Txt: Massimo Schiavoni
Img: Courtesy of Il Posto di Venezia
Eng: Francesca Lattanzi
Img: Courtesy of Il Posto di Venezia
Eng: Francesca Lattanzi
Luisa Valeriani in his latest essay "Performers - figures of change in widespread aesthetics”, looks at the artist and the consumer as a sole figure. Both represent social and anthropological practices of creative spectacularisation which nowadays emerges from below; these " performers " favour their point of view and their own style by staging an innovative artistic creativity that goes beyond fashion, but which is also related to both the political field as well as sociology.
She says that "architecture, rather than the abstraction of the project drawn, speaks the language of images, emotions, sounds (the roar of the stadium as the patter of footsteps, voices of the market and the street, cries of children and flights of swallows ..), and that each of them is brought to live its daily experience as an event, and architecture as a daily experience. Because of this I feel like recalling and embracing a spectacular experience,
communicative and very "touching" (like fashion); the experience of an artistic career born from below and which, as a tangible postmodern morphing, is naturally intertwined with places, spaces and environments which turn into activating "the performance in situ”. It is a body-material interactive performance which the company Il Posto di Venezia parades meticulously based on its experience and professionalism.
The performances by the company Il Posto are events of great impact and appeal. They are made on the facade of buildings which are important in the life of cities like bell towers, historic buildings, contemporary architectures or others significant places in the territory. They are performances of vertical dance, which is now ranked among the most popular arts in the recent years. One of the most spectacular and fascinating arts in spite of the tremendous sacrifice that lies behind every live performance, the only way they perform,. In Italy the author of this " spectacular balance " and founder of the company “Il Posto” is the choreographer and dance-educator Wanda Moretti. She departed from Venice and enchanted audiences around the world, performing at the Singapore Arts Festival, the Biennale International des Theatres du monde of Rabat, at the Fools Festival in Belfast and at the Mittelfest. Wanda is the author of a path of vertical dance which began in 1995. She also studies the space in its anthropological, social, cultural and architectural features. From this analysis she creates an event-show where space, sound and movement combine in a single representation
Together with her choreographic work, she has undertaken a personal research on the educational potential of dance in schools and extracurricular structures. She studied at the Mousikè Centre of Bologna in collaboration with the Chair of History of Dance - DAMS University in Bologna and with Aterballetto. She is also teaching, doing some training and workshops for museums and organizations. About her work she says: "Vertical dance offers a different observation standard of the place. The place is not a simple container of the event but becomes itself part of the performance. The show we propose adds to the space a new unusual and unexpected point of view and music by Marco Castelli, performed live, creates an atmosphere in which the event comes to life."
So the performance - in this case the vertical dance - blends with its surroundings, with the rough surfaces of a bell tower, with the bricks of a gallery or a civic tower, with the Artistic Heritage which welcomes all its persuasion and grace in a contrast that attracts and become complementary. It was Venice that gave the first input to Wanda;
Venice, the mother par excellence of architectural art worldwide, where the typical streets do not allow us to see the horizon as if to indicate the only possible way out: the sky.
And between heaven and earth the artistic creation comes to life. Rhythm suspended in an immersive-performing experience that leaves no room for errors; body domination and “èloge de danse”. A performance that overflows in our "everyday spaces" redefining iconic "symbols" by actors; a convergence between art that moves and that which does not move; integrated testing and changing sets of cooperative processes, the need to let those sites "relive", those sites and emblems, those "space of experience", which is- to put it as Franco Speroni would- "a symptom of reality, a fascinating reading of the world beyond any interpretative arrogance."
Massimo Schiavoni: Who was Wanda Moretti and who is she today?
Wanda Moretti: I started dance training very late, following some amateur courses, around 12 years old. The strong passion in contemporary dance began around 18 years so I have been busy looking for more, I have even chased teachers did workshops and met people. In addition to contemporary dance I did yoga, tai chi quan, capoeira, I have no objections to any form of movement. An then Movement Analysis according to the studies of Rudolf Laban occurring in parallel to training in dance education. Along came also harmony of space studies, coreologia and interest in architecture and visual arts, learning methodologies, education and art education through a body process.
