The Teatro Carcano in Milan is trying to forge ahead with a project to feature dance, especially contemporary dance, on its stage.
Dance in Milan tends to be dominated by La Scala, while other northern Italian towns such as Venice, Genoa and Turin have got to see the Eifman Ballet, Ballet Preljocaj, Béjart Ballet Lausanne, Estonian National Ballet, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and the Mariinsky and Bolshoi companies on tour in recent years. This season Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty makes an appearance at Milan's Teatro Arcimboldi, as did Sylvie Guillem's Life in Progress at the beginning of the season, but apart from a few dubious Nutcrackers that, in Milan, is more or less it.
Carcano put on the Mara Galeazzi and Friends Gala at the beginning of the season, but as they style themselves as a Centre for Contemporary Art, most other contributions to their season have been modern.
Spellbound Contemporary Ballet in DARE
Last week saw Mauro Astolfi's excellent Spellbound Contemporary Ballet company in a mixed programme called Dare. Astolfi has a true choreographic vocabulary which is rich and varied. His dedicated company give themselves passionately to Astolfi's creations and the work that lies behind its performance is evident with the many intricate, perfectly timed sequences and detailed interrelationships between the company's nine dancers.
The opening piece, Small Crime, featured Maria Cossu and Giovanni La Rocca, in an intense exchange between a pair of lovers though, for most of the piece, ex-lovers. The work, created for New York last year, mirrors a situation that tragically is featured almost daily in Italy's news, where the end of a relationship results in a vendetta by one of the pair; usually, of course, the man. In Astolfi's choreography the man's rage is won over by his intellect as he swallows his damaged pride and just walks away. The pull and shove of the violent movements creates a suitably troubling and uneasy atmosphere.
Lost For Words is a trilogy of works completed in 2013, the last of which was represented at Teatro Carcano, L'invasione delle parole vuote or The Invasion of Empty Words. The entire company lot against each other in an empty stage which seems to contain invisible barriers and occasionally obstacles created by the bodies of the dancers themselves. There is a continuous struggle as though they are trying to get through… to encounter someone? …to achieve something? …to cut through the empty words? …to eliminate the rhetoric and get to the truth? It is not a story, though there is a narrative which creates a mood rather than a plot.
In the longest piece, Dare, the atmosphere was similar though some Chopin occasionally broke into Luca Salvadori's soundscape and there was the first use of scenic elements. People-sized cardboard boxes which resembled coffins were used in increasingly imaginative ways, and created labyrinths and walls for the dancers to cleverly work around. Dare consists of a series of encounters, all of which seem to be saying something, though I really don't know what, but it was fascinating all the same; like witnessing an animated dinner-table conversation when you don't speak the language. There is also a fascinating coup de theatre at the end when the company disappears behind a backcloth that has been hiding two large Venetian blinds. They are opened and closed quickly, each time revealing a new part of a story, like a camera flash going off in the dark and capturing just a frame of the whole narrative. A metaphor for Astolfi's choreography where fragments of a story seem to be brought together in fascinating ways to form a collage of the complete story.
I don't know about you, but I often start looking at my watch when there are similar moods, colours and aural backgrounds and here on a dimly lit stage too. In Astolfi's three pieces presented at Teatro Carcano there were no bright colours, no jazz or hip-hop, no half-nude bodies, no comedy… no gimmicks to keep the audience's interest, yet our attention was captured throughout by the communicative flow of his choreography. Thoroughly convincing both the choreographer and his sensational company.
A couple of days saw a gala which was a real hotchpotch of styles and ability. Although called Danza Excellenze (Excellence in Dance) it certainly wasn't all excellent, though there were some good pickings to be had.
Mats Ek dancer Pompea Santoro presented twenty minutes of the ‘white' act of his Giselle, danced by students of her Eko Dance Project, and it was interesting to note how well it worked out of context. She had obviously worked hard with her dedicated team.
Dorian Grori from the Compagnia Cosi-Stefanescu, winningly danced Doina, a piece choreographed to Rumanian music by Marinel Stefanescu, though he does have a tendency to dance for himself and ignore his audience.
CHOPinLOVE by Marco De Alteriis for Loredana Furno's Balletto Teatro di Torino was set to the Maestoso movement of Chopin's Piano Concerto N°2. Some unexpectedly violent moves were surprisingly not at odds with Chopin's music. Axier Iriarte and Wilma Puentes Linares were the excellent interpreters.
The evening concluded with a suite from the one act ballet The Cloak of the Dragon performed by Jas Art Ballet. This young company is directed by La Scala dancers Sabrina Brazzo and Andrea Volpintesta, and it featured them together with another La Scala dancer, Maurizio Licitra, and a member of Jas Art Ballet who trained at the La Scala Academy, Filippo Valmorbida. In this piece the title of the gala lived up to its name.
Sabrina Brazzo is as elegant and classy as ever; Andrea Volpintesta showed off a fine comic vein as well a cutting a handsome figure on stage – a Mr Darcy in black leather; and Licitra and Valmorbida set the stage alight with their physical wizardry. The choreography is by Massimiliano Volpini (yes, another La Scala dancer) who, refreshingly, is not afraid of humour and irony.
Volpini's new full-length ballet Il giardino degli amanti starring Roberto Bolle opens at La Scala at the beginning of next month.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.
I am surprised that Milan sees less of visiting companies rather than more.