HeArts – Exhibition by 31 Women

Last Saturday, Sala Blu Gallery launched HeArts – Exhibition by 31 Women, curated by Rossana Calbi in collaboration with Linda de Zen. This show collects 31 portraits captured by Laura Penna, and it will run in Rome until the 30thof September.

 

It was 1943, when Peggy Guggenheim’s female exhibition,The exhibition by 31 women, took place in New York between several critics. In these unforgettable times, the role of women was changing because of the war and the constant need of help was slowly transforming the structure of society. The general mentality, however, was still deeply entangled with traditional ideas and the exhibition was so criticised that even “The Time” refused to talk about.

 

Behind all the controversial polemic, the show is still inspiring contemporary initiative with new meanings and interpretations. In collaboration with Rossana Calbi and Linda de Zen, the artist Laura Penna photographed 31 women from the art, theatre, music and sport Italian scene, to homage to Peggy Guggenheim’s exhibition.

 

With her photos, the artist wanted to immortalise the tenacious attitude and the unique personality of the artists and athletes protagonists of her project. The intent of the photographer is to highlight the authentic expression of these women, that are keeping transforming themselves and their passion for the society, constantly looking for an alternative way of being women today. The exhibition shows us new possibilities for our role in the society, without forcing any label but leaving it to our individual research.

The open and ongoing nature of the project created connections between the photographer and the artists, who decided to contribute to this research not only with their portraits but also with their creations. These new connections offered the opportunity for lateral events. During the opening weekend, Laura Penna captured with her camera other artists to add to her collection; or the live painting of Gerlanda di Francia to present “Aurora nel Buio” of Barbara Baraldi, on the 22ndof September.

 

The debate on the role of woman today is still vivid and far from its end. This exhibition illustrates us alternative examples of being women, giving us the opportunity to open a conversation and reflect on our self from a different angle.

 

I had the chance to ask the artist Laura Penna about her project:

 

–          The most criticized Peggy Guggenheim’s exhibition inspired you and Rossana Calbi for the content of this show. Today the genre debate is still vivid and complex, there is any particular reason why you decided to dedicate this exhibition to the women universe? 

I had already photographed several women and I have always found it good to share ideas, projects and unconventional shooting with them.

When I was reading the biography of Peggy Guggenheim, I find this fascinating story of the EXHIBITION BY 31 WOMEN project. At that time, that exhibition was almost a scandal, the art world considered male artists only.

This kind of consideration has certainly changed since then, but unfortunately, some discrimination occurs still today.  heArts was born merging these considerations. It’s a project that aims to enhance female’s arts.

 

–          You photographed 31 different women from the art, theatre, music and sports world. What captured your interest in their stories?

The project started from the music world, the closest one to my background.

Then I tried to push my research on the artistic field where I had never worked. It was really exciting to know personally writers and painters whom I knew only through their work.

Also, there was the meeting with Alice Caligiuri, Kickboxing champion. A wonderful soul, full of contrasts. Shy, at first, and then explosive.

On the set in his gym, we had a lot of fun.

With each artist was born a special feeling and with some of them, a real friendship.

 

–          You have been always working with backstage, music and portraits. How this project connects with your previews work?  

I have joined two great passions: music and image. For 10 years I collaborated with music webzine and magazine

For this reason, in my first project “ALT – Artists like Them”,  the portraits were made exclusively with musicians.

For ALT I was inspired by the photos of famous artists and painters of 900. I did a great search in the art and photography world. A research that has continued over time until the heArts idea.

These projects are definitely related to each other.

 

Jupiter in Saturn

“Jupiter in Saturn” debuts tonight at Fondaco space with the works of Fabio Timpanaro and the sounds of Luca Longobardi. Curated by Nero Gallery, this exhibition is an anticipation of a show that will run in January to celebrate Twin Peaks of David Lynch, host of honour of the 12° edition of the International Film Festival of Rome.

 

David Lynch is one of the most innovative and eclectic firms of contemporary filmmakers. In occasion of the 50° anniversary of his career, the International Film Festival of Rome invited the director to tribute his works with the Premio alla Carriera. Master of uncanny, surreal atmosphere, twofold meaning and lack of linearity, Lynch is a director, screenwriter, producer, painter, musician, actor, and photographer. Parallel to the award ceremony, Nero Gallery organised a pop-up event to celebrate Twin Peaks, the famous series that has revolutionised the world and the language of TV shows.

