Loredana Canditone in Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected. Standing alone with crossed hands, she faces the darkness with her back to us. Her blouse with golden and dark blue sequins shines like the wings of a butterfly and her black hair is almost assimilated with the dark background. Photo © Carolina Farina


Trespass to access: opening up for visual impairment

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Loredana Canditone in Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected. Photo © Carolina Farina
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A conversation with the creative team about how one performance has evolved as it opens out to visually impaired audiences

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Trespass is an evolving performance project ‘for exploring the ways different sounds could evoke different body states’. It was begun in 2016 by choreographer Marta Olivieri, an associate artist at Salvo Lombardo’s production association Chiasma, and now, she and her collaborators Camilla Guarino and Giuseppe Comuniello have been working on how to make it accessible for visually impaired audiences. I spoke to them during their preparation for Residenza d’artista a scuola, a residency programme promoted by Lavanderia a Vapore, a dance house based in Torino, which connected the three artists with the Primo Liceo Artistico di Torino (First High School of Art in Torino). As they told me, Trespass was originally based on a collection of urban sounds that Marta recorded herself around 10 years ago for what later became a duet between dancers Loredana Canditone and Vera Borghini. A fundamental element of the original work was ‘to interrogate the point of view of the audience’ – how to trespass frontality and situatedness. By encouraging the viewer to move in the performance space – a gallery or even a kitchen and a basketball court – the spectator was prompted to discover the different ‘situations’ that comprised the performance.

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In contrast to dry audio-descriptions of a performative event, the duo’s creative approach lends eyes to the visually impaired and reverberates in the imagination

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Marta’s first encounter with Camilla and Giuseppe took place during the 2021–22 season at Spazio Kor, an interdisciplinary cultural project located in Asti. Curated by Chiara Bersani and Giulia Traversi, a season entitled Paradise focused on redefining words such as accessibility, inclusion and community, and explored how to render a number of performances accessible to an audience with sensory impairments and neurodivergence. Marta was one of the artists invited, and she presented the version entitled Trespass_Processing an Emerging Choreography. Camilla, a dramaturg, and Giuseppe, a blind performer and choreographer, were in charge of exploring how to make the piece accessible for visually impaired audiences. Camilla and Giuseppe were already exploring the poetic audio-description of contemporary dance performances, an approach nurtured by their partnership in life and at work, that had initially emerged as an intimate way of communicating when attending dance performances together. In contrast to dry audio-descriptions of a performative event, the duo’s creative approach lends eyes to the visually impaired and reverberates in the imagination. In every project they work on, their close collaboration with the artists and the creative team is part of their work ethic, as in their recent collaboration with La Veronal for the audio-description of Marcos Morau’s Firmamento, which was available to listen to in excerpts during the Equilibrio Festival in Rome in February 2024.

Within the first research period at Spazio Kor, the three collaborators realised that, ‘since Trespass’s choreographic structure pays attention to spontaneity and extemporisation, Camilla and Giuseppe’s approach could not take the form of a fixed text, as usually happens in their work, but instead had to be an improvised audio-narration based on common principles’ and on meeting points between the choreography and the audio narration. They also considered the idea of removing the headphones from the visually impaired audience and rendering the audio output as an element that could unite a mixed audience by creating an audio narration that all the audience would hear through speakers. Inevitably, this decision brought up the issue of how to create an audio context that could be meaningful and interesting to people both with and without visual impairment. As Camilla admits, ‘in our work, we often prevent people without visual impairment from listening to audio-descriptions that we have made over-descriptive, because we noticed that detailed audio-descriptions may reduce imaginative potential.’

With that in mind, Marta explains that the new research question focused on ‘how could audio narration be another level of the work, a shared access point and not only a service for the visually impaired audience’. This question became the focus during the Accessible Creations residency in 2022, an opportunity to promote research on accessibility in contemporary dance, conceived and produced by Orbita | Spellbound National Center for the Production of Dance in Rome, under the direction of Valentina Marini and the curation of Dalila D’Amico.

Marta Olivieri during Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected. Sitting on the floor like a mermaid with the weight on her left hand, she wears a black suit and a swimming mask, and she holds a microphone. She gazes with intensity over her left shoulder while surrounded by a few spectators sitting on the black floor or standing near her. Photo © Carolina Farina
Marta Olivieri during Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected. Photo © Carolina Farina

Thanks to an open call on accessibility in the performing arts promoted by the Italian Ministry of Culture, which was won in 2023 by a network of performing arts organisations with leading partners Orbita | Spellbound and Chiasma, a series of new residencies at the venues of the associated partners allowed the project to develop further. At the multidisciplinary Spazio Rossellini in Rome, a public presentation of the accessible version of the research took place under the title Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected. Marta and Camilla each held a microphone in their hands, and attempted to describe what unfolded in the shared space between the spectators and the two performers, Canditone and Borghini. Unlike in the earlier version of the piece, the two performers were no longer simultaneously present in the performance space, so that, as Marta explains, the audio narration could ‘offer a round vision on a single body through doubling the point of view of the narrators’.

