Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Dignity--and Thrill--of Gesture: The Biennale Danza This Weekend

Annamaria Ajmone turns the San Trovaso squero into her own stage
There are many reasons not to come to Venice right now--the immense herds of day-tripping tour groups seem more numerous and denser than ever--but one excellent reason to brave whatever frustrations you might encounter is the Biennale Danza, continuing through tomorrow, July 28.

Entitled La dignità del gesto (The Dignity of the Gesture), this edition of the Biennale Danza continues the tradition of transforming public spaces with extraordinary dance performances. Or, I should say, mostly public spaces, as one of the most electrifying of the three performances I saw yesterday took place in the suitably theatrical space of the famous squero (or boat yard) of San Trovaso: a solo dance piece entitled Buan by Annamaria Ajmone. We spectators crowded the fondamenta across the little canal that runs in front of the yard, while a few of the craftsmen who work in the yard watched from the rear of what Ajmone turned into a stage.

Other locations were the nearby Campo of San Trovaso--where six dancers performed a piece by choreographer Radhouane El Meddeb of tango-like passion and intensity (Nous serons tous des étrangers)--and Campo San't Agnese, where a troupe of ten dancers worked through the more restrained but no less compelling variations of Claudia Castelluci's Esercitazioni ritmiche (Rhythmic Exercises).

The complete program of events can be found here:

If you happen to be in Venice this weekend, I'd recommend adding some of the above events to your must-do list. 

Such public performances as those captured in this post's images, and free to all, are just a part of the whole program of events going on during the Biennale Danza, and evidence of the quality of work throughout. Though the various editions of Biennale Danza run for just a small fraction of the time that the Venice Biennales of Art or of Architecture occupy the city (typically just four days as compared to six or seven months), they're no less worthy of planning a visit to the city around. And they may even change the way one looks at those other much larger troupes of (tourist) bodies engaged in their own implicit and mysterious choreography within the city's venerable spaces.

There was no shortage of drama in Radhouane El Meddeb's Nous serons tous des  étrangers
The restricted movements and patterns of Claudia Castellucci's Esercitazioni ritmiche created another kind of drama

At a certain point of the performance a water taxi driver (bottom left) pulled his boat with his fares into the canal between the dancer and the audience (a perfect view!)--but, after an immediate outcry from the audience on the fondamenta, wisely retreated
While oblivious to such action as above, a man in a linen suit, entirely absorbed in texting, began to cross the stage of Campo San Trovaso during the middle of the performance. Quickly redirected by security, the man continued to furiously text, never once looking up as he went on his way--to the amusement of the dance's audience.


  1. Oh boy, your city really can put on a good show, Siggie. I'd have loved to have seen all of these performances (including the impromptus from the audience).

    When I see things like this, it makes me believe that maybe Venice will survive whatever is flung at it.

    1. I know what you mean, Yvonne, such performances can make me feel the same way, but then I remind myself that things like this can continue even without any (or very few) Venetian residents left in the city. And my concern is that those with power would be content to reduce Venice to the most illustrious of convention centers and event sites--which is a far different thing than it being an actual city.