Alessandro Sciarroni, dance beyond fear

by Natalia Cazzola Dolce

 
Alessandro Sciarroni is a versatile and experimental artist. Interesting leading performer of the new contemporary scene, in all his works the choreographer from the Marches (an Italian region) explores the innermost fears of the human soul: the passing of time, the fragility of our earthly condition, the soul-searching. Author with a personal language, he amazes with his decontextualized staging and with the originality of his performances, at times hypnotic. We met him on the eve of his European tour.

 

Your debut as an author dates back to 2007 with the performance Your Girl. How has your work developed over the years?
Besides having an obsession for some aesthetic features, the only thing that connects my works, as a common denominator, is my need to exorcize a specific fear at that moment. My crations so far differ considerably. Once fear is over, the show is ready and I am about to face a new fear.

Your choreographic research focuses on the cross overs between the languages of performance art, theatre and visual arts. How do they coexist in your works?
Mixing languages is not exactly the aim of my choreographic research. In my last two works I chose two collective activities (dance and juggling) and used them as if they were ready-made, reiterating the patterns and expanding repetition over time, decontextualizing them. This can probably be reminiscent of the way of working of a conceptual artist. But I am also interested in talking about the people who perform these activities, looking into their psyche. I not only aim to show what they do but also find out what they feel. I want to disclose the real meaning of a practice. In Italy I am normally defined choreographer, but some critics refuse to call me this way because I haven’t had any appropriate training as a dancer, it’s almost as if being a “choreographer” had an added value compared to being a director or a visual artist. I am an artist by profession, and this title is enough for me.

Your work Will you still love me tomorrow? is focused on the concepts of struggle, steadiness and resistance. How did you come up with this idea? How do you overcome strain on stage?
In this case the idea arose at the end of the project Folk-s (first chapter of the trilogy, followed by Untitled). It wasn’t enough to direct and choreograph a fifty-minute show to express what was important for us, we needed to go deeper. We danced for two and a half hours in front of an audience of friends during a rehearsal. We immediately understood that that was the point. The drama was closed, finally.
My research is usually triggered by an unexpected insight: I happen to find myself in a place, attending an event that sometimes makes me feel as if time is slowing down and I am exactly there, in that moment. This happened for Folk-s and Untitled, as I saw a picture of a dancer with the traditional Tyrolean-Bavarian dress or two jugglers throwing the clave into the air during a magic and juggling show. Those very moments I had an intuition and realized that such activities should have been examined.
Now, about strain: you can overcome it thanks to confidence and, of course, physical training. You can overcome it by learning to use your fellow performers’ energy and the audience’s.

In your creation Folk-s, audience and performers run a psychophysical endurance race based on the concept of mutual exhaustion. Will you create another never ending performance?
Many in the audience report this experience as an endurance race, a challenge.
Actually both dancers and audience can freely leave the stage at any time. But the people in the audience want to experience this event in another way, they want to feel responsible, and this is interesting.
In Folk-s there is a very clear conceptual issue we want to talk about. The Schuhplattler is a living traditional folk dance, we do not know when and how it will die. The only thing we know from a philosophical point of view is that there will be no dance when there won’t be its audience anymore, or when tradition will no longer be practiced. And we are talking about this job. Hence I do not see any reason so far to stage another performance with the same mechanism.

Generally speaking, which role does the audience play in your works? How important is it to establish an active relationship?
I am the first spectator of my works during rehearsals. I represent the audience. So I like to think that it is the audience that is composing the event.

Is there any space for improvisation in your works, or do you prefer studying and controlling the performance?
Normally there is no rule. It depends on the subject and on the performers. I usually try to keep the show “fresh”, without restricting it too much. But sometimes this means studying every tiny detail. I am not interested in improvisation as a concept, I rather prefer to talk about real-time composition or energy released from the body.

What are your sources of inspiration?
There is an artist in particular I keep on looking up to as a role model every time I start a new work and then I get back on my way. She profoundly changed my way of thinking when I was a twenty-year- old art history and photography student: she’s the American photographer Diane Arbus. Revisiting her pictures and diaries is like going back to someone you have known well for many years but you are not spending time with any more. Diane Arbus was an extraordinary artist, not just a reporter, and her work has become engraved on my memory. Sometimes I almost fear that, even if I am using my language, I am, in a sense, retracing her footsteps.

Future projects?
I am going to start producing the last chapter of the trilogy on the practice of sport, whose debut is expected in 2015. In addition to this I am involved in two projects that explore gender identity (Performing Gender) and migration in the broad sense (Migrant Body). Thanks to these projects I will have the opportunity to share some research experiences with other artists in The Netherlands, France, Italy and Canada. Next June I am working again with Venice Biennale, and this will mark the beginning of a new important research phase.

 

IMAGES AND PHOTO CREDITS

1/2. FOLK-S, Matteo Maffesanti
3/4/5/6. FOLK-S, Andrea Macchia
7/8. Untitled, Alessandro Sciarroni
9. Untitled, Alfredo Ancheschi
10. Untitled, Andrea Pizza

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