Enzo Cosimi: the anarchy of discipline

by Natalia Cazzola Dolce


Italian choreographer Enzo Cosimi is a visceral and vibrant artist.  His creations stick in the minds of his audience because they trigger gut emotions.  He has over 30 years of experience, in which time he founded his company in the early 1980s and since then he has been paving the way for the Italian authorial dance scene. One of the most interesting contemporary dance choreographers, in this interview he talks about the importance of the nerve and sound in his works and about his being anarchically disciplined.

Your early work Calore (Heat) dates back to the beginning of the eighties. How has your approach to choreography developed since then?
My works are the result of very different creative phases and it can be difficult to trace their evolution linearly. I have been creating choreographies over the last thirty years: at the beginning with a more abstract attitude which became multi-dimensional, then I entered a new phase where I used on-stage videos I had created.  And in my last work Welcome to My World I left out everything except the body, light and sound. I have just presented Calore and Welcome to My World, namely my first and last work, at the Triennale Teatro dell’Arte in Milan. The two shows are so different, and yet there are some subtle similarities. Welcome to My World, however, represents a fundamental change of course in comparison with the earlier works: the body I have shaped here is rather different from my previous creations, it’s a desiccated body, much more contemplative and intimate, but at the same time also explosive. I think that the secret of success is in having both of these two features as they can trigger gut emotions.

In your choreographic research you mix various languages, such as performance, architecture and visual arts. How do they coexist in your works? Do you think that a performer is supposed to possess this kind of completeness in our multitasking society?
All these elements are in my research, even though I have to say that they were very visible and tangible at the beginning of my career and more systematic and integrated in my last works. For example in Welcome to My World there is basically everything: visual, photographic and scenic elements. I believe that the artist’s work today must go hand in hand with other disciplines.  Having a deep approach to music, visual arts, fashion and sound art is congenial to my own mind, since all these languages are part of my being a creator. In this respect, Welcome has the body, the sound, the light in it, so it is a complete work.

The sound accompanies and sometimes dominates the performance on stage to such an extent that your works can be considered sound choreography. Which role does the sound plot play?
I love sound art and sound is a fundamental element to me. In the past I worked on some contemporary compositions such as those of Giacinto Scelsi, but I recently prefer authors who work with digital music. I am usually interested in a particular type of sound that has its own drama and that makes me broaden my dimension and mental state while working. In Welcome to My World I got closer to the musical scores of Chris Watson who reproduced sounds of nature from the most remote areas of the world. Silence plays a pivotal role in his music as it happens in Welcome to My World, where it is a silence of sound. I worked really hard with the performers on how to use their body movements to compose a sort of score during the moments of lack of sound.

Your choreographies lay emphasis on the body, the muscle and the nerve. What is the value of nudity in your works?
Here, too, there is not just one answer. As a matter of fact I have been through several phases. Calore and my early productions showed lots of muscles, but when I started working with digital sounds I shifted my attention to the nervous system, creating from micro scores that were communicating a nerve-related body dramaturgy. As a result to this path I got to Welcome to My World where the body is emphasised at the highest level thanks to some strong tribal contents. In this work it seems that nothing happens instead many things do happen when the nervous system becomes central to the detriment of the muscle. As for nudity, I think it’s absolutely natural. I have no desire to provoke even if it can be useful in some contexts, because art does trigger reactions, too. Specifically in this work I didn’t want to differentiate between men and women, they are all human beings immersed in a primitive dimension. I thought it was ridiculous to add a top to cover the girls’ breast and the audience understands that it is a necessary choice and not an aesthetic one.

You have often worked with artists in order to complement your productions. Which is the added value of an artistic partnership to your choreography?
Over the years I have worked with artists such as Luigi Veronesi, Fabrizio Plessi and Aldo Tilocca, but every time it was something I deeply wanted and pursued, because I felt that a contribution by another artist was necessary for the choreography I was working on. It has never been a coerced cooperation. For example, in 1988 I decided to work with Plessi, who at that time had never worked in theatrical productions, as I felt that my work needed his contribution to be complete. On the contrary, for some other works, I don’t need anyone but myself and some small signs, such as the tattoos I designed for the dancers in Welcome, which lend their bodies a tribal tone. Apart from the purely economic aspects — it’s no secret that working with other artists also means having a fairly large budget – today and after some years I would like to work with a visual artist if I had the right project, but I am not dependent on this.

What kind of relationship have you built with your audience over the years?
When I create, I do it for my own happiness. If I don’t feel happy when composing a work, I don’t enjoy myself. If people like what I do, well, I am even more satisfied. I was really pleased to put on Calore once again after thirty years, but I am even more pleased to see that everywhere we go it receives positive feedback and it is appreciated also by those who generally don’t go to theatre and don’t follow dance performances. I have never created just to please the audience or the critic. Welcome to My World doesn’t belong to any school of thought, it’s quite of an orphan, without mother or father.

What are your sources of inspiration?
I can draw inspiration from anything I see. In the past I had the opportunity to work with Busi for the drama Pentesilea of Heinrich von Kleis and I drew inspiration from the opera Eliogabalo. I am omnivorous, I absorb many things and I am often influenced by small things, by a tiny detail, by a score, a book, a text. If I had to call myself, I would say that I am an anarchist who loves discipline: I have no rules, but when I find the right idea and mentally define its evolution I become extremely organized and structured in bringing it to life. This is how I understand myself in life, but also in my work. I believe the strength of being an artist is also this.

Future projects?
We will soon be on tour in some Italian cities, while on the 20th and 21st of June, I am going to take part in the Biennale Danza in Venice with a new production.


Photo credits

1/2/3/5 – Marco Caselli Nirmal
4/6/7/8/9 – Alberto Calcinai

One Response

  1. David says:

    I read with interest your article, beautiful photographs
    It seems to me a dance/theatre show not to be missed

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