Danzainfiera (Firenze) and National Museum of Cinema (Torino)

March 15, 2009

Danzainfiera (see my earlier blog) finished in grand style in February with memorable performances by Italian artists:

• Former Martha Graham Dance Company member Adria Ferrali, who danced an eerie pas de deux with herself, slipping her hands and arms into the sleeves of a hanging coat and creating believable characters.

• European Thersicore Company (di Monique Pepi), which performed Pepi’s very breathy Nocturna, hitting every balance just right.

• Atzewi Dance Company, which previewed a piece with seven dancers affixed to chairs, but reading their daily newspapers in every odd position imaginable.

• ARKE dance company, which wowed audiences as 21st-century sylphs, but in gauze-like floor-length gowns, and with ethereal expressions and moves; the company was clever enough to feature its Lorenzo Pagano with his impressive phrasing in several pieces.

A highlight for me was interviewing Italian ballet legend Luciana Savignano, prima ballerina of La Scala and muse of Maurice Béjart, who created numerous ballets for her; and watching Italian dance diva Rossella Brescia (who in the evening gala performed a steamy pas de deux with Jose Perez) teach a jazz class. There were 30 paid students in the class, but 100 of us were watching from two studio windows. All around me I could hear people murmuring, “Ah, c’e La Brescia” with recognition and awe.

That dance is everywhere in Italy can be seen, for example, in the image of giant paper Maché dancers at Carnavale in Viareggio, or with mannequins in dance poses in storefront displays in Firenze. It is even well represented in The National Museum of Cinema in Torino. Housed in the Mole Antonelliana, at one time known as the tallest brick building in Europe, it includes exhibits such as the current Rudolph Valentino: the Seduction of the Myth (through May 24), as well as miles of playbills and film clips. To me, the most impressive work was in the history of cinematography displays, which included early Italian film footage of dancers from the late 1800s, representing the avante garde collaboration of artists and scientists of the day.