“Jupiter in Saturn” is an exhibition that collects the works of Fabio Timpanaro, digital artist and creative director who dedicated his last works to the disquieting story of this small logging town five miles south of the Canadian border. Working on the mystery around the characters and the surreal atmosphere of the village, the artist offers us an overview of the peculiar symbolic language that makes Lyncian’s works open to several interpretations. Lynch inspired Timpanaro not only for the peculiar innovation of his works, but also for his artistic exploration. The works presented at the exhibition are characterised by an original combination of photography, digital and oil painting, which reflects the mystical and symbolic universe of Twin Peaks. In conjunction, Luca Longobardi curated an audio installation entitled 2357, that plays with the timbre and metric research of the sound imagery of the surreal world created by Lynch.

While we are waiting for the collective exhibition that will be run from January at the Nero Gallery, this anticipation makes us think about how the director is not only an inspiration for the world of cinema and photography, but also for the artistic research in a broader sense.  The peculiarity of this tribute is the creative play that Timpanaro and Longobardi have to engage with their own medium and the open interpretation they left to the viewer, rather than a linear and clear reference to an artist that cannot be classified because of his individual exploration.

Eastern palace for pleasure

On Wednesday, at the Nero Gallery in Rome, ended  “Eastern palace for pleasure’. For this solo exhibition, the curators Daphnée Thibaud and Giulia Capogna collected the works of Tony Cheung, Chinese artist who plays with pop illustration and ceramic on the contradiction of his culture.

Over the centuries, Chinese influences captured our imagination with fascinating manufacturing of silk and ceramic, and the variety of traditions and languages still evolving and transforming within the society. The connection with this immense land increased with the economic crisis in Europe, when the role of China as superpower became every day more evident in our economy. However, what we know about this vast and variegated land is only a small angle of the whole picture.

Since 2008, Beijing government has been filtering and detecting any information or channel of communication that could create doubts or discussion on the political moves of the government. YouTube, Google, Whatsapp or Social Media, which in the Western world are basically necessary to be part of the society, are totally forbidden in almost the all country. Beyond what we can see on the surface, the internal differences create contradiction not only for the political party, but also for the identity of the citizen.

 

 

Tony Cheung, from Canton, based his works on this social contradiction with a combination of Japanese manga, old Chinese painting, ceramic and the political posters of the Mao period. Tony began his artistic career with “Sensitive Words”, a project to investigate the evolution of the meaning of words under censorship, and the limits of expression on Internet and channel of communications. The artist’s illustrations highlight the contradiction in the society, analysing how ancient tradition and globalization are affecting the individual expression.

With a sarcastic vein, the artist plays on the commonplace connected with his culture, like school uniform or transformation of sexuality, illustrating how old and global tendencies are forming new shapes in Chinese society. Using traditional medium as illustration and ceramic, the artist proposes unexpected, dirty content without filter or easy moral.

The interesting aspect of the artist’s project is the lack of intention of leading the visitor to a fixed interpretation. In opposition with the philosophy of censorship and obvious categorisations, the artist leaves the observer free to give is own interpretation, without any label, but using the eyes of the artist to develop a personal understanding. This is a brilliant example of integration between two different cultures, where the opportunity for a “meeting” is left to the work of art, and how they move our sensibility or interest, rather than to a ready-made product that promotes the same, easy, meaning for everyone.

Beu-Beu Art Festival!!

Yesterday ended the first edition of Beu-Beu Art Festival in Badia di Ruoti, a small village in the heart of Tuscany. The festival has been organised by Schimen Onlus with the collaboration of the associations Eureka and Strange Opera to present the works of over 70 artists through exhibitions, workshops, music and talks.

This was the first time for the Beu-Beu festival, a mix of contemporary art, illustration, publishing industry and workshops. Placed in a small village near Arezzo, the festival offered an overview of Italian contemporary art performing in the unique landscape of Tuscany’s countryside. Playing with the traditional atmosphere of the location, the exhibitions were spread through the walls of the XI century Abbacy of Badia di Ruoti to create an innovative contrast between the art and the place.

Example of this combination are the skates painted by the roman artists for the exhibition SKATE HEART ROMA, an idea of Davide Orlando and Valentina Roccanuova; or Fabulae, a collection of 10 artists presenting the ancient tales of Fedro; or the first collection of woman illustrators in Graphiste. Curated by Rossana Calbi are also the solo shows of Francesco Viscuso, Folklore, and Sergio Marsala, Snaturar Corrivo, that presented their work to celebrate the first edition festival.

