After several months of lockdown, Italian cultural life is awakening again. Between theatre venues and exhibition spaces, dance is resurging in Rome, too. Michele Di Stefano (Silver Lion, Venice Biennale 2014) has curated a programme called Buffalo for the Theatre of Rome, where he is in charge as a consultant for the dance season titled Grandi Pianure [Great Plains]. Subtitled ‘the open body’, Buffalo presented artists such as Yasmine Hugonnet, Nicola Galli, Panzetti/Ticconi, Jérôme Bel, Industria Indipendente, Cristina Kristal Rizzo, Francesca Grilli, Daniele Albanese, Collettivo C.G.J., Jamila Johnson-Small, Alexandra Bechzetis, and video projections by Francesca Grilli, Trisha Brown Dance Company, and César Vayssié. The following interview reports from a conversation with Di Stefano at an event organised by Palaexpo, the Swiss Institute of Rome, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACRO).
Michele, where did the inspiration for the title Buffalo come from?
This title comes from a desire and an intuition. The project I conceived for the Theatre of Rome, Grandi Pianure, presents the symbolic image of a solitary bison. It is not intended to suggest an immediate meaning, but more generally, the animal is the reference through which I believe we can better understand the human body.
Buffalo takes place inside exhibition spaces. What is your perspective on ‘alternative’ dance spaces such as museum halls?
In Italy, dance performances in museums are often perceived as borderline works, even a bit extreme. However, if we look back in time, for example at American postmodern dance, we can see how even then there was regular dance activity in non-theatrical spaces. I am convinced that the choreographic body can manage to inhabit any space if it works with an amplified perception. The idea is to give back to bodies a power which can be transformative. Dance can have the power to change different contexts, and therefore the world.
The point of Buffalo was not to simply design a programme of shows to present to the public. Even if we mainly programmed works which had been previously completed, artists agreed to have their performances placed in dialogue with this specific context. I would like to stimulate artists to orient themselves in a different way, combining materials and putting strength of presence at the centre of their actions. We have entrusted the programmed artists to present works on the body for a collective experience – that of the audience. I turned to artists who believe that dance can bring visions of the body, of the gaze and of being together. Particularly after the period of isolation from which we are emerging, I decided to involve artists who have shown themselves willing to test what the body puts into play now, without worrying about the precise grammar of the theatre, which has its own rules of lighting, timing and duration… Dislocating dance to a non-theatre environment goes hand in hand with the possibility of probing the body and its relation to shared feelings, in a context where boundaries are blurred.