Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Love in a Sweet and Sour Sauce - L'amore torna (Love Returns) by the Luna Dance Theater

L’amore torna (Love Returns), Luna DanceTheater
Teatro Studio alla Mole, Ancona, 3 March 2013

Simona Ficosecco in L'Amore torna (Love Returns)
Shoes, the heavy noise of high-heeled shoes is the cacophonic intro to this ironic dance theatre piece. Three women enter the stage stomping the floor with their high heels, stopping mid-stage centre with their back to the audience and taking a deep breath. It is the perfect opening for a piece about love, or better about the longing for love that makes them suffer and dream during the whole piece. A piece that had its debut in Sirolo near Ancona in 2011, was then presented in New York last year, was now showed for the first time in Ancona where the company resides and has been working since 1990 and will be in Palermo, Sicily, on September 1st.
Simona Ficosecco’s choreography is imaginative and lighthearted with beautiful solo pieces for herself and the two other dancers, Désirée Storani and Daniela Manetta, and energetic group pieces usually performed in unison. Her movement approach is characterized by effective repeated movements like the one in the initial part of the work, where the three dancers turn towards the audience as if to say or do something and then go back to their initial position or the one performed by Ficosecco while lying on the table, with her hands and legs frantically and insistently falling down and Storani putting them up again. 

There are three main props that fill the small stage: a table, a wooden chair and a red sofa. Three simple props that give way to interesting choreographic patterns, like the bittersweet domestic scene where Ficosecco is asked to iron a big amount of clothes, a request she questions by ironing her hair instead. Or the lyrical solo she has created for Storani on the sofa, a solo the dancer performs with a male suit jacket, the only relic left of a love relationship which seems to be gone forever. Storani wears the jacket with its back on her bosom, smells it, lays on it on the sofa in an attempt to recapture her lover’s presence. Particularly interesting is the contrast created between her loose arm movements while on the sofa and her elegant and precise body articulation in her solo on the stage floor.

In another moment Manetta performs the funniest part of the piece which is centred on her reiterated need for alcohol. Love disappoints us and drinking seems to be the only way out. She asks Ficosecco for a glass of pinkish liqueur. She gives it to her, but Manetta continues asking for it, showing each time a different posture: standing, standing on the chair, standing outside the stage with her glass in her hand coming out of the wing, laying down and so on.

The atmosphere is a bit retro with songs being played like “Tu che m’hai preso il cuor” (You are my heart’s delight in English) that acquires a parodic twist when set against Ficosecco’s choreographic inventions. In particular, this song is played when Manetta places the chair on her shoulders and starts asking for alcohol.

Ficosecco performs maybe the most spectacular phrase in the piece, dancing in a red evening dress whose skirt is later tucked up so as to leave her legs bare and Manetta throwing a bucket of white feathers at her. Cristiano Marcelli’s direction is cleverly done with a refined lighting design which highlights Ficosecco’s choreography particularly well.

All in all Ficosecco plays with the stereotypical idea of love as a romantic ideal, as the perfect union of a (heterosexual?) couple. This kind of love will never return, because it does not exist. As Eva Illouz has remarked in her groundbreaking and much debated book, WhyLove Hurts, love is also "shaped by social relations and institutions” and unveils the sharp changes that took place in the relationship between men and women during the twentieth-century. It is a lot more complex and subtle than the one displayed by the institution of marriage. It then needs to be reassessed in different terms, with a changed approach to how we live our emotions and what we expect from others.
Désirée Storani in L'Amore torna (Love Returns)

The end of the piece is, in this sense, paradigmatic with the arrival of a white dressed bride interpreted by Cristiana Taddei, followed by four male dancers, Manuel Di Gioia, Giovanni Galeazzi, Alessio Kgi Giaccaglia and Nicola Sabbatini. She sits on the chair showing her legs with them surrounding her, posing in macho-like postures and taking turns at kissing her forehead. It is funny and bitter at the same time as a sweet and sour sauce. 

