Simona Bertozzi. Athletes

It is now a well-established awareness that contemporary dance can feed on life and even on its most ordinary gestures, but what happens when this discipline meets other equally lexically formalized bodily expressions such as sport? Is it possible to hybridize two such different linguistic fields and the aesthetics underlying them without one becoming instrumental to the other? And how can individual and collective bodies react to the tension between apparently such contrasting stresses? These questions are the starting point of the “Athletes” project by the dancer and choreographer Simona Bertozzi, invited to experiment with these possibilities of contamination through an artistic residency at the Atelier Sì in Bologna, where last December 5th the first pilot episode of a traveling proposal took place, which will be developed in other places in the coming months and with the involvement of performers from different sporting, artistic and existential backgrounds.

Simona Bertozzi, Athletes, Bologna, ph Luca Del Pia, courtesy Nexus Factory

The first vision of the project was inspired by the UNESCO World Heritage mosaic known as “the Palestriti or Maidens in Bikinis”, dating back to the 4th century and located in Sicily in the Roman Villa del Casale, a late ancient residential building, whose remains are located about four kilometers from Piazza Armerina (EN), in Sicily. The work represents ten women each intent on a different sporting activity and is a very rare historical testimony of female competitiveness that celebrates athleticism through the bodies exposed and modeled by the sporting gesture of the protagonists depicted. This first imprinting was clarified and strengthened in the meeting with the curatorial suggestions from the artistic direction of Atelier Sì, which in each residence usually places alongside the guests involved other creative professionals from different fields with whom they can interact in mutual reflection during the gestation of the performance projects .

Simona Bertozzi, Athletes, Bologna, ph Luca Del Pia, courtesy Nexus Factory

For the occasion, the two guides identified by Simona Bertozzi on the basis of this invitation were the athletes Ester Balassini and Erika Morri, former Italian champions, respectively, in hammer throw and rugby, top female exponents of disciplines commonly considered masculine. Added to this complementarity between individual and team sport was the collaboration with Meike Clarelli, author together with Davide Fasulo of an original vocal score based on the sampling and reworking of sound tracks from the sport world, and with a group of nine women (including three dancers and six non-professionals) who put their bodies on the line in an intensive workshop that lasted two weeks to appear on stage together with the athletes.

Simona Bertozzi, Athletes, Bologna, ph Luca Del Pia, courtesy Nexus Factory

The heart of this choreographic experience is a conceptual reflection on the possibilities of enriching the technical lexicon of dance through the inoculation of other bodily codes, to which the contextual contribution of the vocal component gives an unsuspected emotional scansion which, by focusing on the formalization of almost incidental manifestations of the sporting discipline, releases their engaging liberating charge. The question at the center of Simona Bertozzi’s interest, that is, how to translate sporting gestures into dance, has generated a laboratory aimed at investigating body movement through a systematic emancipation from specific gestural habits with the delicate intent of bringing out a hypothesis of free individual expression in the relationship. The processes underlying this operation are complementary and antithetical: on the one hand it was a matter of “dismantling” the automatisms of bodies – those of athletes – accustomed to always being instantly present to themselves, on the other of hybridizing with the finalized precision of sporting aptitudes (detached from the specific objective from which they originate) the bodies – those of the dancers – exercised in the continuity of a movement that finds its meaning in itself. As a first test bench of the results of this continuous and mutual exchange and of the possibility of creating a common starting point for the choral choreographic action, the inexperienced bodies of the women involved, neither athletes nor dancers, prepared by the laboratory to incorporate the synthesis of these two perspectives, amalgamating it with one’s own experience.

Simona Bertozzi, Athletes, Bologna, ph Luca Del Pia, courtesy Nexus Factory

The idea is to reveal the poetic aspect and the inherent creativity of the athletic gesture, enhancing its constitutive accuracy in an opening to the choreographic multiplicity that passes through the transmission of a relational code. The mystery of the gesture remains intact, albeit split into its minimal constituent elements, but in this process the body finds itself in a conscious dimension of exercise and obstinacy, at the crossroads between choreography, sport and ritual vocality. An amniotic sound environment made of human, electronic and even classical music emissions amplifies the movements and relationships of the performers with space, in a dynamic constellation of trajectories of bodies which, even when they collide and face each other, are playing a team game. In this transformative and performative process the bodies sweat, breathe, tense in effort, become marble-like and contracted to be fluid and ethereal a moment later, come together in symbiotic agglomerations and then disperse without ever failing to listen to each other. And, almost without realizing it, the public gradually stops being such to become a sentient community and sounding board for this game, which is as disarming as any principle of reality.



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