In addition to the shows displayed in the Abbacy, the festival spread around the small town during the weekend interacting with the visitors with several activities. For the project WOODoo, following the idea of Marina Ronca, five artists invited the walkers to play with the big wooden man. Meantime, in Ambra, a small town next to Badia di Ruoti, the artists Nicola Alessandrini and Lisa Gelli live painted the first mural in the area of Bucine, inviting the visitor to discover the land while looking for the art.

The audience has been actively involved to be part of the festival during the whole weekend. The children could enjoy the editorial workshop Il Mondo Extra-Ordinario with Laura Caputo, while everyone could play with wood with Robox, or learn about serigraphy with Andrea Baldelli.

During the evening, you could enjoy a dinner made with local products waiting for the film projection of Virginia Mori or the independent music and DJ set. The artists Francesca Toscano e Francesco Viscuso framed the concerts with Il ramo d’oro, a floral site-specific installation created in harmony with the location and the atmosphere of the small village.

The artistic direction formed by the artist Marco About, the musician Luca Zampi and the curator Rossana Calbi gave space to independent art usually on the edge, offering a brilliant and variegated overview of contemporary art through music, visual art and talks with editors. The visitors weren’t only invited in discovering the art, but also the place.

And here I found the real peculiarity of this initiative.

Organized in a rural town of Tuscany, the festival kept is traditional background presenting avant-garde and cutting-edge art product of our time. The market and the food were local, offering the chance to small businesses to present their products, and their land. Rather than being stacked in saving a tradition that it is not going to be shown anywhere, the organisation of this festival illustrated us a concrete alternative to conserve our unique tradition through the pluralism characteristic of contemporary art, offering a new way to live our culture.

 

 

Betwixt and Between, CirqOn the Seam

 

“Betwixt and Between’ debuted on the 24thof February at Circomedia, presented by CirqOn the Seam. The story tells how two women, interpreted by Océane Sunniva Peillet and Alice Watson, learnt how to communicate crossing a linguistic, and cultural, divide. Directed by Gwen Hales, the show used an experimental mix of physical theatre and acrobatic techniques to tell us their story.

 

CirqOn the Seam is a rising company that investigates the boundaries between disciplines, mixing physical theatre and aerial techniques. Their debut show, “Betwixt and Between”, explored the power of physical communication working around the limits of verbal language.

The story was about two women that met in a world outside of space and time. One being Spanish and the other being French, the only thing we could recognise about them was their different languages. But this time the words could not create a bridge between them to start with; on the contrary, words created a barrier in the understanding, not only for the two characters but also for the public. However, even without understanding the spoken language, the personality of the two women was immediately delineated: the French character, interpreted by Océanne, is loud and a bit clumsy, firm and determinate in her intention while the Spanish character, interpreted by Alice, is carefree, playful, graceful and quite silent.

Their story began around crossed ropes and twinned trapeze bars. When the two-crossed trapezes separated, it became apparent that the ropes were attached to each other via pulleys. And that’s how the relationship between the two women started to develop authentically. Because of the connection between the two trapezes, they had to abandon the verbal communication to play together instead, interacting physically with each other’s movements and forms.

Through these games, also our impression of their relationship evolved throughout the piece, driven by the artistic interpretations of the two performers rather than the technical ability required to use the equipment. It is because of this “childish and playful” approach to the trapeze that the audience came to understand this silent conversation, breaking down the communication barrier created by the language.

 

I have interviewed Gwen Hales, the director, to find out about their company and their work behind the scenes.

1 – “Betwixt and Between” is your debut show as a company. What is the main interest that brought you to work together? And what are the future projects to further develop the physical research of your company?

I was brought in as a circus director to work with Alice & Oceane after they decided to apply for funding to make a show. They’d been experimenting together for a while before I got involved, and I was intrigued by their ideas. Both were experienced trapeze artists before working together on this new piece of equipment which was 2 trapezes with the ropes attached to each other via pulleys.

PersonalIy, I have spent lots of time working with pulley-based aerial equipment. I find myself fascinated by simple mechanics, and love to investigate how circus bodies can interact with ropes & pulleys to create height and interesting visuals. As a director I like to create as much of a 3D picture as possible.

