|Venue||Teatro Elfo Puccini, Milan [Festival MilanOltre]|
|Date||30 September 2022|
Four naked male dancers; a proscenium-wide projection of a horse, with often extreme close-ups of its eye; a tumbling panel of silk; meticulous lighting; the sound of Charles Mingus’s 1956 celebrated jazz album Pithecanthropus erectus. Very little with which to conjure up such a magical hour of pure poetry.
Mingus’s free improvisation style is mirrored very closely by the dancers, and when an instrumentalist has a solo, so does one of the dancers, and their naked freedom – like that of the horse – is the same freedom that the jazz musicians enjoy, liberated from adhering to a score.
The choreographers – Michele Abbondanza and Antonella Bertoni – give a starting-point quote from Winston Churchill: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” They also refer to the philosopher Jacques Derrida. There is a quote of his that I like from his well-known book The Animal That Therefore I Am, in connection with the Genesis story: “It is generally thought that the property unique to animals and what in the final analysis distinguishes them from man, is their being naked without knowing it.” He explains, “Animals would not, in truth, be naked because they are naked. In principle, with the exception of man, no animal has ever thought to dress itself.” The four, skilled, naked dancers were Marco Bissoli, Fabio Caputo, Cristian Cucco, and Nicolas Grimaldi Capitello.
After the initial curiosity, as the lights slowly intensified, of seeing who the showers were – or is that just me? – the personalities of the dancers came through forcefully. Their movements were often very rapid, with a varied dance vocabulary from high jumps to low rolls across the stage, with even à la seconde turns and a manège of jetés added to the mix for one solo. However, often all four were dancing together with admirable coordination and precision, just as the jazz musicians on the album come together for notated sections before spinning off on their free jazz fantasies again.
In the closing moments, the kind, inquisitive blinking eye of the horse on a dark grey silk drape gives way – with a violent percussive crash – to a vivid image of the entire horse on its side as the silk flutters to the ground and the image is intensified, suddenly in focus on a white screen. There is a moment of shock – is the animal dead? The horse jerks its head up, then stands triumphantly, and with a shake looks straight at the audience. The liberating power of naked freedom.
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.