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Aterballetto - 'WAM', 'Après midi d’enfants', 'Cantata'

Mozart, Love and the 'Colours' of the South of Italy

by Rosella Simonari

February 23, 2006 -- Pergolesi Theatre, Jesi, Italy

The year 2006 marks the 250th anniversary of W. A. Mozart’s birth, for which many celebrations are being organised all over Europe. That is partly why Italian choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti decided to create a work dedicated to the music and figure of the Austrian genius. “WAM”, whose letters correspond to the initials of the musician’s name, is abundant in evocative suggestions, including the opening with the lights remaining on in the theatre as Maestro Bruno Moretti, in an eighteenth-century costume, plays a piano on the right corner of the proscenium. A woman, in a red dress of the same period, starts chatting with him. People are still entering the theatre and taking their seats when the lights gradually go down.

The lady, after singing for a little while, walks to centre stage and literally opens her elaborate dress as if to officially open the door into a different world. Next to her, a man, who has been standing stage right wearing a long tutu-like skirt, takes her dress and shoes. The other members of the company enter and a choral dance is alternated with a pas de deux between the lady and her tutu wearing partner. Her developé shows a perfect flexibility and it is only the beginning of a series of marvelously performed steps.

“WAM”, which is maybe a bit too long (about fifty minutes), shows Bigonzetti’s unique capability to invent unusual ways for the body to move from one position to another with the result of pushing the dancers’ bodies towards unimaginable movement articulations. The choreographic phrases are mainly developed in place and the space is not used in terms of horizontality or width, but rather in terms of depth. An exception to this is the male group dancing a high paced sequence comsisting of heavy stepping and movements in second position combined with a series of jumps. They move across the stage following horizontal lines and covering the whole stage. Particularly sweet is the solo piece of a female dancer with a tiny piano. She wears a splendid lilac costume made of a corset-like top and a short tutu. She plays the piano with her feet and shakes it until it produces disharmonic notes.

Of a different tone is the absolute premiere of “Après midi d’enfants”, a pas de deux dedicated to the freshness of adolescent love and set to the music of another genius, Ludwig Van Beethoven. It is inspired by and dedicated to Jules, the son of two company members, Macha Daudel and Thibaut Cherradi. The colour white replaces the coloured costumes (blue, lilac, green, red) seen in “WAM”. Stefania Figliossi and Adrien Boissonnet look at each other and seem love struck. Initially they are timid, but their inhibition is soon replaced by the pleasure of discovering each other’s body. The way they intertwine their bodies is a challenge to gravity and to human flexibility. In a particularly risky passage, Figliossi goes upside down and intersects her legs with her partner to then end up with her body curled in his arms. In spite of Bigonzetti’s unusual body articulations, his gender-based vision is quite traditional -- men are those who lift and support their female partners.

This vision of unorthodox movements is pushed to almost brutal effects in “Cantata”, the company’s signature piece dedicated to “the typical strong colours of the South of Italy”. Bigonzetti defines it as his “homage to traditional Italian culture and music, a popular work in the noble sense of the term.” Its genesis is traceable to his collaboration with the all female group of traditional Italian music, the “Gruppo Musicale Assurd,” who arranged the music for the piece. The man-woman relationship is the main focus and it is expressed through love, rage, jealousy and uncompromising quarrels. In this sense, some of the sequences show a particularly harsh movement approach on the men’s part, such as when they pile the female dancers up into the centre of the stage. But this is only one aspect of the piece and the female dancers react by biting their hands in a gesture that presupposes trouble for their aggressors. In a funny sketch, two of them mock the men for their supposed bad smell. In “Cantata,” the dancers sing, talk in different languages and dance frantic sequences. The music presents different melodies that range from old lullabies to more sustained motifs such as the pizzica from Salento. It is a feast for the audience who applaud, excited and overwhelmed, in particular for two members of the company who come from Jesi.

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