Their words were not objective observations but rather the opposite: poetic invocations of who the performers could be, where they might be, what their actions could imply or even what might have happened to them. Marta and Camilla often changed their perspective, prompting us, the audience, to reposition ourselves in space so that we could listen to the story and follow the actions in a comfortable position. We could lie down, sit and rest on the floor pillows, or use the scattered chairs. We moved in space to orient and reorient ourselves, and grasp the entrance points to this invented story by following our own intuition. Our guides were the voices of Marta and Camilla, often overlapping and at times contradictory.

Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected (trailer)

As Giuseppe says, one element that evolved Trespass towards accessibility was the spatialisation of the sound – crucial for the orientation of people with visual impairment. ‘Audio-description usually represents a specific point of view,’ he explains, ‘while audience members in Trespass do not share the same point of view.’ For this reason, the source and the levels of sound in the accessible version of Trespass prompted the spectators to move in space in order to experience different points of hearing and viewing. Marta adds, ‘Camilla and I, as narrators, do not aim to represent all possible spectator viewpoints but rather to clarify our specific points of view as they change each time, in order to increase the three-dimensional aurality of the work.’ In this way, she continues, ‘the extemporised nature of the work requires a four-part listening: between the performer’s body, the two narrators’ voices, and the sound, controlled by Giuseppe and sound designer Filippo Lilli.’

Loredana Canditone, surrounded by the seated audience, is on her knees, looking over her right stretched arm in Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected. Photo © Giuseppe Follacchio
Loredana Canditone, surrounded by the seated audience, in Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected. Photo © Giuseppe Follacchio

Giuseppe also informs me that ‘when the audience members with visual impairment wish to change position in space, some of them raise their hand, and a member of the team helps them to do so – while others, who feel more confident, move in space autonomously by using their stick, or rolling softly on the floor’. When the conditions allow it, as happened in the last residency at Virgilio Sieni-Centre of Significant Interest in Dance in Florence, the three artists observe that ‘it is often the cross-pollination of audiences with and without visual impairment that motivates spectators to move in space’ – and ultimately what makes this experiment more fascinating.

Accessibility in the field of performing arts is a topic that can be addressed in various ways, depending on the type of disability and the characteristics of the performance, and may produce multiple outcomes even from a single dance work. It is a creative practice in its own right, slowly emerging yet consistently absent from the majority of festivals and cultural venues. It is not a luxury nor an obligation; it is a necessity towards an inclusive society. The achievement of Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected lies exactly in this point: the integration of audio narration in the performance, not as an optional extra for those who may need it. This, in turn, not only affects the performance outcome but most importantly the community of spectators, creating inclusion rather than segregation between those who can see and those who cannot. 

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2024 Touring Dates
07.04.2024 Spazio Kor (Asti)
14.04.2024 Scenario Pubblico-Centre of Significant Interest in Dance (Catania)
17.04.2024 Foundation of Teatro Comunale Citta’ di Vicenza (Vicenza)
12.06.2024 Danza Estate Festival / Orlando Festival (Bergamo)
12.06.2024 ATTRAVERSAMENTI MULTIPLI-Margine Operativo, ATCL-Multidisciplinary Network of Lazio (Roma)

Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected
Concept: Marta Olivieri
Emerging choreographies: Loredana Canditone/Vera Borghini
Original sounds: Marta Olivieri
Sound project and spatialization: Filippo Lilli
Styling: Adelina Giulia
Narration: Marta Olivieri, Camilla Guarino
Sound Dramaturgy: Giuseppe Comuniello
Sound Technician: Federico Scettri
Tutor: Flavia Dalila D’Amico
External eye: Chiara Bersani, Giuseppe Vincent Giampino
Production: Chiasma, Orbita | Spellbound National Centre for the Production of Dance with the contribution of MIC – Italian Ministry of Culture and the support of Ostudio, “Creazioni Accessibili” Residency and Cango-Centre of Significant Interest in Dance.
Trespass. Tales of the Unexpected is the winner of the call ‘Accessibility in Performing Arts’ promoted in 2023 by the Italian Ministry of Culture – General Direction of Live Arts through the network set up by Orbita | Spellbound National Centre for the Production of Dance, Chiasma-Production Association for Contemporary and Visual Arts, Danza Estemporada Company, Scenario Pubblico-Centre of Significant Interest in Dance, Spazio Kor, Orlando Festival/Danza Estate Festival, Foundation of Teatro Comunale Citta’ di Vicenza, ATTRAVERSAMENTI MULTIPLI-Margine Operativo, ATCL-Multidisciplinary Network of Lazio.

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