Alma de serpiente

Year 1987
Category Performance
Work Alma de serpiente
Presentation Hellin


Research work in which anthropology and the avant-garde converge.The performer lies for two hours under three tons of earth, breathing through a bamboo reed, as he leaves the mound, he starts a dance inspired by the images of Iberian sculpture.

He collaborates with 15 musicians from Hellín (Albacete) who play horns and drums with Easter processional rhythms.
In the middle of the room there are three tons of earth in an elongated mound like a tomb.

The dancer is buried and the earth is then smoothed, so that only the reed or breathing tube can be perceived

Inside the earth, dancer breathing with a rod remains for two and a half hours

The drummers, percussionists and horn players arrive and are placed in a circle around the land mass.

1st phase. They repeat the rhythm for 20 minutes as they do in Hellin on the night of Holy Thursday, with the intention of awakening the body.

2nd phase. A new rhythm of half the duration of the previous one.

The body emerges slowly from the earth with a new accompaniment of processional marching drums and kettle drums.

The dancer moves slowly to the centre of the mound and once there makes a slow 360° turn accompanied by a new rhythm, this time only of the drums.

The protagonist moves forward, graceful and determined to the rhythm of the music with the introduction of the horns.

Along with the music of drums, kettle-drums and cornets the dancing protagonist rings the 12 bells that hang from the ceiling.

Where he dances between the silences of the bell chimes…

A drum roll followed by the high sustained note of bugles

Flower petals rain down on the scene.

The dancer moves about distributing handfuls of candies to the audience.

To the rhythm of a waltz and in festive procession.


Creation and direction Albert Vidal
Assistant of director Cristina Vilaró
Coordination Juan Fernández
Costume design Carmen Rodriguez
Costume making Toni Langa
Technician Ricard Carbassa
Performer Albert Vidal
Drummers: José Antonio López Riaza
  Juan Antonio Ramón Sola
  José Soria López

José Andrés García Teruel

  José Navarro Ruiz
  José Navarro Oliva
  José Antonio Muñoz Azorín
  Francisco García Gil
Cornets: José Antonio Tolosa Ruiz
  Fulgencio Fernández Iniesta
  Pascual Bleda García
  Juan Guirado Martínez
  Joaquin Bleda García
  Miguel Angel Cano García
Timbales: Vicente Tolosa Ruiz
  Benancio García Cañamote
Co-production: Albert Vidal Company
  Hellin city council
(Councilor of culture)



Sunday, august 16th Session no.1

n the morning, as the sun was at its strongest, since according to the newspapers it was one of the hottest days of the century, it occurred to us that instead of talking about the project, it would be better to “get down to work”.

What problems would be caused by being in a lethargic state? How long would I resist? How to combat claustrophobia? These and other questions are the ones we wanted to clarify.

So the first lethargy test was done spontaneously by taking the position of the body stretched out with its back to the ground. A pile of earth in front of the house served as raw material for the first experiment.

Then, with the help of a vertical bamboo cane for breathing, Cristina proceeded to cover the body until only the bamboo was visible.

he first observation was that the weight of the earth on the thorax and abdomen was too much to be able to stay under the earth for a long time. Likewise, the feeling of claustrophobia was imminent, so, in this first experiment I could not resist more than a minute, adding the fact that breathing was difficult due to the dust raised by the soil and filtered through the bamboo cane.

Once the test was over, we decided that the position, stretched out, back to the ground, was more suitable for an attitude of burial than of lethargy. This position in the animal kingdom translates in life an attitude of submission, and in many human societies it is also the attitude in which the body of the deceased is presented as having reached the supreme surrender.

The next experiment will consist of doing the same but adopting the position of the reptile, that is to say, belly to the ground, which is more appropriate for the sensations and moods that occur during lethargy.

Observations on the interpretation work: The performer must be very careful not to succumb to the fact of being buried and to keep in mind that the image he gives to the public must take priority over subjective sensations.

Tuesday 25 August. Session No.2

Ricard and Pau arrived at the scheduled time with the van loaded with the earth that we had selected in some nurseries in Vic, attracted by its slightly ochre tone and consistency.

