Enrico Ticconi and Ginevra Panzetti, pointing fingers in dance film Actio (2102)

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Already there? An interview with Ginevra Panzetti & Enrico Ticconi

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Pointing between past and present: Enrico Ticconi and Ginevra Panzetti in Actio (2012) Photo: © Sergio Salomone
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Emily May
Italian choreographic duo Ginevra Panzetti and Enrico Ticconi on powerplay and physical rhetoric – past and present

In art, and in contemporary dance in particular, originality is often viewed as a criterion for quality. But for Italian dance duo Ginevra Panzetti and Enrico Ticconi, this is not the case. ‘For our first work together, we decided we wouldn’t create anything new,’ says Panzetti, referring to their 2008 piece Area. ‘We recorded people in squares, on the streets and in the metro, and we began to mimic their postures and their movements. We realised there was a massive amount of material already there, in front of us.’

Originally from Rome, Panzetti and Ticconi had first met at high school, both going on to study stage design at Rome’s Academy of Fine Arts before starting weekly dance classes. They began to explore working as a choreographic duo during their training at Claudia Castellucci’s Stòa School of Rhythmic Movement and Philosophy, where they created Area. They both moved to Germany in 2010 to pursue individual but complementary paths, Ticconi studying dance and choreography in Berlin and Panzetti Media Art in Leipzig, and though Panzetti has since moved back to Italy they have developed a range of duets together, presenting their work at venues across Europe.

And ten years on from their first piece, they are still working with ‘what is already there’. But they have come a long way since turning to bus stops and subways for inspiration. Now they imbue many pieces with references to historical events, art movements and traditions. ‘We have both been interested in art and history since our teenage years, so it has always been a key reference for us when it comes to creating,’ says Ticconi.

‘We also reference the past so that we can play with the audience’s collective memory,’ adds Panzetti. ‘We are very interested in questioning the different identities that power can take, and how power can be developed through communication.’ Their 2011 work Lend Me Your Ears, for example, explores the figure of the orator and how leaders have communicated to their subjects through history. Using Mark Antony’s speech from Stuart Burge’s 1970 film Julius Caesar, and Hynkel’s Oration from Chaplin’s 1940 The Great Dictator as points of departure, Ticconi and Panzetti execute a series of what they call rhetorical gestures: gesticulations used by speakers to help them get their point across, and win the public over. They revisited this theme in their 2012 dance film Actio, which mimetically recreated hand gestures described in Quintilian’s Institute of Oratory, an ancient Roman treatise on rhetoric. ‘It does vary depending on the project, but in general the approach of mimesis is very useful for us,’ says Ticconi. ‘We use iconographic references and mimic the images, gestures and movements that they present, and then explore that material more freely.’


Place and position in the Romantic landscape: Ginevra Panzetti and Enrico Ticconi in Die Wanderer (2011)

In their 2011 dance film Die Wanderer, for example, they adopt poses in landscapes that had inspired various paintings of the Romantic era. In their 2012 durational performance Cardine they use ancient maps of the first Roman colony to explore themes of urbanisation. Their latest work, Harleking, premiered in 2018 in Berlin, makes reference to grotesques. Originating from ancient Rome and revived during the Renaissance, grotesque murals and sculptural decorations fuse together depictions of animals, plants, and human forms. ‘They can often be very elegant and abstract,’ Panzetti, ‘but monstrous at the same time.’

Harleking sees the performers adopt the stylised commedia dell’arte persona of the Harlequin to make a point about how humour and acting like a ‘fool’ in politics can disguise more sinister motivations. For Panzetti, the Harlequin is ‘on the surface, a funny figure. He makes you laugh’ – yet he is also known for being a devilish, self-serving trickster. ‘This quality of power in politicians is a familiar feature in our political history in Italy,’ says Ticconi; and certainly, in Harleking they recreate the fascists’ infamous ‘Roman salute’, later used by the Nazis.


Ginevra Panzetti and Enrico Ticconi in Harleking (2018)
Ginevra Panzetti and Enrico Ticconi, Harleking (2018). Photo © Dieter Hartwig

‘Using humour to disguise darker messages is very prevalent in politics nowadays,’ says Panzetti. Indeed, seeing such clear, evocative, and controversial symbols from history paired onstage with humorous moments where the performers giggle and trick each other, one can’t help but think of contemporary politicians, presidents and potential prime ministers who have initially been branded as fools only to become threats to democracy as we know it. Panzetti and Ticconi may be playing with our collective cultural memory, but they also shine a light on our present. ‘Evoking the figure of a twentieth-century dictator on stage can open our imaginations to the past,’ comments Panzetti, ‘but it can also be used to question the present, and invite people to ask themselves: how can this be read in relation to contemporary society?’