Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Tip-toeing around the issue of dance

Posted by Kimberly on September 22, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
September 22, 2007, page 18 (1,024 words)

The repertoire of 28-year-old Italian dance company, Aterballetto, is difficult to compartmentalise. One need only to witness the variety shown within the three pieces offered as part of their tour in Macau, to realise that.
But then this has always been, according to dancers Adrien Boissonnet and Beatrice Mille, a goal for Mauro Bigonzetti, the company’s choreographer.
The three pieces, ‘Homage to Bach’, ‘Songs’ and ‘Cantata’, offer a glimpse into the creative mind of a most celebrated individual, whose decade-long tenure with Aterballetto have allowed the company to grow beyond Italy alone, to become a world-wide phenomena.
The first piece, “a personal tribute”, was a means of commemorating the 250th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death.
According to the company’s description of the piece, “through the use of dance, in a pure, essential and unadorned form, [Mauro] interprets Bach’s musical universe, the geometric and architectonic perfection, the equilibrium between human and transcendent expressed in his art.”
The 33 minute show encompasses some of the composer’s greatest music, allowing for “intimate atmospheres [that] fade into choral moments, creating thus an ideal and symbolic journey.”
“Songs”, a piece with three dancers, is considered to be a “very intimate piece,” according to Adrien.
With music by Henry Purcell, “Songs” is described as “an exploration into the deeper aspects of psychological conditions, between the hidden folds of being and its infinity of phases.”
Purcell’s music is felt to be “contemporary in language and timeless in subject.” The 16 minute piece was originally done with two male and one female dancer but has, since 2002, included a version exclusively for males.
The final piece, ‘Cantata’, seems to evoke the most response from the dancers, who describe it a being “very down to earth” by Adrien and “more free” by Beatrice.
“In Cantata we have to be like normal people such as in a piazza, so men are wearing trousers and girls have skirts and shawls. It’s very traditional costumes of the farmers,’ she adds.
“Catanta I think was a step for him in his choreographic career. He let his imagination go without limits,” says Adrien.
It’s possibly the most cultural piece of the three in terms of Southern Italian roots.
Described as “passionate”, “instinctual” and “vital”, the dance “explores the various facets of the relationship between man and woman” including “seduction, passion, quarrels [and] jealousy.”
the longest of the three pieces, at 40 minutes, it involved the entire company of dancers, against music that dates back to 8th and 9th centuries, encompassing lullabies and “Neapolitan serenades.”
Both Adrien and Beatrice, who have been with the company for the past seven years, have nothing but praise for the choreographer.
Coming from a classical ballet background, 31-year-old Adrien came across Mauro in Dresden, Germany.
“I liked his work very much so asked him to join the company at the time,” he recalls, adding that “I came into this company because there are not so many dancers and Mauro has more time to take care of each dancer.
“That’s what I really wanted to have and what I missed as a classical dancer.”
Beatrice’s beginnings were very much that, having had no prior experience as a professional dancer before joining the company.
“It was completely new for me,” she says, adding that “I was in school and had to find a job and I saw the auditions in a dance review.
“When I passed the audition, I saw the work and the dancers and thought ‘wow!’”
“When he [Mauro] said to me, ‘I want to work with you’, for me it was incredible,” says the 27-year-old.
She adds that it’s fantastic to still be a part of the company “because I think it’s unique to work with a choreographer like Mauro.
“He creates with you and it’s like an exchange which is fantastic.”
Mauro’s idea, according to Federico Grilli, President of Aterballetto, was for the company to be known abroad, around the entire world.
“He [Mauro] said that if today we are in Macau we have actually reached this goal,” says Federico.
As the principal producing and touring dance company in Italy, Aterballetto is sponsored by not only the city it lives in, Reggio Emilia but also the region and Italy itself.
Composed mainly of solo dancers, it has gained worldwide attention, touring throughout Europe, Asia the Americas and the Middle and Far East.
Bigonzetti himself started and developed his career as a performer with the company between 1982 and 1993 before taking up the post of Artistic Direction in 1997.
His first work was created in 1990 called ‘Sei in movimento’ which was set to music by Bach and performed at the Teatro Sociale in Grassina, in Toscana Italy.
He has also collaborated with numerous international companies including the English National Ballet London, the New York City Ballet as well as artist collaborations with Elvis Costello and William Forsythe, among others.
As well as original pieces, Bigonzetti has also covered Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the latter of which will be performed on the Bangkok leg of this tour.
The 20-strong group also has another unique aspect to the company and that is its headquarters, which was given to Aterballetto by the city of Reeggio Emilia.
Originally a foundry of the 1930s, the 3,000 square foot building was inaugurated in 2004, situated at the edge of the city’s historic centre.
According to the company’s description, the building “has the structure of a Romanesque cathedral, in which iron and glass dominate.”
The Foundation’s offices are also located here.
“We are very proud of it, says Federico, “because it’s the only building like that in Italy.”
In 1991, Aterballetto became the Company of the Centro Regionale della Danza, the official association formed by the City of Reggio Emilia, the Region of Emilia-Romagna and ATER (Association of Theatres of Emilia Romagna).
Finally, the Foundation offers significant dance projects both regionally and nationally including holding a Professional Master Course for young dancers, and in recent years, has organised and co-ordinated numerous initiatives to broaden exposure and knowledge of the dance, in collaboration with regional ballet schools and grade schools.

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