 

2- The equipment you used for the show, two trapezes with ropes attached to each other via pulleys, is particularly hard and required a lot of experience on areal equipment. However, the show focuses more on on the development of the two characters rather than on the experience of the two performers. How did these choices influence the personality of the two characters on the scene?

The equipment itself has it’s own character, and there was no way we could ignore that. We called it “The Beast” because, although quite exciting, it had a habit of pinching fingers and toes, and was quite unpredictable at times. The manner in which the two trapezes are connected means that weight must be balanced – and this lends itself to telling a story about balance. Oceane is slightly heavier than Alice, so there was an inherent inequality to their physical journeys on & around “The Beast”. These inescapable facts led us to playing with the differences between Oceane & Alice, physical differences and emotional differences. The development of the characters emerged slowly, as we explored the nature of “The Beast” further.

 

3- The two women of your story have learnt how to trust each other and cross their cultural divide only when they abandoned the verbal communication. On the other hand, the latest political developments are slowly bringing us to give more and more importance to our cultural origins and to the differences between us. How would you relate the meaning of your story with the global situation?

We knew the show was about miscommunication and during some of the rehearsal sessions, we talked about the refugee situation. We discussed a situation where you might find yourself in a place where you don’t speak the language or understand the cultural niceties of the land you end up in. Misunderstandings can occur through language, but also through not being able to ‘read’ the culturally-normalised physical actions of another person. For instance, when greeting someone, where you are normally ‘allowed’ to touch each other is different for different cultures – holding hands, touching noses, slapping someone on the shoulder.

I think that through the show, we are saying that acceptance & curiosity are useful tools if we are to understand another’s strangeness.

My own personal take on the current global situation is that problems are made worse when people stop trying to communicate. This is the same for close personal relationships as for nation-leaders.

Amaneï, a magic place on the island

Musae opened on the 3rdof August, a solo exhibition dedicated to the legendary figures inspiration of Art and Beauty. Curated by Rossana Calbi, the solo exhibition of Elena Cernaria will run until the 30thof September in Amaneï, a centre of art and dialogue on the island of Salina, Sicily.

 

Amaneï is a small late 19thcentury palazzo lost in the middle of the sea of the Aeolian archipelago, in the heart of the village of Santa Maria. Abandoned since the First World War, the house was reopened in 2005 as a charity with the aim of promoting art through several disciplines. The idea was to create a meeting space to promote art and cultural events, with the intent of using the atmosphere of the island to explore the dialogue not only between artists and disciplines, but also with an examination of the history of the place. Recently, with the collaboration of Parione9 gallery, the house has also become a residence for artists, creating the opportunity for artists and curators to explore new ideas within close proximity to one another.

 

The peculiar and suggestive atmosphere of the house inspired the curator Rossana Calbi to play with mixing contemporary art and the island’s tradition with different projects that will run until the end of September. The last to open is Musae, a homage of the artist Elena Cermaria to the Greek divinities, which inspired the artists for their masterpieces since time immemorial. With her peculiar style of painting, the artist portraits her motionless seven Muses, inspired by the timeless and evocative shore of the islands.

 

The peculiar atmosphere that characterises the sea offers the opportunity for the curator and the artists to find a personal key to develop their relationship with the tradition of the island and their personal style. Gerlanda di Francia, in her solo exhibition Treasure Island, portrayed the mysterious protagonists of the legends of the Aeolian islands. Accomplished with the intriguing music of Alice Pelle, the artist collected different elements from the island to frame her mermaids and old sea tales, like precious boxes to safeguard the secrets of the sea from human eyes. On the other side, for his show Fish&Chips, Marco About decided to make a homage to the sea life of the island with his characteristic humoristic style. The Roman artist went fishing in the Aeolian seas to capture the typical undersea life to portray them on silk-screen printing.

 

 

The house has been reopened with the original architecture restored in detail, with the intent of promoting the potential of the island respecting its traditional history. Amaneï opens the opportunity to explore different thematic and artistic research. With Yoga on my Skin, Rossana Calbi and Giulia Piccioni investigates the fundamentals of yoga practice. 9 tattoos artists illustrate the interplay of the Asana with the Chakra, exploring the connection between the physical body and the energies that guide us in the journey of awareness from the Earth to the Sky. While Tarot, is a collective exhibition of 22 artists promoted by Stigmagazine. Each artist gave their reinterpretation of one of the Major Arcane, offering an overview of this old tradition. The variety of the style of the artists reflects the fickle nature of the Tarot, which is not the truth but a mirror that transforms itself with what you see inside.

