I could give to new dancers would be to listen to yourself, trust your instincts and above all to work, to go at your own pace.
What values are important to you?
The fundamental values in my life today: forgiveness and above all respect, for oneself and for others. Respect for people is essential, it is something normal, but respecting yourself is just as important. Don’t forget yourself.
Starring : Kevin Bago
Director : Nathalie de Lopez
Music : Polérik Rouvière
Director of photography : Julien Teissier
Steadycam operator : Sacha Naceri
First assistant : Pierre Valentin Ferdani
Second assistant : Manon Delville
Artistic direction : GANGSTER PROJECTxHart
Colorist : Arthur Paux
Editor : Zoé Sassier
Line director : Siham Gouy Menaa
Post producer : Axel Kpatinde
Production : Shadow Lab