Today I am and I feel the result of a gradual and perhaps unconscious approach to vertical. In 1990 I had an experience with the Canadian artist Jana Sterback; I stayed on his work, a skirt Remote Control / Motorized crinoline 2 meters above ground level for the Art Biennale. Then in 1993 at the Teatro Guardistallo with Cassandra Crista Wolf climbing a huge spider web made of rope and placed on the proscenium. Finally the work "Aprimi un nascondiglio" by Alda Merini in 1996 for the Poetry Festival in Venice; on the wall, a bit 'Mary Poppins' a bit crucified.I represented the parallel and elusive world of the psychiatric patient. From this point, the vertical was a necessity, every experience must be made in the wall. I needed that point of view to see the dance and watch the space around me. All uphill: the personal practice and the architecture, the search for dancers and choreography, certification requirements for those working above the ground, security and then the body seen with other eyes.
Massimo Schiavoni: Tell me in detail how passion and the need for contemporary dance and related studies and methodologies also associated with space, architecture and art education come to you. I want to know what techniques, processes, events and what people were essential to your artistic growth towards a discipline which is both versatile and multifaceted, innovative and meticulously complex and delicate.
Wanda Moretti: Without wishing to do now a summary of the history of the origins of contemporary dance, say that unlike other dances, it is born and remains today a research on the construction techniques of movement and choreographic composition. In the study of improvisation structures of Trisha Brown, for example, there is a modus operandi that allows, through the application of rules of detection of space and shapes, associated with a process of creative practice of moving ever again, the creation of an artistic project. A work of art is the result of a thought that excites us and helps us to see and understand different meanings. Rudolf Laban, to whom we owe a scientific method of movement analysis and a system of movement notation (labanotation or cinetografia) treats the body as architecture and allow us to reflect on the movement. Another prime example is the recent work of William Forshyte presented in http://synchronousobjects.osu.edu website, where the exploration of a short choreography, is analyzed and interlaced with different forms of writing space to display graphics and sound. Regarding the teaching of art, I'm back again to the Labanian influences, which pushed me to an always open research that puts the body, perception, art as a prerequisite to knowledge and learning methodologies. Of course, there's more, but I think this is the 'core'.
Massimo Schiavoni: How would you entitle your artistic work if you could not use the term "vertical dance"?
Wanda Moretti: I would say, "practice of spatial planes moving". Indeed, space practice in which the body of the dancer is responsible for negotiating borders and boundaries in the vertical territories, with a variety of sensitivity, knowledge and skills.
Massimo Schiavoni: How important was a city like Venice for your "birth" and artistic growth, a city with its art and its constraints - although fascinating and unique - its dislocations, the paths and routes "obliged"?
Wanda Moretti: Certainly I belong to Venice and I'm certainly influenced by the presence of water and stones; everything is toned down and softened by water, our roads are "water", things and homes floating, and the force of gravity seems to be less important. Even the floor is softer and more elastic than the "mainland" roads. The inhabitants are accustomed to rise, fall, slide, surf, move into deep water. Sometimes I get the impression that the magnetic force that causes tides, causes something in me too. I remember a research of some planners with whom I worked as choreographer in 2008, together with the architect Cristina Barbiani with whom I share part of this research for a proposed redevelopment of La Defense in Paris: we were studying how the quality of the space - depending on the type of action that allows, encourages and suggests - affects the quality of living. The vertical dance performance that we made in Paris was used as an investigative tool in very special urban contexts. I chose a gray parking multi-storey building with a periscope arrived at -4 underground level, to blast with over 10 floors into the sky, and so alongside the skyscrapers. So, the show needed to see if through "dissociating" practices than usual customs, this could somehow affects areas and people. Here, the answer to your question is surely this: the body is the medium through which we experience space, we are "carriers" across physical space, and express a personal judgments in light of the experience related to our body. The place where we live always acts on what we do.
Massimo Schiavoni: How does your performance take life? The places and locations - historical buildings, architecture, towers, castles - and the choreography go together or is there a defined hierarchy?
