A Solo in the Spotlights

Vittorio Pagani/LARVÆ

To whom does the body of a dancer belong? This question echoes at the heart of Vittorio Pagani’s Solo in the Spotlights. With a bold autobiographical touch, it asks all the uncomfortable questions about an emerging dancer’s place in the already overcrowded artistic world. And the answers might hit too close to home.

Stripping from the usual all-black dancer outfit down to a pair of bright pink boxers and a matching balaclava, Pagani navigates a streak of unsuccessful auditions. His body slowly turns into play dough in the hands of imaginary casting directors, choreographers and spectators. Self-advertising as the jack of all trades (from dancing and singing to spoken word and lip-syncing) turns out to completely drain him of his own artistic identity.

When dancers create a piece about their craft, the end result may vary from brave manifesto to pathetic confession, from self-pity to self-discovery. This show has all that, plus a touch of Pagani’s personal charm.

Daria Ancuța

There’s a nagging question I have with Vittorio Pagani’s A Solo in the Spotlights: is it too insiderish, a dance work about working as a dancer, shown here to an audience of people working in dance? Well, yes (at Spring Forward, it feels like an echo chamber), and also no: it’s open and entertaining enough, and well enough made, to work for a wider public.

That yes/no quality pervades the piece. Pagani plays a split personality, both the commanding choreographer heard on voiceover and the obedient dancer on stage, in pink balaclava and trunks, earnestly reperforming a technically impressive solo, with variations as requested. He continues with screenshots of audition rejection letters (the irony of these appearing at a highly selective platform is not lost), and ends with a kind of standup, interrogating both himself and his audience about the ambivalent powerplays between them. Rather than resolve these ambivalences between subject and object, voice and body, director and dancer, employer and employed, Pagani puts them into play – with panache.

Sanjoy Roy

Every dancer who has worked in the industry will be able to relate to the central themes of A Solo in the Spotlights. Vittorio Pagani parodies choreographers’ lack of empathy by repeating the same movement phrase over and over while a condescending voice tells him what it wants to see. His own physical commitment is commendable, as is his execution of an exaggerated version of a repertoire company’s style.

Equipped with a flashy outfit which masks his identity, he addresses his own resentment towards the dance world, going so far as to project a reel of the many rejection emails he’s received himself.

At its best, this performance is a humorous take on the uncomfortable realities of being a dancer; at its worst, it is slightly self-pitying and unclear in its final message, which includes a monologue on the often unequal balance of risk-taking between dancers and choreographers.

Francesc Nello Deakin