The experimental attitude of Amaneï offers the chance to see how the tradition can fuse with the art in a way that is typical of our contemporary society.  The variety of exhibitions and artists gave us the chance to enjoy the art in alternative vibes, creating an innovative meeting with our culture.

Fabulae

Fabulae is a collective exhibition of 10 street artists inspired by the collection of fables written by the Latin author Phaedrus. Curated by Rossana Calbi, the exhibition will run until the 29thof July at the Sala Blu Gallery in Rome.

Phaedrus was a slave who lived in the ancient Rome during the 1 century A.D. Freed by Emperor Augustus for his literary talent, Phaedrus introduced the genre of fables into Latin literature. As his Greek master Aesop, Phaedrus used exempla with animals to create allegories warning against life’s dangers and describe human behaviour. Observing his time and his socio-political situation, Phaedrus developed his unique vision of life, using the simple vocabulary allowed by fable, to be understood by anyone through a lesson thought a the end of any short story. Linked with the cynical philosophy of Diogenes, the author used animals to illustrate his idea of society, which he saw divided by power games, where dog eats dog, and the weaker, less powerful lower classes that simply had to accept the absence of justice and the fear and resignation that brought with it. Phaedrus translated his vision of reality to illustrate the inevitable corruption of the society, where the hope in justice or mercy completely lacked, even trying to save who is stronger than you in a moment of need. Strong examples of this idea are The man and the adder, work presented by Alt97, or The wolf and Crane, presented in a medieval style of painting by Lucamaleonte, where helping the evils means death instead of reward.

 

 

The intent of these lessons, however, has never been to inspire a revolution in those oppressed lower classes, but to teach one to see the world with eyes anew, so that one might learn and inspire personal change. According to this idea, 10 street artists have been challenged by Rossana Calbi to give a contemporary interpretation of the lessons thought at the end of the short stories borrowed from our childhood imagination. The artists reshaped the moral core of Phaedrus’ work, respecting the variety of the themes with the variety of their style and background. The 10 artworks on canvas shown by the artists match and echo Phaedrus’ lessons, giving us the chance to reflect on dynamics still current in our society from a different angle. For example, The proud frog, reshaped by Iron Mould with an abstract and fragmentary style of painting, reminds us the waste effort we use to appear like someone else rather than improve our self; or The dog an the wolf, drawn by Matteo Brogi, who painted the character a strong human expression, makes us question on the price of freedom compared with a life of comfort; while The battle of the mice and weasels, that ORGH painted with a style that reminds us a child cartoon, touches the dilemma on the role of our commanders, a thematic issues which still bears cultural significance and saliency.

 

 

It is impressive how these stories coming from a time so far from us have still the power of making us question our society, overall if translated in a form of art so connected with our own society. The lessons though by Phaedrus never expected a revolution, but the intent was finding a universal key to talk to anyone was living in that society. The universal language of the street art gave us another opportunity to question and observe our contemporary time starting from stories that belong to our past. Once again, art may be the key to seeing our world with new eyes, from a new view not resigned to believe that our actions bear little consequence upon the world we inhabit. In the end, as Phaedrus said in The wasp and the butterfly, brilliantly recapped by Shone, “It does no matter what we used to be: the important thing is what we are now!”.

 

New SPACE in Bristol!

 

SPACE is a new satellite initiative of The Island. Today is the preview of their new exhibition, SynBioExpo, collaboration between art and science which explores the possibilities of CRISPR, a new technology to edit our DNA, and the consequences of it.

Today at 6:00 will be launched SynBioExpoat at the SPACE Bristol. This is a collaborative exhibition between the Bristol-based artists Imogen Coulter, Claudia Sticker and Theo Wood and researchers at BrisSynBio, the University of Bristol’s Synthetic Biology research network. Tonight the artists and the researchers will discuss the exhibition and the possibilities of CRISPR, a new technology able to edit our DNA, opening a conversation with the audience to share ideas and point of views.

SPACE is a new satellite initiative of the Island in Old Market Street. Trinity Community Arts have been running 6 West Street for nearly 5 years, under Bristol City Council’s Community Asset Transfer initiative, aiming to support the regeneration of Old Market. With the mutual scope of giving new vibes to local activities, The Island took SPACE (Sounds- Performance- Art- Community- Emergent) to offer an open hub to promote creativity in Bristol with exhibitions, workshops and talks.