Wanda Moretti: In most cases we have committees, so the choice of locations is a request coming from others. What I do with my company is to interpret the architecture that are proposed to us, decide how to set up, where to place the dancers and if it is possible to create something on the site, refining the "listening" in the short term we are living in that place. Regarding the specific construction of the show, the theme appears step by step inside of me: on this I prepare studies, research and I do hypothesis. Then I talk to Marco Castelli, who is the musician who founded the company with me , and he writes and plays the music used in the performance. I share and discuss the project with him at length, then we separate and process materials, to arrive to rehearsals with some proposals to be explored.
Massimo Schiavoni: You told me about the musician Marco Castelli and about the dancer Marianna Andrigo. How did you meet and how did your collaboration start? Do you also work with other artists-dancers who are not permanently in the Company?
Wanda Moretti: Marco was a friend of some musician friends, I met him at a concert: he plays with various jazz groups, and collaborate on various projects from musical theater, video, performance, and reading. It has always been very "diverse" in its interests and was immediately put to the test when I told him what it meant for me vertical.
The first collaboration together and with the vertical dance was in the show with Alda Merini where I danced on the wall and he took care of the music and played on stage, accompanied and linked the reading of poems by Alda and my dance. In 1999 for the first great experiment in vertical dance Project Proteus, produced for 16 dancers by the University of Architecture in Venice, Marco put together and directed an orchestra of 10 brass and 6 percussion. I remember this show with strong emotion, the cloister was full of spectators and everything was moving, sound, movement on the ground and in air: it was a great experience that has tied us in all work to follow. In project with the Compagnia Il Posto, we consider the music a chance to further investigate the space and add informations to its perception. I think it's a great chance to use the live music specially composed for the dance because it allows a more targeted research and a better interaction between the form of dance, the dancers with each other and the performance place.
Marianna is a dancer that I selected in 2002. She had never been on the wall, but just "changed" the shelf below his feet it was clear her predisposition to vertical. She was young, now she is 27 ans has the experience and energy of a mature dancer who has danced everywhere. With her I'm very happy when we are around, she can dance however, is able to negotiate space with the intelligence of the body and manage her weight, strength and balance on windows, gutters, cornices, skyscrapers and houses mountain, on the stone, marble, on the battlements of castles, glass and aluminum, granite and slate. I think Marianne is the historical memory of most of my work in this sense that she has accumulated a wealth of information and practices that make her a champion today, and that is why sometimes I have trouble to juxtapose her to other dancers. For a few yearsshe leaved the company, but today Marianna collaborates as a dancer and help me in the rigging (construction and assembling of ropes) of performances, she has a high expertise in vertical dance, and an important technical knowledge of working. Other dancers who work with me are professionals who play a regular study of training in their basic technique. They alongside the preparation of the vertical dance with a specific training which I personally follow when I choose them. As for the whole contemporary dance, it happens that the training and learning comes in parallel with the preparation of choreographies. Collaborations with other artists and groups in Italy and abroad are part of my work are I'm often called for choreography, workshops and for the production of "specific" vertical events.
Massimo Schiavoni: Can you remember and outline for me your first performance of vertical dance? Rehearsals, sounds, smells and emotions.
Wanda Moretti: The first with Marco and Marianna? Do you know the Teatro Verdi in Cesena? It's a trendy place, a former theater turned into a nightclub, the climate is very aggressive and poetic. We had a carpet of 2500 people glued one to each other to look up: Marianna and two other dancers on the wall, Marco on saxophones on the platform of the DJ. We did 3 sets of 4 / 5 minutes, the last one between 3 and 4 in the morning. I remember the tests in the afternoon went well, there was nobody and nothing would happen until midnight: then the sea of people and bodyguards who escorted me each time to accompany me to the strings and test before the first performance. I remember the smell of spirits and a lot of concern for girls on the wall! Then, we have only ever worked outdoors on building opened on the city, with the sun or cold, but in the street ... deep down we are street artists.
Massimo Schiavoni: What does it mean today to be a street performer?
