Marino Palleschi didn’t write for a newspaper or magazine, he didn’t commentate during the interval of dance transmissions, he hardly wrote in blogs (after an early collaboration ended with balletto.net, an Italian dance news and forum site), but his comments through Facebook on dance – and not only – were widely appreciated by both fans and dance professionals.
Marino died this morning after a long and incurable illness.
He was a professor of mathematics at Milan’s university – though he couldn’t divide up a restaurant bill to save his life – and his early passion for opera shifted to ballet in later life. He was dreaming on his retirement of being able to travel to festivals and competitions, yet the onset of various illnesses coincided with him leaving his post at the university and few of those projects were realised.
Marino was one of those people who I envied (in a nice way). Want to talk about paintings? Ok let’s talk. History? Yep. Ok, what about politics… philosophy… TV series… gutter gossip… reality shows… literature… Leonardo’s Milanese canals? Yes, yes, yes. And he remembered dates and names; a “who?”, “what?”, “when?” database.
His insights into classical ballet came together with the necessary technical baggage of dance history and terminology, but he was especially eloquent when communicating what he’d seen, how he’d interpreted it, and what it meant to him. His views had a resonance with many, many people.
As a man, Marino had a wicked sense of humour, with a transparent way of talking and acting that made him resemble a ten-year-old rather than an able maths boffin. He could silence bars and foyers with some very loud laughter, or by overly stressing an audacious or impish comment that anyone else would have whispered. During one hilarious hospital admission he left the nurse open-mouthed, and me alternating between squirming in my seat and roaring with laughter, as he replied inventively or with extraordinary, explicit honesty to her questions. And on a trip down to Rome to see a ballet we almost missed the train as he had to return to his apartment three times in the lift to control whether he’d switched off the gas, turned off the lights, and locked the balcony door. We dragged him into the taxi on his fourth attempt. On the train he practically left a man unconscious as objects fell out of his bag on the luggage rack, and we forced him to change seats to stop him continually elbowing his neighbour during a particularly enthusiastic storytelling session. His frankness occasionally led him to rub dear friends up the wrong way which led to temporary bust-ups, yet he was tender and observant and was always able to say the right thing at the right time in times of trouble.
Marino complained that his cleaner was incapable of putting his ballet DVDs back on the shelf in chronological order of their world premiere performance. Now he has all the time he needs to put things in order in that vast library in the sky. He was one of a kind – a ‘character’ – and will be greatly missed.
When he made one of his jokey comments about dying, I said I’d write an obituary blurb on the blog. He said, “No you won’t!” – but I did, Marino.
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.