Art+Culture Merida

Send in the Clowns

Haydee Bañales is a clown. Not of the ‘red nose, giant shoes, tiny car variety’. But of the ‘telling a story through physical expression’ variety. “It’s called Physical Theatre, and one is sometimes a part of the other”, Haydee (pronounced Eye-day) explained to me in our interview at her recently opened Skhole Teatro in La Ermita. Although she professes a fondness for red noses, Physical Theatre is so much more than that, and Skhole hopes to enchant Merida with its magic.

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I’m not familiar with the term ‘physical theatre’. From what you’ve told me, would you say Cirque de Soleil is an example of this genre?

H: Absolutely, although their emphasis in storytelling is more on acrobatic athleticism than embodying a character from toes to nose. Physical Theatre seeks and enhances the physical possibilities as a means of expression. It’s about breaking down the relationships between dance, movement and characterization, communicating ideas and emotions without pretense. Probably one of the most famous examples of this is Charlie Chaplin, who truly embodied his characters with both humor and vulnerability.

Where did you study to be an actor?

H: My training is in contemporary dance and ballet. When I was 24, I went to Paris to study at Jacques Lecoq, a renowned international theatre school, specializing in physical theatre. While in Europe I worked for many different theatre companies but longed to start something for myself, so here I am.

Why did you choose Merida to open Skhole?

H: I’m from Veracruz, and after living in Europe for so many years, I wanted to come home to Mexico. Finding Merida was like a lucky strike. It’s a city that supports the arts in a very big way, and it’s also safe. With a young family and a young business, both of those things are important to me.

_Curso Haydee_043You say you have a fondness for the clown…can you explain?

H: I was seduced by the clown because it’s a figure that writes, directs and creates its own story. The clown always speaks to human fragility and vulnerability—my fragility is your fragility. I also love masks, and the red nose of the clown is a little mask.

People like to laugh at the clown but when we laugh at the clown, we laugh at ourselves. We want them to overcome their obstacles just as we do for ourselves. To survive life we have to laugh at our tragedies.

What is your vision for Skhole?

H: Skhole was first created as a meeting place for the arts. We’re trying to build a family, offering classes, courses and workshops, not just by myself and my partners, but by other artists and entrepreneurs who want to use the space.

So it sounds more like a community centre, geared to cultural pursuits.

H: Yes, that would be accurate. My piece is the theatre – I teach the acting workshops/classes for kids and adults, professionals and amateurs and individuals who want an alternative to salsa dancing etc, Oscar teaches the Improvisation classes, Angie runs the lovely café at the front of Skhole, Gonzalo is an accredited alternative therapist offering seminars and consultations in natural therapies. We offer yoga on Thursdays and run an open air cinema on Thursday evenings (Dec 10 we’ll screen Rocky Horror Picture Show).

Skhole KabaretSkhole is an active theatre and your first performance is on La Noche Blanca Dec 12th. Tell me about your plans.

H: For La Noche Blanca, we’re turning Skhole into a Kabaret and it is not to be missed. La Ermita will become our theatre, the street will become our stage and from dusk til dawn, the barrio will come to life!

Skhole Teatro is located at Calle 64 x 73 y 75. For more information, visit them on Facebook at Skhole Teatro.

In October 2012, I drove 6,800 kms with my artist husband, Ric Kokotovich (, and my dog Iggy, to spend 6 months in our adopted city of Merida. Leaving the fast paced world of Calgary behind, I packed my books, art and entrepreneurial spirit, and set off to explore what lay beyond the borders that had become my life. In October 2013 we hit the road south again, hoping to find out what ‘living the dream’ really means. This is my adventure.

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