Wanda Moretti: What a difficult question! Marco would reply: "take a lot of cold or heat and have to answer to strange questions". And Marianna would answer: "is like being a carny, we are there and people come to watch us". One of the objectives of our work is to bring people to the built space - blurring the boundaries - so for me it might not be on the streets and between houses. A point of view which is not exactly the one of street artists. We are an hard "genre", we do not fall precisely in dance activities, we feel more akin to contemporary art, physical theater, but we have also an "acrobatic" look that brings us to the circus disciplines: and also issues of architecture and visual arts. We work primarily in open spaces, restored, but also in industrial archeology venues. We performed plays in historic buildings and modern architectures in unconventional places, towers, steeples, farm houses, churches, museums, bridges, trees. I like to think that the relationship created among the places where we work and the performance has the same character of a public work, in the street in front of everyone. During installation of the show there is a break-building, we enter and exit from all sides: it's like weaving a thread between inside and out, to connect but also invade. People are interested and back several times during the construction and testing, which often continue a day or two: then they also see the show and let us know what they think and always ask why their town and why we chose that very building.
Massimo Schiavoni: One of the most interesting things is the contact and exchange with the audience which is inevitably involved during the rehearsals and fittings. Can you tell me about and describe one or more "scenic places" where you have encountered difficulties or where it was somehow harder to work because of the physicality of the building and because of other problems not related to the performance in situ? What are the places in which you can give the best of yourself?
Wanda Moretti: Ridracoli Dam on Romagnolo Apennines, a concrete concave giant top 103 meters and long nearly 500, a very difficult space. People watched from above the crown and below near the reservoir: they were all far away and also the dancers among them. The vacuum was impressive, as well as acoustics, the dancers hardly heard one to each other, and music bounced from one point to another creating resonances and echoes that we were unable to correct. There were 10 small bodies almost invisible on the huge stage and I did not know how to make them move. The hundred feet of rope that was left to each of them and needed to get them on the ground had a three times weight, looked like a stick planted hard and durable. The metal of descenders burned hands after a few yards short, it was a bit all "against" our performance! I think the scene was breathtaking but when the architecture is so far from the human scale it is also far from natural: it seemed to me refractory and difficult to transform into something else, there was no place for nature or for men. One of the most charming places was the Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice, a sixteenth century palace with a
courtyard overlooked by 144 arches across 4 floors of galleries, a spell of lines and forms in a perfect synthesis. We did the performance of the night working on several orders of height and on different sides, much of the audience was lying on the ground to see comfortably and let surprise when saw the dance always come in different places.
The dancers seem to materialize in space and the strings were not visible, the sound of Marco propagated magical and acoustics were perfect. I worked extensively on the show design: is one of the places where I wish to return. An extremely delicate place that surprised us for the stage ability of the architecture itself, an historic building in the heart of Venice. I absolutely wanted to use all 4 walls facing the courtyard: it was there that the German merchants were locked from 7 pm to 7 am at the time of the Serenissima Republic, made their businesses and their games, very risky, making the acrobats from side to side, leaving traces and recording the Istrian stone with signs still indecipherable. Perhaps all the places are perfect, all are possible, have different energy, although there are structurally half
windows, gutters, cornices and triples. I know when they have that energy that has to do with living, with history and modernity that belongs to us.
Massimo Schiavoni: Venice definitely has a unique charm from an artistic and empathetic point of view which cannot be replicated or adequately described here. Please talk about your many experiences abroad on the occasion of many festivals like the Singapore Arts Festival, the Lugar a Dança in Portugal, the Biennale International des Theatres du monde in Rabat. Shows presented gruelling rehearsals, different cultures and people certainly not easy to forget.
Wanda Moretti: Yes, people that we will not forget and do not want to forget: we have discussed for months with Hang Quan, Deputy Director of Singapore Art Festival, thinking he was a man and only when we arrived we realized that she was a woman! We did two shows a day for 8 days and a preview for the press: the riggers who ran the installation on the building were two "super" Maori, powerful and fast without a second of hesitation or carelessness while working on the roof of a skyscraper, aluminum coated, with 40 degrees of temperature. We were guests of the Hilton with rooftop pool from which you could see all of Singapore with its skyscrapers, constantly surrounded by people who made us feel perfectly at ease. It has been a very sweet experience, we worked hard with new energy every day.
In the summer of 2005 a devastating fire across one side of the Atlantic coast from Santiago to Coimbra in Portugal, seemed to precede our tour: we met sites with gray ash still in the air and the sun could not cross the cities. Despite this ongoing tragedy, VO Arte did not want to stop the shows and we went ahead and felt the fear of people who saw the red sky. The fires were close, but they went to see the show, they brought a chair and remained to see us with a handkerchief over the mouth because of the ash, clapped and offered us their wine.
