Aterballetto in Kratz's <i>Phoenix</i> © Nadir Bonazzi
Aterballetto in Kratz's Phoenix
© Nadir Bonazzi
 Aterballetto returned to the Piccolo Teatro for the sixth season of artistic collaboration with three pieces created especially for the contemporary company by the young choreographers Jiří Pokorny, Philippe Kratz and Giuseppe Spota. Aterballetto is the principal dance organisation and touring dance company in Italy apart from the Opera House dance companies. Founded in 1979, Aterballetto has, with its 17 highly skilled and versatile dancers, gained recognition on the international scene. After nearly 18 years of direction by Amedeo Amodio, the artistic direction was entrusted to Mauro Bigonzetti and then to Cristina Bozzolini. The triple bill Words and Space / Narcissus / Phoenix is an excellent summary of her vision in recent years, and demonstrates her willingness to explore the various identities of contemporary choreography, bringing together  international choreographers with Italian talents. 

The programme opened with Words and Space by the Czech choreographer Jiří Pokorny. A narrating voice accompanies the piece, interspersed by baroque music and increasing ticking sounds, suggesting to the audience: “Imagine…Imagine there is a place….”. This repeated exhortation to imagine not only encourages the viewers to use their imagination to freely interpret the piece, but also tries to communicate Pokorny's brave intent to evoke our inner world, our inner dialogue with ourselves. The ensemble forms waves of great impact, creating strong images of a breathing human being with a stunning quality of movement.

Aterballetto in Pokorny's <i>Words and Space</i> © Nadir Bonazzi
Aterballetto in Pokorny's Words and Space
© Nadir Bonazzi

Among all the dancers, the statuesque and multi-talented Philippe Kratz (one of the choreographers of the evening as well) gave the most impressive performance, moving his long and muscly arms like wings and ending his movement in Discobolus-like poses linked with a very organic flow of movement and isolations. One can see the strong influences that Pokorny had from Kylián, Lightfoot and León and Pite as a Nederland Dans Theater dancer. But we are all formed by our personal experiences and to have a NDT footprint is certainly not a negative quality for a choreographer, especially when coming from one of the most prominent contemporary institutions in the world! The beautiful minimal set and the costumes that left only the dancer's arms visible, contributed in focusing on the poetic -at times evocative- arm movements that this piece contains. The cherry on the cake was the fascinating choice of music that included Arias from Handel’s Rodelinda and Xerxes, mixed in a compelling way with electronic sounds.

The middle work, Narcissus, was a world premiere by the Italian choreographer Giuseppe Spota, created on the music of Joby Talbot (ChromaAlice’s Adventures in WonderlandThe Winter’s Tale) for the four wonderful Italian company members: Saul Daniele Ardillo, Ivana Mastroviti, Roberto Tedesco and Serena Vinzio. The choice of narcissism as a subject, the fixation of the youngest generations on their physical appearance and their public perception through social media and our relationship to our own reflection are surely very current. The short piece gives some insight into his choreographic universe, but leaves a lot unsaid, giving the impression that he would have so much more to express. The piece takes a while to take flight but then flourishes in a nice crescendo, culminating with two pas de deux where each couple seems to be the reflection of the other one, where the man’s reflection is represented by the woman of the other couple and vice versa. The ineffective and old-fashioned projections didn’t help to highlight some beautiful passages such as Mastroviti’s entrance and her duet with Ardillo that lit up the piece. Next season, Aterballetto will come back to the so-called Piccolo with Tempesta, a new full-length dance evening by Spota with music commissioned by Giuliano Sangiorgi, frontman of Negramaro, a very famous Italian band. I do hope that the audience will then have the opportunity to discover Spota’s deepest talent at its best. 

Aterballetto in Kratz's <i>Phoenix</i> © Nadir Bonazzi
Aterballetto in Kratz's Phoenix
© Nadir Bonazzi
Philippe Kratz’s Phoenix was a perfect ending to the performance. His style is fresh, very musical, smooth, fluid. Several fascinating sliding passages and floor sections seemed to transform the dancers into floating felines. The autumnal-coloured costumes, the set and the lighting were remarkably effective in their simplicity. The clever use of music and the interesting structure of the piece contributed to give the feeling of oppression, difficulty and, at the same time, strength to go on. A slow awakening is happening during the piece, as the Phoenix is cyclically reborn.

Aterballetto is now at a turning point as there will be a new artistic director, Pompea Santoro, and a new managing director, Gigi Cristoforetti starting from next season, but knowing their backgrounds we can only look forward to the bright future of this institution. The evening ended outside the theatre with 500 images projected onto the facade of the theatre as a celebration of its 70th anniversary. Even though the Piccolo is mainly a prose theatre, it is thanks to evenings like this that dance enthusiasts are able to attend live performances at a moderate price, unlike at La Scala and other Italian institutions. This perfectly respects the vision of the theatre’s founders: “to create a public service essential for the wellbeing of its citizens”. Outside the theatre one can read: “Teatro d’arte per tutti” (Arts theatre for everyone). In this respect Aterballetto and Piccolo are a perfect match.