In the studio and under cover from the weather, we emptied the bags of soil onto a white plastic sheet of about 30m2. The color of the soil was slightly darker than we thought but it was due to the moisture that still remained in it.

This time to protect myself from the humidity of the soil, I covered my body with a raincoat and we used the same bamboo cane as the first day. Pau and Ricard proceeded to cover the body, this time properly with earth, leaving it completely covered, up to the arm with which I held the cane.

The excitement of the first day did not dominate me so much, but after 5 minutes I had to fight the claustrophobia emitting any kind of sound and laughter through the cane.

We were surprised by a very simple thing and it was the fact that when moving any part of the body inside the earth as it happens in the water or in the air, it was always enveloped by the same earth.

Thursday, September 3rd. Session no.3

When the storms of the first days of September have allowed us to do so, we have been able to spread a good part of the available soil in front of the studio where we are doing the tests. We have found that the soil has a great capacity to absorb the ambient temperature as well as the humidity.

Once warmed by the sun and with the strong midday heat, we proceeded to stagger the burial by first covering the whole body except the head. After 20 minutes, they finished covering me. During the 12 minutes that followed, the difference was very noticeable.

The first sensation continues to be of weight and oppression, but after a few minutes it becomes the opposite, that is to say, a powerful sensation of peace and protection, almost placental, I would say.

The communication that the body establishes with the earth is one of identification, like being part of the same element. I would almost say that this integrity makes me feel, once inside, the outside as an ambiguous anecdote devoid of coherence. The air, the atmosphere is the realm of uncertainty, the lost paradise where life will try to phagocytize itself in order to subsist.

Once this is understood, the character will want to remain coherent, and the rhythm of life will mark a path in which he himself will be a spectator. The most important struggle for him will be to exist, warrior of being, constant groaning of the hidden, sunk to the surface, he will walk and at each step he will open a new path. Every moment will celebrate an end. Death and birth will walk with him, hand in hand.

Friday, September 4. Session no.4

This was the first time I started to feel really good inside the earth.

The claustrophobic sensation disappeared and we were able to make the experience last for almost an hour. Upon arrival, the inhabitants of the nearest house to the place, about 900m away, were perplexed when they heard from Cristina that I was under that mound of earth and that was where I was breathing. After a few minutes of observation, they began to comment on how difficult it must be and how they would feel in my place.

However, having already attended my own funeral 5 years ago or having come to the Barcelona Zoo to see me act as an executive inside the ape cage, allowed them to take a relaxed and good-humored attitude, commenting, but Albert always comes up with things like that.

The last years of working in the street doing performances and actions, have shown me that the tragic sense of life, not dramatic, manifests itself naturally. Nature does not dramatize, it simply acts out of an irrepressible impulse of existence.

Saturday, September 5th. Session no.5

Already at sunset, the temperature of the earth was slightly colder than the other days but the different burials have been able to accustom me to this inconvenience and to prolong today’s lethargy up to 70 minutes

A new sensation not experienced until now has led me at about the 40th minute to let the body for a moment, to live its own reason. It is here that for the first time, I had to take the reins of the horse of knowledge.

The body moved by itself within the earth emitting bellows and spasmodic breaths. My understanding let it do so, knowing only that it did not have to succumb.

Fortunately the body itself calmed down and I was able to master it again.

A strange sensation after 60 minutes made me notice that outside, on the surface, the night was beginning to take over. This “tempo” was not the most suitable for an emergence, but I waited for the slightest sign to accompany it.

Emerging first the head and then the whole body, again, the memory of the reptile presented itself and leaving it free I found myself with the sensation that gives the movement of the legs of the reptile that manages to separate the segments of its body and inhabit them by different souls.

Here we discover the metaphysical cosmology of the body in which each segment has its reason to exist and therefore an autonomous existentiality

Are we not ourselves, as individuals, integral and autonomous parts of another existential concept of which we are simply a part?

Once the memory of the reptile disappears, the human body of the performer will find itself standing, a warrior of its own coherence. A processional march will mark a time, the thread of his freedom will be like a pendulum that rejects verticality driven by the vital breath. The misalignments of that which is marked for him will produce the futile sensations of his subjectivity. An emptiness will be marked, the processional march will make silence and will invite him to find himself, the body will fall here in an abyss of silence.

