Première by Andrea Costanzo Martini with Balletto di Roma. Photo © NID Platform

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NID – New Italian Dance Platform 2023

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Première by Andrea Costanzo Martini with Balletto di Roma. Photo © NID Platform
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Presenting a variety and abundance of the current Italian contemporary dance scene

Launched in 2012, the New Italian Dance Platform (NID) was founded to promote Italian dance artists in Italy and abroad, to showcase what is considered the most representative and innovative works from the current Italian panorama of contemporary dance, and to stimulate networking and international collaboration. With a different host city every two years, its seventh edition took place from 30 August to 2 September 2023 in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia.

Featuring 17 performances selected by open call – 8 works in progress (Open Studios) and 9 completed works – plus three panel discussions and a two-day narrative tour of the promotional desks where 19 Italian companies and associations were featured, NID presented the choreographic variety and abundance of the Italian contemporary dance scene. More specifically, the Focus on Dance in Sardinia panel explored the role of the island in contemporary dance-making since the 1980s and how Sardinian identity, shaped by geographical isolation yet fused with a desire for cultural contamination, may play an active role in current dance production. Meanwhile, the Platform or What panel focused on international perspectives on dance curation by established networks, and Currents of Italian Dance Between Heritage, Metamorphosis and New Languages – despite the big generational gap of the invited artists and the complete absence of middle-career choreographers – saw as protagonists Michele Abbondanza, one of the most important figures of Italian dance theatre who emerged in the 1990s with the under 35 years old independent choreographers Laura Gazzani and Sofia Nappi, and neoclassical choreographers Simone Repele and Sasha Riva.

CanCan by Fabritia D'Intino. Photo © NID Platform
CanCan by Fabritia D’Intino. Photo © NID Platform

This year’s selected works were united under the curatorial theme of fluidity as manifested in space and the moving body; yet informal discussions at NID kept circulating around whether this year’s selected works were indeed representative of the expanded concept of fluidity and above all of the variety and quality of the current dance scene in Italy.

In Programming, the main section of the platform, Andrea Costanzo Martini’s Première, performed by Balletto di Roma, explored the vanity of virtuosity through a gradual departure of the company’s comfort zone from ballet technique. In Shoes On, Luna Cenere successfully inserted a surprising tone of irony and humour in her signature choreographic language of sculptural and poetic corporeal transformation. Pas de deux by Jari Boldrini and Giulio Petrucci offered a corporeal meditation in space based on the elaboration of the basic choreographic format of the duet.

While these pieces were conceived for the stage, Michele di Stefano’s Atmosferologia. Veduta>Cagliari inaugurated in this year’s programme the Non-Conventional Format for alternative and non-theatrical spaces. With the audience located on the terrace of Saint Remy Bastion and the performance opening onto the city of Cagliari, Atmosferologia is an audio-choreography that orchestrated our attention, our gaze and our spectatorship as a whole.

Daniele Ninarello in Nobody Nobody Nobody. It's ok not to be ok. Photo © NID Platform
Daniele Ninarello in Nobody Nobody Nobody. It's ok not to be ok. Photo © NID Platform

The trauma of violence and abuse informed Daniele Ninarello’s Nobody Nobody Nobody. It’s ok not to be ok, a piece conceived both for the theatrical culture of directed attention and the museum culture of flexible attention. Presenting it here in its stage format, Ninarello sought to embody and articulate the trauma stored in the anonymous body in a process that leads from vulnerability to relief. This was one of the performances with which NID’s programme shifted from physical and choreographic exploration to a territory that deserves further recognition, especially regarding the concrete thematics that were introduced in some of the works as below.

As a duet between Paola Bianchi and Valentina Bravetti, a dancer who suffers from paraneoplastic neurologic syndrome, Brave does not seek to beautify disability but rather to function as a journey towards finding, on the one hand, the hope and courage to face a disabling condition, and on the other, to experientially understand disability. In this relational process between the two performers, their bodies get entangled and disentangled in a horizontal choreographic evolution of mutual exchange of corporeal knowledge. Testing the absence of verticality and the angularity of the body along with exploring how control over the muscles works (or does not work) follow an attentive stare of Bianchi over Bravetti’s way of moving. What are the implications of the gaze as Bianchi looks at Bravetti’s body and we look at them? Is copying enough to empathise with a disabling condition? Bianchi seems to stand like a guardian whose distant gaze turns into a gentle touch for Bravetti to find emotional support, and for Bianchi to discover a new mode of performativity.

Despite the artists’ request in programme notes and promotional material for Brave to be ‘seen up close, to plunge the spectator into the scene along with two bodies’, this introverted work was placed in a theatre with the audience at a conventional distance. In spite of this spatial issue, Brave enabled, in the context of NID, a much-needed encounter with disability.

