Luciana Savignano is an exotic creature from her unworldly physical movements to her unique, vaguely Asian features and her unquestionably hypnotic gaze. She is petite yet seems a giant onstage with her wide shoulders and expansive arms. Her famously expressive use of those arms is still intact, even as she approaches her 77th birthday. It is easy to see how Maurice Béjart was enchanted by her and created three works on her. She became one of his favourite interpreters of his Boléro: she was the first to dance the role at La Scala in 1980, and almost no one else climbed onto the red table until she danced it for the last time there in 1996.
Savignano was at the centre of a new work, Le Sacre, a Rite of Spring with a moody soundscape and world music weaving in and out of Stravinsky’s score. The space for the performance was a 1930’s open-air swimming pool which is next to Milan’s Franco Parenti Theatre, and a floating stage was where Savignano first appeared rising from within a giant skirt moved by chords held by four dancers. Susanna Beltrami’s choreography observed the social distancing requirements, with a slow, symbolic putting on of black rubber gloves by the mostly female troupe before they stirred around Savignano as well as giving her a masked (and sometimes winged) partner, Matteo Bittante. Most of the company finished in the pool – deliberately – at some point or other, with some exciting backlit thrashing of the water. The huge outdoor space allowed for a large number of spectators to be spaced out across the steps which run along the two long sides of the rectangular pool, so the piece was effectively in the ‘round’.
But Savignano seduces from any angle, the enthusiasm of the company was winning, and Beltrami found ways to use every part of the chlorine flavoured space. The recently restored swimming pool is called the Bagni Misteriosi, the Mysterious Baths, and the atmosphere was indeed both mysterious and magical, on one of those hot, humid nights when a few splashes of water are welcome.
The spellbinding rippling of Luciana Savignano’s celestial arms slowed, as the lights faded, dimming the Hockneyesque ripples reflected from the water.