While the biggest and richest autumn festivals are about to run out, or have already ended their run, in December the most traditional or Italian opera and ballet theaters will be offering some news to us. Certainly as far as “TorinoDanza 2019", which began in the already distant and past September, the last show on the bill had a great impact: Kamuyot by the celebrated Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin for his Batsheva - The Young Ensemble.
The group, composed by very young dancers, was created immediately, in 1990, when Naharin settled at the head of the main Batsheva Dance Company. Since then every year he selects no less than 400 candidates to learn, since more recent times, above all the method definited “Gaga”. Day by day the budding dancers get used to feel each single part of their body and express themselves through all the senses according to the parameters invented and focused by the ingenious "Mr. Gaga" (title of a surprising film by Tomer Heymann, dedicated to Naharin). This Batsheva-The Young Ensemble is therefore the forge from which the passage into the company of proven and tested professionals comes naturally for those who emerge.
The fourteen, very young, Israelis were also present in July with Decadance (2000) at the "Florence Dance Festival". This summer showcase, directed by Marga Nativo and Keith Ferrone, has arrived this year at its 30th edition. Instead they offered Kamuyot (or quantity) to "TorinoDanza 2019": a fascinating, interactive adventure, created three years after Decadance and expressly intended for an audience from 6 to 90 years ... Its incipit, in the intricate and rich musical collage, immediately puts you in a good mood thanks to Lou Reed and his We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together. The costumes of the performers: Scottish skirts, torn stockings, simple t-shirts blend together in a sort of "square" with the audience sitting on all four sides, with no more barriers between the stage and the audience. Thrill and enthusiasm stand out in large sets even on the ground, while some bitter or thoughtful drops appear in the solos.
This dance piece reshuffles in fact also extracts from Mamootot (2003) and from the following Moshe. These latter performances are not really adolescent ones, but the choreographer really likes the game of shuffling and "crooked" quotations. Thus, in addition to moving back and forth and to the center of the "agora", the dancers invite the public to join them in the walks, in the static poses. They look into the eyes of the individual spectators and delicately capture their hands.
Even when there is no direct interaction, Kamuyot exudes empathy. At one point, in the rock version of Bobby Freeman's You Wonna Dance, everyone quickly jumps, poses and then hurls to the other side of the square, so close to the audience that it's impossible to notice in their eyes the malicious pleasure of capturing attention even with an entirely childish body language: the mouths lash the air, the faces slap each other, the breasts almost beat to ask forgiveness from their parents. The final is a feast, in which “the children” have now more than conquered and enraptured, for their spontaneous skill, the ones, who have enjoyed their adorable youth. Kamuyot is a light butterfly’s quiver that settles on our dark times.
On the contrary the “Family Trilogy” (Vader - Moeder – Kind) by the Peeping Tom is much less reassuring and not only because it’s rich in quotes, references to texts and tests extrapolated from meeting people of various kind. It held bench, again at “TorinoDanza 2019”, both for the exhaustive decision to present the three chapters of the adventure (2014-2019) of the Belgian group, and for the warm welcome of the public. We have already focused here on Kind (Son) in a previous reflection from "Aperto" (8-9 October 2019), the multidisciplinary festival of Reggio Emilia’ Theatres. But even Vader (Father) and Moeder (Mother) do not derail from the Leitmotive of Peeping Tom already mentioned in Kind: first of all the more than shrewd choice of the space, or rather the habitat in which the pieces are designed. In Vader we are in a nursing home; in Moeder in a museum. The hospice, almost underground, is populated by elderly people trying to make the sunset of their lives less sad. This is a very difficult operation, despite of the little band that from time to time brightens the atmosphere and revives that funeral light that filters through a single window.
The protagonist of Vader, Leo De Beul, extraordinary eighty-year-old, sometimes in wheelchair, sometimes concentrated in catchy dances, is the subject-object of “the sins of the fathers”. His son - a middle-aged giant - enters and leaves only for short visits, and is himself the father of a young man who reproaches him for having never shared anything with him and his family. Three generations in comparison: a deadly cocktail of emotional indifference broken by the 80-year-old: well cared for by orderlies/dancers of the hospice, he believes them to be his secret children, between moments of presence and even hilarious hallucinations. This is a kind of forgetful God with no more power over his creatures and about to abandon us like the traditional figure of pater familias did, leaving us completely, for better or worse.