The bells scattered in the space, uselessly will mark each one, a pattern and a behavior. The bells are the limbo of the pure beings, spatial emptiness that separates their sounds, black hole, spiral fall, spiral of the eternal return that to the rhythm of Waltz will take him in the vertigo of a masquerade to rejoice and celebrate in a rain of flower petals. The world in spite of everything subsists to the celebration of the present, his look will find the look of those for whom he has been acting, in short, it was a game.

Viernes día 11 de septiembre. Sesión no.6

The ground, due to the constant and clear sun all day, was very dry and dusty. We had to wet it as we proceeded to cover the body.

This time we managed to prolong the lethargy up to 1’30h, a time that is already beginning to be satisfactory in order to allow the body to be inhabited by states that go beyond representation

Indeed, from the first moments when the fingers and toes have come to the surface, I, as the performer, have let them do it freely, giving them life by themselves, allowing them to exist as an intrinsic reality. Following this process, the feet have begun to scratch the earth inhabited by the spirit of a reptile to equally the legs or almost, almost legs.

Here as a performer I will have to let life manifest itself. Thus a mixture of reptile and warrior has been emerging in the progressive straightening. Beyond emotion and feeling I have experienced this attitude as a mere bridge transmitting lucid states of memory.

Standing upright and triumphant of its resurgence, the body will advance stubbornly towards a future woven by a myriad of furtive presents, vertigo of an ascending fall, molecular space traversed in a golden protection of the spirit, darts of the conscience that ignore the justifying fear of lost reason.

The body advances courageously, the game of opposites is resolved in metamorphosis and this will be its reason for existence, its vital breath.

Saturday, September 12. Session no.7

This Saturday afternoon I had to interrupt my concentration several times during the lethargy to make different observations, one of them referring to the tone of voice used by the rehearsal attendees in their conversations.

The day before I had commented to Cristina that I would prefer that the people around me spoke in a natural tone and not in a low voice, hoping in this way to escape from the liturgical and cultural atmospheres and rediscover the naturalness of the free spaces.

Before coming out of the lethargy I thought that the day was not the right one, I even thought of cancelling the session with the excuse that I was not feeling well but out of respect for the collaborators, I had to follow the course of the ceremony.

It is curious how in each improvisation something new and surprising appears. In the fourth movement, that is to say “The dance of the bells”, I surprised myself by caressing from top to bottom one of the supposed strings hanging from one of them as if it were an umbilical cord that joins the earth with the sky.

A work, usually has two phases, the first one makes that acting in front of the public you go adding some new aspect each time. It is a living process of formation of the work itself. which will be longer, the deeper the approaches; nd a 2nd phase of crystallization and execution in which, the care of the performer, will be at the service of everything that will change around him, i.e. atmospheric conditions of the day of the presentation, time, quality and type of food, spaces visited before acting etc..

Tuesday, September 22nd. Session no.8

It has been a bit of a lazy day, the fact of combining these research works, in a certain para-theatrical way, with the cinematographic activity, produces me, I must admit it, a certain feeling of lag.

The type of concerns that can awaken the spectator in the movie theaters differs greatly from the state of mind of “Alma de serpiente”, although there is another aspect that makes me continue with it that my friend Joan Baixes told me last week in Madrid, during a break after a full day of shooting.

It fascinates me a lot Albert – he told me – to think that to this character of senior police chief who moves and rubs shoulders with the underworld of Madrid, some of the features that feed your current experience of lethargy and metamorphosis into a man – reptile – warrior

may appear in some look, neck movement, insinuation etc …. That this happens does not cause me any concern, but the opposite process does, that is to say, what will happen when, in attempting these processes of transubstantiation, the psychomotor trajectories of the “seducing actor” come to my mind?

The only way in which I see it possible to combine these two tendencies is to take a great distance, both with one tendency and the other, and to place myself in an external point of equilibrium and suspension, from which to send the light of knowledge that will reach the spectator, filtered by one or the other crucible of human nature.

