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.

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