 

The core of the initiative is offering a place to share ideas and presenting works that lead to an exploration of reality to question our society from unexpected angles. By opening the space to activities and artists on the edge of the usual channels, SPACE wants to create an alternative environment to think about our society working with the local community. Often we see the structure of our society far from our range of action, but starting our observation from a local point of view we can discover a different vision and think about it in new ways.

Example of this intent was Barrier, their preview solo exhibition. The show was a collection of paintings from the raising artist David Foord, who is still exhibiting at the Tobacco Factory until the end of May.

For David, observing is an act for questioning the reality we are living in, and he translated this idea using his paint as a tool to critically explore our society and analyse how systems of belief shape what we see, driving us in our conception of reality. Working around themes such as national identity, a proliferation of barriers and private propriety, through his paintings David made us reflect on how our beliefs play a strong role in our construction of reality. Without even being aware of it, we manipulate what we see, our landscapes, following a scheme silently articulate by the system of ideologies that we feel closer to us. We decide our scale of relevance in the reality we are living and we follow it to judge and classify the others around.

David offered us an alternative vision on this order, without criticizing or taking a stand to give us an answer. He uses painting to highlight aspects of reality with unusual eyes, giving us the chance to think about what we see in a different way. Reflecting on these thematic is assuming even more relevance today, when ideologies are playing every day a stronger role in defining our identity.

SPACE, with a completely different exhibition, is offering today another occasion to have an alternative vision on aspects we feel innate in our society, giving us an example of the power of local activities towards the tendency of our world.

 

 

 

 

 

Othello

It is the last night for the Othello directed by Richard Twyman, Artistic Director of English Touring Theatre. The show is a contemporary version of the Shakespearian tragedy for the 2017 season of Shakespeare and Classic Drama by Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory Theatres.

 

Since February is on the scene a contemporary version of Othello, interpreted by Abraham Popoola, Norah Lopez Holden, as Othello and Desdemona, just graduated to the RADA; Mark Lockyer, as Iago and Piers Hampton in Cassio’s role. In a minimal, modern and symbolist key, the cast tell is the sequence of events that will lead to Othello’s tragedy.

The performance offers us a demonstration of the actuality of the theme that crosses the story; but what we can learn from Othello’s story?

Othello was performed for the first time in 1604 in London. It is based on Un Capitano Moro(“A Moorish Captain”), a story written by Giovan Battista Giraldi Cinzio, a disciple of Boccaccio, in 1565. In the Italian version, the texture of the plot is already delineated, but it was Shakespeare who gave name and form to the immortal characters of the original tragedy. Othello, the Moorish, is strong and brave; Iago, jealous and mad; Cassio, loyal but too weak to help his friend, and Desdemona, whose innocence remained uncorrupted until the end.

The tragedy was already controversial at the time it was written, but it assumes even more relevance today. It deals with the familiar themes of racism, love, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and repentance. As in the original version, the tragedy as portrayed by Richard Twyman started in Venice, with Othello who secretly married Desdemona and pretended to be Christian to be accepted by others. The story moved to Cyprus when Othello was called to protect the island from a Turkish attack. Even today, a strong cultural divide between Greek and Turkish influences is still prevalent in Cyprus, meaning that there still exists a live debate about the identity of the island. In the background, the theme of religion silently crosses the whole performance, making us reflect on how religion, cultural origin and tradition still play a necessary role in our judgments and beliefs.

The peculiarity of this version of the play is, however, the presentation of human feelings alongside the race thematic. The characters achieve this by being relatable to a modern audience, allowing us to deeply empathise with their experiences. Presented with a casual and smart contemporary style of costume, Othello and Desdemona are two young people that we could meet in Bristol during a night out. Iago is older, however, his mannerisms make him seem like the grandfather you always wanted to tell you a story. Cassio could be your good friend who always ends up making a mess with his life, and being unreliable despite his good intentions.

The story follows the original plot but, because of the simplicity of the presentation of the characters, you feel you could be in exactly the same position as them. The play reminds us how much we are conditioned by other people’s opinions, not only on how we think about racial issues, but also on our personal approach to relationships. Instead of believing in the words of Desdemona, who continually professed her love and never lied to him, Othello was contaminated by the opinions of others around him. Instead of trusting her, he chose the easier option of accepting the predictable story that was presented to him as the truth. And at the very end, when he finally discovered the true web of deceit that had been constructed around him, he asked to be remembered for who he really was, before the germ of jealousy had infected him.