Wednesday, September 23rd. Session no.9

On the way to Hellín the ochre and reddish tones of the earth seduce us with its arid undulations worked by human effort.

Again at the Hostal Modesto,

no … if I remember you, what ? in passing?

– Yes, a few days.

Downstairs in the dining room are waiting for us Juan, councilman of culture of the City Council and Fernando socialist spokesman of the government.

Fortunately these appellatives as well as ours that could qualify us as artists who have come from Barcelona to mount a “I don’t know what” have faded in front of the friendship and human relationship of our common project, and also after the success of the presentation in the theater show of Hellín of “El Hombre Urbano”, occasion and days in which we have already begun to talk about the project that now occupies us.

After the coffee we still had to wait a while for José Ma to arrive, who, as liaison of relations, had to introduce us to Paco, the hairdresser of the village. We turned our heads for a moment and there was Paco the hairdresser, acting as such at one end of the room, and between one scissors edge and the other, he was convincing one or the other to participate in the project. That is, he has been effectively through José, Ma our main recruiter of drummers and buglers for “Alma de serpiente”.

The unsuccessful search for alternative venues have led us to positively evaluate Juan’s offer to occupy the first floor of the Plaza del Mercado as a suitable place for rehearsals. Without further ado, we have arranged to meet the next morning with the architect Jesús for the selection of land in the vicinity of Hellín.

Tuesday, September 29th. Session 10

In the morning Jesus led us in the vicinity of Hellin, first to some deposits of different soils intended for construction. None of them corresponded to the ochre color, which we were looking for.

It was at the third or fourth stop of the vehicles that we finally found the beta of earth that we were looking for.

In a display of effectiveness on the part of the councilman of culture and of Jesus the person in charge of extracting the earth, after a few hours we have already had the three tons prepared in the place.

At 8 o’clock in the evening, when the drummers and buglers arrived, I made the explanation of the work with the visual support of the earth. After an understandable initial reluctance, little by little they have been taking much interest in the explanation of the work and at the end of it, without losing a minute, have been put on one side the drums and other bugles to rehearse the different rhythms and melodies that I was going to propose as accompaniment for two hours, recording on a cassette the different possibilities.

This would be a precious material for the next day to have selected the most suitable material.
Cristina took care of recording a video document of this first meeting. Once the session was over, we arranged to meet at the same time the next day to continue the rehearsals.

Wednesday, September 30. Session no.11

In the morning Pura, the director of the House of Culture of Hellín, told us that Luis the archaeologist was going to visit the cave of La Camareta, a few kilometers away We did not hesitate to accompany them.

Once there, we breathed the atmosphere of the Sanctuary, initially Iberian and later Christian, Visigothic and Arabic.
The graffiti that we have been able to read on its walls reached up to nowadays; that is to say from the zoomorphic figures of the Iberians to the “Pepe loves Manoli” of nowadays.
The afternoon was dedicated to prepare the second meeting with the hellineros, selecting the most interesting proposals of rhythms and melodies. We have been presented with this material at 8 pm in front of those who by choice have been attached to the experience. The rehearsal schedule as well as the requirement of a certain level with the instrument, had in itself operated a self-selection of the most suitable elements. The rehearsal went by reaffirming the chosen times that were to cover the 12 different sequences of the work.

Thursday, October 1st. Session no.12

The density that we had printed to the rehearsals in the two previous days and the practice that with drums and bugles had the components, have made us all feel much calmer in this third rehearsal.
I have not had to make any effort, they themselves have begun to organize themselves, and this has allowed me to concentrate on the part that specifically corresponded to me.
The responsibility of the drums has been left in the hands of José Navarro, that of the bugles in the hands of Joaquin Eleda and the part of the dancer is now in my hands, coordinating the different sequences with the music that they are going to interpret live.

In this first joint rehearsal, the first sequence, “burial”, was performed with the help of all of them. The next one, “lethargy”, lasted only 15 minutes. The third sequence “breaking”, we have decided to accompany it in its first phase with the rhythm of drums that they call “racataplán” and that is popularly percussion during the night of Holy Thursday and throughout the village.

The 15 minutes that this first phase lasted, contrary to what we expected, were short. The pattern of perception here of those attending the para-theatrical action should be detached from the beginning of the conventional codes of reading and proceed rather by immersion than by observation.