The museum of Moeder is not less disturbing and even ambiguous: does it host a funeral chamber or a delivery room? A mature father and custodian of the museum announces the sadness of the day: a woman (mother?) appears screaming and moaning on a coffin in the delivery room. The pain of a daughter liquefies in a dance dragged to the ground, on the water created from sound effects, but also on the copious tears of an immobile cleaning woman. A young lady cradles her newborn infant: joy explodes. In the delivery room they all turn into rock stars and sing. Too bad that the dynamic vertigo, wrapped in the cellophane in which the dam is exalted, let her baby to be subtracted by a ferocious Asian nurse always in pain and, during the performance, always pregnant. Parents of the abducted infant- a girl-child - are allowed to visit only on birthdays.
Trapped as she is inside an incubator, the little one exaggerates to each birthday, until she becomes an overflowing mass of meat. Chilling. Especially when you discover that among the paintings of the museum, the drawing of a beating and blooding heart, and in a drawer of the wall the obese daughter of the incubator: dead. Her mother chases (in a dream?) a “normal” girl; the father -custodian of the museum declares to be an orphan and widower twice. Itchy and brutal irony reinforced in the end when the delivery room acquires the colors of a flower garden. A dancer had matched her cheek to a picture with landscape of nature: the mother, central figure for the cognitive-emotional development of the children, is today all too often elusive, unattainable. A nostalgic scent of flowers?
Thanks to the Argentinean Gabriela Carrizo and the French Franck Chartier, authors in turn and then in pair of the three pieces (Vader - Moeder - Kind) it has been born a fantastic, never captioned, story-telling. Among wonderful and supple dances, acrobatics, various music and few, calibrated words, the all-round pièces of the Peeping Tom (from English: voyeur) sting, sadden, move to emotion, but also to laugh, and surely they aim to give us a problematic view of the family at a time when it seems to have to disappear, generating feelings of guilt, repressed desires, frustrations and above all unbridgeable solitudes.
Whereas it’s indifferent to psychology and to direct references to today's society - unless something under-traced and interpreted in the most different ways - the successful Sisyphus/Trans/Form by the Greek Dimitris Papaioannou: a rereading of Still Life (2014) in the form of a new site-specif pièce. It appeared in five performances in the large spaces of the Maramotti Collection in Reggio Emilia, in collaboration with the "Aperto 2019" Festival. The artist who has already finished the triumphal tour of his penultimate show (The Great Tamer, 2017), before a new debut in May in Athens (the city where he was born in 1964), summarized and concentrated here with short actions of great strength and poetry, what in Still Life was widely deployed starting from the famous Myth of Sisyphus. Essay on the Absurd by Albert Camus (1942). The eminent writer/philosopher not only compares Sisyphus to the shrewdest of mortals, as so far as to be considered (according to legend) Ulysses' true father, but he imagines him as an “happy man”. Yet Sisyphus, because of the cunning and wickedness committed, had incurred such a debt to the gods to be punished by compulsion, the Odyssey informs us, to drag a huge boulder to the top of the long slope of a hill to roll it to the other side. When the boulder reaches the summit, as if driven by a divine force, it tumbles again downstream, forcing Sisyphus to start his work again, with the sweat of his forehead and a cloud of dust that surrounds him, and all this for the eternity.
In Sisyphus/Trans/Form, five performers in dark suits (the uniform dear to Papaioannou), among them two women in turn, strive to transport stacks of bricks, drag a large dusty wall trying to penetrate it. Silence surrounds actions bordering on magical violence. If it is always one the performer who sweating carries the stripped wall (actually polystyrene, but the effect of heaviness remains), who penetrates it, from one side to the other one, are other performers with arms, legs and heads that often expose themselves to the vision of the public, or remain intertwined, according to a method called “Body mechanic System”. Invented by the same Papaioannou, this system would seem derivative of the butoh, the new Japanese dance that already at the end of the Fifties, deformed the naked and covered bodies of its followers, but for an instinctive plunge into the depths of the unconscious. On the contrary, Papaioannou, who also learned in his youth the secrets of butoh in America from Min Tanaka, creates only the illusion of the distortion of the limbs with mechanical and painless cunning.
On the other hand, this choreographer-director, who became very well known in a few years after the opening and closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Athens, directed by him in worldwide vision (2004), but above all, live, after the duet Primal Matter (2012) was born with a strong talent for painting. Enfant prodige, at the age of three, he already knew how to draw like an adult, and at nineteen a personal exhibition was organized for him . Since then, he added to his primary art dance and theatrical staging creating total works, real Gesamtkunstwerke, in which the invention of amazing images prevails. Among resorting to myth, its traditional Greek culture, pictorial quotations caught in the history of every century, what emerges above all is the experimental drive to explore, thanks to the suggestions offered to him by his interpreters, what is not yet known to him. In Sisyphus/Trans/Form at the Maramotti Collection, a far-sighted artistic space and already host of various metteurs en danse, there could not be the large cellophane that overlooks Still Life and then ignites, but a small cellophane that covers who knows what and stays on the side like a pointy and unarmed totem.