Rodrigo Nunes was our tour manager, a film student who works for the Festival, and with Ângela Arrojo from production team made us spend the evenings in vida loca style!
Also the last year, at the International Biennial of Morocco, we were all worried about the installation. Nothing worked and although there were perhaps more than 40 technicians to take care of our rigger (sound and lights), it seemed to work only one: every 3 hours a muezzin called them back and they went away, all to pray, then returned and resumed on the set to do a little (very little). Eventually, almost by magic, everything worked ... it was exhausting. We have set up on one side of the National Theatre Mohammed V, a theater that holds 5,000 seats with an average of 3 shows per day!
Massimo Schiavoni: What comforts you and satisfies you more than anything else in this balance between being in heaven and on earth? Is there any place where you would like to perform but still you could not do it? Tell me in a word (if there is one) a limitation in this discipline so "wild" but even so scrupulous.
Wanda Moretti:The desire to fly becomes poetry and the body, dance, movement help us to transform this subtle and profound desire to break away from the floor challenging gravity, to break away from everyday life to rediscover the art in flight, a new reason. The border is not able to fly. There are plenty of places for which I'd like to create a new work: the interior of Pescheria in Pesaro, the courtyard of Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the Ponte Vecchio in Bassano del Grappa, the Bargello Museum in Florence, the Mole Vanvitelli in Ancona, but I could go on listing areas in Italy and worldwide.
Massimo Schiavoni: Of course I understand your desire to perform in other fascinating and engaging places, not only in Italy, and this is normal. You have already talked about “particular” experiences difficult at times but always representing a "challenge" to yourself and the external environment. What was your most successful performance, the one where the edge of not being able to fly has shown up the most? Tell me about your next show and future projects of this wonderful artistic project you're pursuing with passion and elegance, with determination and sacrifice.
Wanda Moretti: I often walk with my eyes upwards, I look at houses and think about where I could hang the dancers, in which position a moving body would have more meaning. Which part of the building makes me in motion. The best performances are those in which the use of space excites everyone. Preserving the vertical dance characteristics, the use of "empty" spaces and the different plans, I feel the need to add a reflection on the forms of the landscape that surrounds us. I try and I think a new angle, another perspective that shows the visual and kinetic environment turn into figures, visions, different forms gradually. I want to use dance to put each area of a building in communication with the environment, by eliminating boundaries and roles, because everything is a unique by the presence of bodies, a space that changes only according to the body.
This is an ongoing project for places of various kinds, as occurred in creation for the Festival Valle Olona headed by Gaetano Oliva, from CRT of Fagnano Olona - a festival that deals with environment and landscape - to which the last year we made the show in an abandoned mill located in Medio Olona park, near Varese. The deep aim is to encourage the actual knowledge of places to discover as landscapes and spaces that, while seemingly out of the usual routes of socialization, belong to those who live and work. To suggest a reflection on the changed landscape, on the need to preserve and maintain tracks and signs of civilization that preceded us, from the knowledge that the spread of a culture heritage is expressed through the link between places and individuals. Future projects? Right now, over the tour of my new show Exuvia, I'm engaged in a study of lifting water tanks at the entrance of towns, so present architectures in our landscapes...
Massimo Schiavoni: Before you leave and I thank you for the collaboration, I would like to ask you one last question: what is your relationship with the new digital technologies, such as video or 3D mapping - digital processing in three dimensions mainly used for architecture. Do you think somebody could somehow "experiment" with your creations.
Wanda Moretti: My experimentation is just a beginning, in the meaning that I see/think the use of video as a further investigation on space, but secondary to the body and movement. I use the video to show points of view that the public did not see, because they can not locate above or below the dancers, or even on the wall itself, or on the houses around. This is the reason why I started using the video: to send in real-time and without any changings the image of the dancers during the performance, just seen from different angles. This phase is a challenging part of the stand, in the sense that on every show I re-think the "point of views" according to the place where we are. The result is to reproject bodies on nearby buildings, with different sizes. This idea was realized with Exuvia, which is the latest show on the theme of transformation. The use of 3D mapping programs is still a study.