Here I sense that I am going to move away from the “cultural theater spectator” to refer more to the specifically anthropological entity of the spectator. The continuation of the rehearsal continued as planned, coupling the following sequences to the chosen music. Apart from the understandable small synchronization errors, the result of the third meeting was fully satisfactory.

Having to leave Hellín due to professional commitments, it has been their responsibility, that of the drummers, cornet and timpani players, to meet twice a week in order to adjust the music.
The next global rehearsals will take place on our return to Hellín, days before the performance of the play in Madrid.

Saturday, October 31 Session no.13

Down in the village Cristina and Toni were waiting for us.
What are you doing with so much luggage, it’s not as if we were going to Egypt.
I brought the video – Cristina answered me, and all the accessories of “Alma de serpiente”.

The lady at the inn, who has a grocery store next door, I particularly enjoyed ordering food for the three of us for several days, simply telling her to put whatever she wanted in the bags and we would find it upstairs.

The four kilometers of bumpy carriage road were new and surprising to us through the state of perception of our new tailor We did not arrive almost to the desserts that we were already trying on the pants and the jacket that with fabric of old sacks he had made.
The first test was completely disconcerting because although we had suggested that it should be close-fitting, we did not expect that such a coarse fabric could give that impression of elegance and exquisite daring.
The light and dark tones of the intentionally recessed pieces gave the figure a rustic (Setecentesque) air.

This grace was translucent but in a spirit quite different from that of “Alma de serpiente”.

The sensations experienced during the previous days must have found a natural channel of expression through the costumes. Being a work of energy, the subtlety of playing with juxtapositions between what one is, what one feels and what one wears, would not agree with the theme of “Soul of a snake” which aims in its execution to combine very different means of expression in one and the same entity or being.

All this world of means of expression reached the magic point of metaphysical creation, vibrates in unison. The team of creators is orchestrated, a vision of the world, one more, unique, and also true is glimpsed in the work, and this reality is the one that is intended to communicate with the public. We will not seek through the work of art made as a team and for a community, to worship some god or unknown spiritual entity?

We will have to fight with the costume or leave it alone, we commented after the first costume test. Fortunately Toni had come up with his sewing machine, for a moment I understood that it was urgent and necessary to transmit the soul of the character.
After some measured knowledge and attitudes, he understood immediately and without the slightest hesitation tore off my dress and started to tear it apart in a pure act of creative destruction.
After 20 minutes and with an oriental speed she gave me to try on some reinvented pants that seemed to me from the first moment, to belong with full right to “Alma de serpiente.

he same process was carried out with the jacket. After hours of sewing and unpicking, raising the shoulders, narrowing the chest, widening the waist, the cosmic romper of “Alma de serpiente” was becoming present before our wonderful eyes.

– Now he really needs a hat,” commented Cristina, who was also participating in the creative storm. In ten minutes Toni’s hands, as if by magic, redeemed the outfit from the limbo of the innocent A few final touches on the back and we had it dressed. After this enfebrizing session, a walk through the mountains in the moonlight until late at night, reconciled our spirits with the initial silence from which, any sound or action becomes a sign.

Friday, November 6. Session no.14

After the consequent vicissitudes and after getting a large and bright place, we proceeded in this second series of rehearsal in Hellin, to test the costumes in accordance with the tone and texture of the land. This time we concentrated specifically on the scene of the “Emergence”, we would make several video recordings of the different ways of appearing in the eyes of the public.

Some of the images I had observed during the rehearsals of the previous days had given me the impression that they did not convey all the intensity that I, as a dancer, had previously thought I felt.

How to make the audience participate in these metaphysical states, without my subjectivity as a performer preceding what is to be shown? Here is this tremendous paradox that demands at the same time to be and to represent.

The dialectic solution of these two apparent extreme states, I will have to choose as a performer to transmit to the assistant, the strength and intensity of the attitude or representative gesture, putting all my emotions as an individual at the service of the sign or scenic gesture. Here, precisely when the ego disappears, the condition of the individual as a human being is magnified, and by reflection, the presence of those who attend the event is magnified

We thus speak of the things that are common to us, of the beauty of existing, of the dignity of belonging to something much more serious, joyful and profound. But this is precisely where the dancer must be alert and not believe himself to be the messenger of what could be superior states. This tension with the daily existence will be the fiber that will release the sweet sound of the human.

