Positano Premia la Danza is an award ceremony followed by a gala that has been held almost every year for almost half a century – next year marks its 50th edition.
The Sirenusas islands (more commonly referred to as Li Galli, or Gallos) are an archipelago of little islands off the Amalfi Coast. They were once owned by Leonid Massine and then by Rudolf Nureyev, and they hover on the shimmering sea in front of Positano’s spellbinding bay where a stage is built on the beach for the event.
Franco Zeffirelli, who had a house nearby, was a frequent guest and Margot Fonteyn, Nureyev, Maurice Béjart, Vladimir Vasiliev, Ekaterina Maximova, Natalia Makarova, Carla Fracci, Luciana Savignano, Elisabetta Terabust, Mats Ek, Alicia Alonso as well as today’s dancers have crossed the sands together with jetsetters Gregory Peck, Gianni Versace, and many more.
Last year’s edition on 11 September, was forced to become a virtual event and this year ended up being a gathering of colleagues and friends of Carla Fracci, who died in May, as this year’s event was dedicated to her memory. The gala should return next year.
Fracci’s husband, the director Beppe Menegatti – who at 92 overcame Positano’s hundreds of steps to arrive at the various appointments over the weekend – attended a gallery of photographs of Fracci by Luciano Romano set out in a medieval crypt, and the award ceremony, which was in the piazza in front of the church of Santa Maria Assunta which dominates the town. The ceremony was followed by a concert by players from the orchestra of Teatro San Carlo in Naples.
Set and costume designer Luisa Spinatelli, who designed sets and costumes for Carla Fracci for more than fifty years, was one of the recipients of this year’s award. Other awards were given to Stéphane Fournial, who was Fracci’s partner for several productions, and is now head of the dancing school of Teatro San Carlo; Amedeo Amodio, who danced with her and choreographed for her at La Scala; Annamaria Morelli, the costume designer; Daniele Di Donato, a 21-year-old dancer who grew up in Positano, trained at La Scala’s academy and now dances with the ballet company at Teatro San Carlo (whose new director, former étoile at Paris Opera Ballet, Clotilde Vayer, was also present); Giuliana Gargiulo, a journalist and close friend of Fracci’s for sixty years; and the photographer Luciano Romano who produced many well-known photographs of Fracci during the 1980s and ‘90s.
Beppe Menegatti talked movingly about a life with Carla Fracci that covered both the professional and personal spheres that they shared from even before their marriage in 1964. In fact, he first met her in 1955 in the Trieste rehearsal room (now the foyer for the gallery):
I was the last in a line of people coming in. At the head was Luchino Visconti, then the choreographer Massine, then the composer Mannino* and the costume designer Lila De Nobili and then me carrying Visconti’s bag. Lila turned around and said, “Luchino, couldn’t this one be the girl to play Silvestra?” and she pointed to a girl sitting on the floor with red tights… it was Carla.”
* Franco Mannino would compose the film score for Visconti’s film ‘Death in Venice’.
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.