But can we really cross this line between before and after? Can we distinguish the authentic ‘self’ from that which is corrupted by false ideas? Do these false ideas remove our responsibility for our actions?

 

We are influenced every day by other opinions, and we form our own one about politic, society, culture and relationship. However, even when we are hardly influenced by someone else, it is still our own “self” that makes judgments. We are still there, and our actions are still our own responsibility. This version of the tragedy made us reflect on our fragility: we live in a world of “social fear”, and we are so scared to be hurt or betrayed that we end up forgetting that trust is the only way to really get close to others and authentically get to know them. But trust means risk. It means to expose your self in a position where you are fragile, where you have any control on other people’s actions, but just hope and wait to see if your trust has been placed in the right hands.

 

The world we are living in is getting faster and smarter every day more. However, there is not a fixed time or an app we can use to classified human feelings or different personalities. Too often we forgot that the time and the “categories” we set up for our society it is our own structure, and this isn’t necessarily the world is supposed to be. Othello chooses to not wait and see with his own eyes if Desdemona was telling the truth; he couldn’t wait, he had to make a decision and determinate for her how it was supposed to be.

 

Probably, on a smaller and less dramatic scenario, we all act in the same way with the people around us. Maybe the strengths of this version of Othello is making us realise that often we were blind in our judgment because we can’t wait to see the whole scene or leave to the others the chance of showing how they really are. We focus only on details we feel relevant, on the characters we can easily recognise, like race, religion or background, constricting the people around us in a label that works for us. Because labels make us feel safe.

 

Maybe we can learn from Othello’s mistake and try to be braver. Try to trust the one that we have around, with their defect and beliefs, with their mistakes and imperfections, with the complexity due to different origins and backgrounds. And finally, accept that we are not perfect either. There is no path, religion or way of acting that will make us perfect, that will guarantee us always the right choice, as we are all human. Scared, imperfect, silly humans. Perhaps, it is indeed in this imperfection that we can find who we really are.

 

 

Free Falling – Hagit Yakira

For the last show of the season, Hagit Yakira Dance Company came to Bristol to present “Free Falling” after touring around England. The performance was an exploration of different anxieties based on the autobiographic experience of the choreographer, Hagit Yakira, as dance movement therapist.

 

The show began in silence. The two dancers on the scene started moving around, always connected, in a circle of movement without direction. Air Hunger, the opening section, was an exploration of an anxiety attack and how our body reacts to it. The absence of music amplified the sense of isolation and suffocating lack of air, the dizzying feeling of spinning around, being stuck in a cycle of confusion.

After the interval, all four of the dancers were on the scene. Even in the distance, the dancers were always connected to each other as they moved through space. Free Fallinginvestigated the fear of falling. This is a feeling that all of us have experienced at some time, as it is deeply connected with our everyday ambitions and challenges. It is a psychological fear, which in some scenarios can prevent people from moving forward, as any steps they attempt to make could result in a fatal fall without chance of recovery.

Both sections were characterized by repeated portrayals of the idea of falling and being rescued. This theme evolved throughout the show and the feeling of not seeing a way out developed, which intimately resonated with the audience. However, it is the redundancy of the very act of falling that can open up the possibility of a way out. We are constantly afraid of falling, and indeed of failure, but it is often this fear that allows us to appreciate the presence of those around us. The performance closed with a single performer who stopped dancing and walked away off the stage. The others followed behind him, leaving him the space to find his own path to recovery.

The exploration of these anxieties came from the choreographer’s experience as a dance movement therapist. Since she founded her company in 2007, Hagit Yakira has always focused her studies on autobiographic research, working on communicating the emotional aspects of the kinds of experiences that everyone can empathize with. The stories she illustrated to us deeply touched her as a human being. According to her philosophy, she mixed choreography with improvisation leaving the dancers free to choose how to interact with each other following her directions and produce physical displays of emotions and feelings natural for them. The freedom she left to her dancers has been also left to the audience. The structure of the choreography offered a key to empathize with your own sensibility and create your personal story, without being driven by an “easy interpretation” because of the nature of her experience.