From this fruitful rehearsal we deduced the convenience of staying in the middle of the two ways of being in front of the assistants. Neither allowing oneself to be dominated by the experience itself, nor ignoring the cathartic state that derives from it. In a word, to let life flow by giving it the maximum of working hours.

Sábado día 7 de noviembre. Sesión no.15

Again we wanted to take as a reference the lethargic state. For one hour I recovered the reptilian position. Breathing is still not completely resolved, as I breathe in and out through the same mouth through the reed that emerges to the surface, some of the expelled air returns to the lungs with less oxygen. From now on I will try a more balanced breathing that will allow me to use both ducts, nasal and buccal, and thus naturally leave the body available for the flow of the different memories.

This time I have opted for a physically more passive attitude of the body, listening again to its reasons and experiences under the ground.

The evolution of the rehearsals is requiring me to adopt a different position; not so much horizontal but diagonal and slightly more contracted with the elbows closer to the trunk as well as the knees. With the mind of a mere observer of the physical experiences I have been able, as an internal spectator, to notice my own body as if it were a reptile, whose lower and upper limbs had grown with an anthropoid morphology.

The brain, for a few moments, questioned from some little corner the human condition to the rest or, if not more, that little island of the brain that shone with its own light, made the other part see its own particular way of seeing and feeling reality.

Each state of consciousness has its own authentic explanation of the world. It would perhaps be the whole of the divine. To explain it through and only through the human, seems to me a pretension that defies with ignorance the emptiness that separates the different capacities of being.

It is here that I trust in a new humanism stripped of the feeling of self-importance and available to deny itself in order to be able to affirm itself through all that exists.

That divine essence that we carry within us, lives in us filled with vitalistic emptiness. For those who are able to make the leap or, to understand us, to synchronize this new station, reality and life take on a new enriching aspect.

Already here in today’s rehearsal, we have succeeded in unifying memory, experience and representation. This little treasure will have to be preserved with the presence of the drums and bugles, and even more with the presence of the public.


“Alma de serpiente” espectáculo para la controversia, abierto a soluciones que deberá resolver el carácter provisional que se vio en el estreno de anteanoche, es la ocasión para reencontrar al Albert Vidal, dueño de unas técnicas de expresión corporal únicas, las más difíciles personales y cautivadoras, y a la vez de una mayor imaginación que se han dado en nuestro panorama de creadores teatrales.

LA VANGUARDIA. Joan-Anton Benach. 29.05.1988

… La acción teatral de Albert Vidal llega más allá de la pura estética más o menos modernista o vanguardista que a veces tratan de vendernos artistas de hoy: una profunda meditación filosófica, existencial, inundó la otra noche la sala del teatro Alfil, en la convicción de que se vivía y compartía una experiencia , esta vez sí, nueva y sincera.

AGENDA. Enrique Centeno. 24.11.1987

… El éxito que demostraba la emoción de quienes presenciaron el espectáculo, una emoción que en alguno de los momentos de la obra hizo aparecer alguna lágrima entre el público hellinero. … … Ningún espectador dudó que el éxito aquí obtenido le acompañara allí donde se ponga en escena este montaje….

LA VERDAD. Emilio Sanchez.19.11.198

.. Albert Vidal es el actor dueño de un ritmo y una manera de danzar que contrastan con las líneas clásicas y modernas enraizadas en la escena. Durante veinte años ha practicado en espectáculos y creaciones peculiares…. La obra “Alma de serpiente” es una germinación animal. La semilla fue sembrada en una de sus anteriores obras y ahora Albert Vidal nos cuenta en imágenes cómo el hombre surge de la tierra con la lentitud de los días y de las horas. El acto orgánico pasa del viscoso laicismo de la anecdota a las fronteras de lo fantástico y la pantomima bufonesca da vida a la farsa medieval.

IDEAL. Andrés Molinari.27.05.1988