The light - a wide projector on the ground - is modulated by the same Papaioannou (master of ceremony in Still Life and also here), which drags it, throwing chiaroscuro on the feats of its performers and also amplifying their heavy breathing, thanks to a microphone that he always carries with him. The end of the installation takes place against a wall: the performers strive to stick and support long, narrow, black and clear wooden slabs, creating crosses and informal drawings. But also this task deserves continue “go head” even if not exactly similar to the toils of Sisyphus, and ends with a body that discovers the buttocks holding firmly the axis that he supports against the wall, like the other performers. Essential, minimalist and intense, the installation of Papaioannou gave farewell to Italy before his certain return, with the new production that still has no title, both to the Reggiano “Aperto” and to “TorinoDanza”, that will be co-producers.
A few days after Sisyphus/Trans/Form’s debut, We Want Miles, In A Silent Way by the Nanou Group, has been visiting “Danae”, a festival active in Milan for twenty-one years. Opening a painful parenthesis, it seems right to note that Milan is a rather ungrateful city for contemporary dance; it boasts festivals of medium and small stature and hosts here and there also important names. However, it has none of the long and articulated festivals that have long reigned in Turin, Rome, Reggio Emilia. It is a black hole, even in its project, of which the city certainly cannot brag about. The Nanou’s dance pièce, here led by Marco Valerio Amico and Rhuena Bracci, has already in the title its inspiring source: Miles Davis, one of the greatest musicians in the history of jazz. It’s formalistic and in the style of the Ravennati Nanou does not give up those strips of light, here of various and changing colors, which serve as tracks, or create fences where the dance lives in a succession of frames.
Curious, as he is, a male figure in black suit of shoulders, appears immediately at the beginning and shows a foot off the axis of his balance, wearing yellow. He reappears at times, often for simple walks, or for “free” dances, very different from those elaborated with technique and precision by the three female dancers. Carolina Amoretti dresses in tights with a flesh-coloured bust and long hair; Marina Bertoni wears a puffy white shirt and tight green pants and the same Bracci, interpreter and co-choreographer, is the only one in everyday costumes: hooded suits, for example. At the bottom a panel closes the space in half and lets the interpreters appear and disappear: it also dyes itself in various colors starting from the red. The dance makes use of straight lines, of outstretched arms, of round evolutions in space and is different for each of the three dancers even if this diversity, with the exception of Bracci that often rolls on the ground, is dictated for the other two mainly by the speed of execution and the personality of both.
In one hour a homage is given to Miles Davis that does not start exactly from his music, but from his compositional method, from his “structures”. The percussions, beside the scene of the Theatre Out Off that hosted “Danae”, are led by Bruno Dorella and rework and transfigure Miles’s pieces of music, preferring also electronic inserts or pure and dry silences. In this chromatic-danced way and with live music also not by Davis, except in the final part, when the famous trumpet of the so-called “prince of darkness”- who died in Santa Monica in 1991- comes out. About Miles' shady personality remains a lot of memories and testimonies. Among his most famous sentences resounds that “Why play all these notes when we can only play the best?”, a synthesis of a poetic based on the unmistakable languid sound and the controlled emotionality of his instrument of choice, rather than on virtuosity for its own sake. Explicit example of his greatness is Kind of Blue (1959), which perhaps remains one of the most popular jazz albums of all the times having sold over four million copies in the States alone.
In We Want Miles, In a Silent Way the Nanou , emerged at the beginning of the third millennium, try to measure themselves with the way of composing of this sample of sobriety and versatility who gave still alive an heritage not only to jazz but perhaps to all the music as a whole. The Nanou also debuted in New York and Ravenna Festival: everywhere demonstrating the rigor and seriousness of their research for which they even chose a professor of chromatology (Daniele Torcellini) for the collaboration to the stage device and for the colors, beautiful, that invade their show. Among unexpected and even playful touches, such as the masculine presence -perhaps the shadow of Miles himself -, the only drawback would seem to be the dance matter of two of the dancers (Amoretti and Bertoni): not so much because of the way how it is impeccably performed but because of a sort of repetition of movements often too identical, that could generate monotony.