Men are the great absent characters in this piece, they are evoked through the above mentioned solo with jacket and in other phrases, but they only show up as the caricature of themselves in the final scene. Does this imply that they are seen as unreliable and immature? Possibly, at least on the surface. But it also highlights the fact that women exaggerate in investing too much of their time in preparing to meet them without really trying to interact with them. There are two funny scenes, in this respect, one in which Ficosecco places evening dresses on her own dress with clothes pegs, and the other with Manetta interpreting a fortune teller who reads the cards before Ficosecco goes to her date. 

So what does the title Love Returns mean? It means a lot of things, it means that Love is a tremendous force that should be handled with care, it means it has many faces and not all of them are worth our energy and it means it should be lived with lightness and not with superficiality. Love is there, love leaves us, love returns…

Here a clip of the piece, which was sponsored by Amat within the Off/side Teatro del presente project, by the Ancona Municipality, the Vicolo Corto Company, Teatro Stabile delle Marche and by the Fondazione Teatro delle Muse.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Body Collision - Wim Vandekeybus' What the Body Does Not Rememer

Wim Vandekeybus’ What the Body Does not Remember
Teatro delle Muse, Ancona, 22 February 2013

 1987: WimVandekeybus creates What the Body Does Not Remember for his company Ultima Vez and presents it in at Inteatro in Poverigi, near Ancona. The work wins international acclaim and declares the Flemish choreographer one of the most interesting and exciting voices in the contemporary dance panorama.
2013: Vandekeybus comes back in the Marche Region and presents this piece again. It looks as provocative and stimulating as sixteen years ago and is welcomed by an enthusiastic audience.

Body collide in this energetic piece. They run from one side of the stage to the other, they run one against the other, they walk, jump and frantically fight in an atmosphere of instability and alienation. There are at least six different sections highlighted by movement, light or props themes. The opening section is utterly remarkable, with two rows of floodlights set on the side of the stage placed on the stage floor and two male dancers moving in between them. Their movement then falls under the control of a sound a female dancer produces with her hands beaten or even slightly positioned on a small red table backstage centre. It is hypnotic and mesmerizing. 

Another section features the whole group of nine dancers interacting with white bricks of different dimensions. They stand on them, they throw them at each other, the throw them up in the air, they build small structures with them. If on the one hand the atmosphere recalls that of a circus, on the other the dancers’ inability to establish endurable connections creates a sense of bewilderment.

Vandekeybus’s movement approach looks approximate and imprecise, aggressive and fast, but it is the result of careful study and concept. In another section the dancers walk from backstage left to front stage right wearing, playing, throwing colourful towels. It is an ironic section where the dressing and undressing of the dancers represent a witty dynamic device.

Vandekeybus is really good at making the most out of props, like bricks or even chairs, which represent the centre of another section again characterized by a good bit of irony. In one phrase a man sits on one of the two white chairs onstage and a girl comes to sit on his knees. She falls asleep and he carefully takes his top off without waking her up. It is a tender duo where an unusual Vandekeybus emerges with respect to the tough dances he displays in the rest of the piece. 

In yet another section there are three couples showing a drastically different movment quality, with the female dancers repeatedly standing with their feet and arms in second position and their male partners touching their bodies. In this case I found Vandekeybus's insistence on this body relation a bit too reifying for women, who could have for example done the same to their male partners. According to Judith Mackrell, "Vandekeybus doesn't write particularly inventively for women" and maybe this is one good example.

So what is it that the body does not remember? Is it an everyday movement like wearing a towel or sitting on a chair? Or is it the importance of communicating, of establishing contacts between people? Maybe none of these and all of them at the same time. I really enjoyed the display of body collision and the sense of precarity (still so meaningful today!) intrinsic in the dance sections of the piece. The work was astonishingly good and the dancers a real marvel.

This event was also sponsored by Amat ad the Ancona Cultural Municipality.

Here a clip of the piece.