Monday, June 20, 2011

Tunic Travelogue: Part II

Museum Etnographica, Alessandria
The journey continues! I arrived Tuesday in Milan, grabbed my bag (practically the first one off the plane—that never happens to me) and I found the bus to Linate Airport, where I was to meet Cheryl. The international cell phone I bought a few years ago found a signal (whew), and I sent messages via text to let everyone know I had arrived. After I found Cheryl, we took the train to her apartment in Voghera where we picked up her car to drive to Cassaleggio for the week. I had my first real Italian cappuccino in a cafĂ© before we left, and the barista was singing along to the Guns-n-Roses track playing on the sound system. We stopped off at a grocery store to stock up, loading fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses, and bread into the cart. We then wound our way through narrow streets into the hills of the Piedmont, past stone and stucco facades, churches and castles, through Lerma to Cassalegio where Cheryl’s husband’s family has had a house for nearly three centuries.

Cheryl and Tigre
Their home is a large stone and stucco structure with thick walls and green shuttered windows. I picked my bedroom on the second floor—one of the rooms that has not yet been redone and still has a mural of birds and flowers painted on the ceiling and vines on the walls. We explored the property and Cheryl pointed out the vineyards (they make their own house wine), the peach and cherry trees, the various cats, dogs, chickens, and Tigre, her horse. Tigre is too old to ride, but we took him for a walk with the lead rope and let him graze along the way. A very full and satisfying first day in Italy.

Dancing on the street in Genoa in front of Saturna Gallery
Wednesday morning I slept, and then we went to Fiorenza’s house for lunch before driving to Alessandria for rehearsal. Fiorenza lives very close to Cheryl and her husband Claudio, a warm and jovial forester, joined us for lunch. Then it was off to Alessandria for our first rehearsals at the museum.  The museum space is not traditional for dance, but Fiorenza has organized other concerts series there and it can seat up to a hundred people for a chamber concert event. We worked out logistics to make sure there would be enough room for dance and I was glanced at sideways as I warmed up on the floor—guess it is still quite radical in some places to lay on the floor in public!

Babin waltzes in Alessandria
The first rehearsals went well, and we made it through the Babin pieces. The “Hillendale Waltzes” are challenging for me and for the musicians, but the basic structure was still there and we had plenty of time for refinement before the first concert. Wednesday evening we joined Cheryl’s in-laws for pizza, beer, and tiramisu in Lerma—my first real Italian pizza with spinach and parmesan.

Fiorenza's art opening
On Thursday, Sylvia Gianuzzi joined us for rehearsals, and we finalized the program order. We dined again with Fiorenza and Claudio and learned that Fiorenza’s interview on Vatican Radio promoting our concerts was to air on “105 Live” the following afternoon. Friday we spent most of the day in rehearsal, and did two solid run throughs of the show—I also finally met Dino, who collaborated with Fiorenza on the projection and created some really interesting digital prints of photographs from our Moscow show.

Aqua Termi fountain
Our first official event was Saturday night in Genoa, and we drove through tunnels to that very old city on the Mediterranean Sea. The ships in the port were huge, and I was reminded that some claim Genoa as Christopher Columbus’ city of birth. We parked near a museum and walked up into the old town to a gallery called Saturna where we would perform as the prelude to a visual arts award ceremony. I started downstairs, at the entrance to the building, dancing on the street and then invited the crowd inside and up the stairs to a gallery space. We drew quite a crowd outdoors—I love site-specific work and bringing dance movement into urban and pedestrian settings. Art into life, right?

with Roberto Tagliamacco
After our showing we packed up and rushed off to Aqui Terme, where Fiorenza was opening an exhibit of her paintings, many of which are featured in the video projection for our concert. Sylvia Colizzi from Ravena, whom we met at the Moscow conference, joined us and we toasted Fiorenza with wine and snacks. I snuck down the street to see the center of that town, where there is a very hot and sulfurous fountain at the bottom of a gazebo. I dipped my fingers in the warm spring and felt very blessed to be having such an interesting journey.

Dancing Roberto's piece in Alessandria
Sunday was our first full-length concert in Alessandria, and it was so much fun! I’m dancing a large portion of the program. Some pieces are fully choreographed, and some are not, but much of the music has clear themes and it is easy to hear the thematic repeats and development and to listen and respond within improvisational structures. We had a full house and a very appreciative one, and I met composer Roberto Tagliamacco for the first time. I have lived with a piece of his music for the past year and it was so gratifying to meet him in person. I will be working with more of his music in the future, perhaps even a new composition.

Tunics on the line near the vineyard
Monday, gratefully, was a day of rest, and Cheryl and I hung laundry on the line in preparation for the next week. We also had time for hiking and swimming in a nearby national park—Tuesday we fly to Rome and our journey continues!