 

“Free Falling’ will be again on tour in Autumn 2017. In the meantime, I had interviewed Hagit to know about her performance and work.

1 – The core of your work with your Dance Company is focused on sharing autobiographic stories and on the physical exploration of emotions and feelings. What inspired you to research and work in this direction?

The autobiographical aspects are there as a source for creating relationships between the dancers and me during the process. They are there to create a bond between the dancers and me, and build a trust – mental and physical trust, and in order to give the work the depth it needs, the honesty it needs, and the rawness. I truly believe that this kind of work, process and journey create depth, connection and ownership; it creates a real sense of care, thus the dancers care about the subject matter as much as I do, it makes the process about the dancers as much as it is about me or my ideas of the subject matter; it makes it about us, about our meeting points, our connections and affect on one another. What I mean is, is not that the work is about us, there is something bigger than that in the work, but the process is about the moment – or moments we meet – and how we meet and how we develop together – and this gives the work a real depth. This belief or even insight and understanding comes from my background as a therapist I think. I want to note that what we share in the studio stays in the studio. I don’t add it in the choreography itself, what we hear in the studio is not something the audience will hear, in that way it isn’t about sharing those personal stories on stage, not at all, but actually about something more abstract and poetic.

I am a great believer in emotions and feelings. The idea of what affects us sensually, physically, mentally. Our relationships with others, and how these relationships affect us and transform us as human being. I understand the world through my emotions, through my feelings. I first feel. And this is why my work is also and always about emotional journeys. My work is an extension of the woman I am.

 

2 –Free Falling particularly reflects your philosophy as choreographer and teacher. It is based on your memories, on your individual experience as a dance therapist. Because of this intimate connection, how did you feel working on this show? Has it been different comparing with your preview works?

My work is always personal and always emotional. I see emotions and the idea of creating an affective experience for the audience and the dancers as a concept, an intellectual concept and a sensual one, and this is something I always explore through the different subjects I look at in my choreographies. What is different in this work is the fact that I feel more secure in my practice, and therefore can take more risks and stretch my comfort zone, and the comfort zone of those who collaborate with me. I feel I can go deeper in my practice, go more into details, make it more profound and articulated.

 

3 – During the show, often the dancers helped each other using their bodies or using the clothes to suggest the right movement. How much your job as therapist influenced the quality of movement you have been worked on with your dancers?

It is more the way I wish to see the world, or the beauty I can sometimes see in the world – support, help, relationships, connections. This is something that the choreographer in me and the therapeutic interest I have mingled together. The movement quality is what interests me as a choreographer and not so much as a therapist. The therapeutic side in what convey the subject matter, the empathy, the emotional journey I want to choreograph. The movement material, quality and structure are my choreographic choices.

 

4 – The experience you had as a therapist is unique for you, and your dancers come from a different background. How have you worked together to translate your memories into dance and built a choreography readable by anyone?

I have to say that I am or at least I was a dancer/performer my self and I work as a dance teacher as well, in that way my dancers and myself have also a lot in common. My experience as a dance movement therapist was fairly short – and even though it does (and very much so) influence my work and the way I see the world, relationships, art, it isn’t the only thing that shape my work as a choreographer. On the contrary – my experience as a dancer/performer  and my experience as a teacher have a very big impact as well.

I never wanted my dancers to translate my memories – not at all! I wanted them to find their own sense of falling and recovering. I wanted to see where the subject matter meets them. Their physical and mental interpretations of the subject was much more important to me than my memories or their understanding of them.

As for my memories, I think I can answer it in this way: I wanted my choreography to convey something I find very humane: it is the subtlety in emotions, the complexity of feelings, and the way I perceive the notion of recovery: slow, detailed, comforting, supportive as well as chaotic, scary and desperate.

 

5 – Free Falling will be on tour again in Autumn 2017. There is anything you would like to change or investigate more deeply until then?

The evening keeps changing all the time. I have already changed the costume, I took the sounds away in Air Hunger, I changed the timing of the interval; it all happened during the tour.

I believe there will be more changes. I want to see how I feel when I see the piece again in the autumn; we are taking a short break now, and will be back to tour the piece in the autumn. I want to see how the works – the choreography ‘meets’ me and the dancers after that break; how I feel when I see the work again after the break. I think only then I’ll know what needs to be changed and rework. In that way it is a never ending story of choreographing; as long as I develop and change throughout the tour, so does the work…