Trailer for Brave, with Paola Bianchi and Valentina Bravetti

Hell has been a source of inspiration for a plethora of artists, and in Inferno Roberto Castello proposed his own version by creating a surrealistic world as a mirror to our neoliberal society. The screen animation suggested the location of the different scenes: initially an artificial night landscape with fireworks and naked trees that occasionally vibrate as strings; afterwards, a museum space with iconic works of western art including Jeff Koons’ balloon dog and the artistic duo Gilbert and George, among others. The heat of the inferno is implied by the physical exhaustion of the performers who appear in their home attire (slippers, hair curlers and dressing gowns) and are even unable to walk; a refrigerator suddenly flying across the artificial night sky gives an additional surrealistic tone. All together these elements perhaps hint at our consumerist society and the futile chase for stardom and social recognition. When the screen depicts the museum space, the choreography gradually turns into a polyrhythmic party with African influences in front of a giant white sleeping statue with sunglasses that finally escapes; a museum guide speaking gibberish mocks the elitism and superficiality of so-called high art. Castello arrives to recreate the glamour of the divertissements of classic Hollywood films with exotic dances in sequins that culminate in a virtuosic gala.

Besides its ingeniously conceived surrealism, Inferno runs a few risks: the appropriation of African dance that goes beyond mere tribute to African culture, and its association with the museum, one of the largest institutions of colonialism. For a country such as Italy that carries a recent colonial past, the appropriated African dance in relation to the western exhibition space needs to be further questioned in light of the museum as a place of trauma, appropriation and exposure of stolen memory. It remains unclear whether the Inferno was an intentional critique of the colonising culture of the museum, or not.

Trailer for Inferno by Roberto Castello

In Francesca Foscarini and Cosimo Lopalco’s Greta on the Beach, the stage becomes an artificial beach with five performers in bathing costumes engaged in leisure activities for a prolonged duration: sunbathing, reading their books, playing cards, doing yoga, searching for music on the analogue radio and playing racquetball among other activities. To the sound of waves (occasionally fused with Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach), they look like eternal holiday-makers on a forgotten island. Dance and any variations of the leisure summer activities – an extension of postmodern everyday actions – are as sporadic as oases in the desert, and the question comes to mind whether this work, with its installation-like format and durational character, could fit better in a museum. ‘No, it wasn’t an accident. It was carefully planned down to the tiniest mechanical and emotional detail…,’ one of the performers utters, decontextualising a quote from Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach – and this seems to be the answer: inactivity as a conscious artistic choice to make us reflect on the emptiness of our lives. Could the lack of progression – against the audience’s need for continuous motivation and multitasked attention – be a triggering aspect of this work, provoking us to act?

Greta on the Beach by Francesca Foscarini and Cosimo Lopalco. Photo © NID Platform
Greta on the Beach by Francesca Foscarini and Cosimo Lopalco. Photo © NID Platform

Touching on the theme of the climate crisis – made explicit through Greta Thunberg’s almost prophetic recorded voice – the work appears like a rehearsal for the end of the world. The representation of the beach is itself a projection of a nostalgic future where light is artificial, there are no natural references to perceive time, and the memory of the world we used to know is recalled through recorded sounds of waves and seagulls and the mimicry of actions once placed in the natural environment. Foscarini and Lopalco dilate time to propose a post-apocalyptic scenario approached through nihilism in which the end of humanity as we know it could be the way to save our planet.

Climate change and trauma are a few of the issues that compose our dystopic contemporaneity, our tangible inferno – a realistic extension of Castello’s surrealistic Inferno. Addressing these issues through artistic processes, as in the case of Ninarello and Foscarini-Lopalco, along with exposing disability, as in the duet by Bianchi-Bravetti, is more urgent than ever. In this case, NID is representative only of a small part of the current artistic production in Italy that physically deals with such current issues. Yet it is unrealistic to expect any platform, however packed with variety, to cover all the creativity of a country. Although it sounds convenient to get a taste of a whole country’s artistic production by attending a four-day platform – a sort of an exposure to ‘the best of the best’ that is itself questionable – responsible programming depends on curiosity, critical ability and equally responsible travelling. Like any platform, NID has its limitations, and could do more in terms of inclusivity and accessibility, deployment of its spaces for the benefit of the works, providing an overview of the outcomes of the international residencies, improving the pre- and post-event evaluation mechanisms and questioning as a whole the modes of dance production in the country. However, offering a balanced programme composed of works that range from physical and choreographic research to more conceptually driven dance-making, being intergenerational – welcoming established, mid-career and emerging choreographers – as well as gradually opening up to fluid choreographic formats and diverse styles, accommodating flexible promotional layouts and giving visibility to the local scenes through its roaming nature are a few of its biggest strengths. 

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Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy