Monday, June 27, 2011

Tunic Travelogue: Part III

Bags packed, last Tuesday we headed back to Genoa—this time to the airport for our flight down the coast to Rome. Driving into Genoa is stunning, and this time the visibility was greater than when we drove into the city for our Saturna appearance. I can now say that I have seen both the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, if from a distance.

From Rome we grabbed our bags and found the train to Terni—a bit confusing since the main train terminal in Rome is called Termini and we wanted the train to a town about an hour outside of the city. We bought tickets and raced to the platform for a train about to depart. When we arrived in Terni, Liz Maxwell from the Art Monastery came to pick us up in a crazy yellow minivan. We were off to the town of Labro to stay in the restored monastery and prepare Friday night’s performance event.

What a fantastic collaborative week! This leg of our journey was facilitated by one of my colleagues—the fabulous, Europe-based Duncan dancer Julia Pond. When Fiorenza contacted me about coming to Italy to share the work we created in Moscow last fall and to expand our repertory, I contacted Julia about arranging a showing at the Art Monastery, an American-initiated art program focused on reclaiming historic Italian monasteries for cultural events. The world just keeps getting smaller—who knew that one of the project’s co-founders, Betsy McCall, was a classmate of mine at Yale? In fact, I had a great time connecting with all of the talented and creative Art Monks, and discovering that we share mutual friends in the States on both coasts.

My first glimpse of Labro was breathtaking. Driving through Italian countryside feels like riding through a painting, and the town of Labro is scaffolded onto the crest of a large hill. The monastery, which has been restored as a hotel as well as a performance space, occupies an opposing hillside, and the view from one to the other is extraordinary.  The Art Monastery staff holds office space overlooking the cloister, and they live in an apartment just up the hill. We ate communal meals for lunch and dinner, cooked by musician extraordinaire Charles Darius, under a tent outside at a large table lit by paper lanterns. In the mornings, Fiorenza, Sylvia, and Cheryl walked across to Labro for café and brioche.

Technology continues to amaze me, and I spent my mornings making Italian coffee in the office where there was wireless internet access. We started rehearsals each day at ten o’clock, and worked from 10am until 1pm in the afternoon when we broke for lunch.  Rehearsals resumed at 3pm, and we made the most of the intimate theatre space.

The stage was small and a covered trap door occupied the center of the dancing area. I made some creative choices about choreographic pathways, and envisioned how I might bring the dancing down the center aisle and into the audience’s space. The electronic keyboard was an adjustment for Fiorenza and Sylvia, and they experimented with the levels to find the right sound. For this event, the musicians were audience level, right in front of the stage, and they framed the dancing area. We spent a while debating whether to bring a screen in and out for the projector, or to cast the images directly onto the brick wall upstage. We eventually opted for the brick wall, which created a rich texture and sense of depth in the space.

Thursday was quite full, as we broke from rehearsals at 5pm and I rode into Rome with Charles and Molly, an interesting writer and San Francisco-based fire dancer and burlesque artist. In fact, we talked quite a bit about fire performance, and one of the most surprising moments of the week was a lunchtime conversation when Cheryl shared her experiences twirling fire baton in rural Iowa in the 1960’s!

The purpose of the Thursday night trip to Rome was multifold—we saw a great musical performance by some Italian friends of the Art Monks, including accordion, sax, stand up bass and drum kit. Evidently Italians love classic American jazz, and Charles was recruited to belt the lyrics to the band’s rendition of “Summertime.” Our pianist Sylvia added “Summertime” to our rep as an encore/finale of sorts, and Charles and Liz joined us Friday night for that number.

We also hooked up with Betsy and Julia in Rome, where they had spent several days reviewing restaurants and hotels for popular travel site Gogobot. Reconnecting with Julia was one of the most rewarding aspects of this part of the trip, and I was thrilled when things worked out for her to join us for that show! I first met Julia in New York when she was dancing in Lori Belilove’s company and I was apprenticing. I’ve always loved Julia’s movement, and years ago we talked about collaborating on something together, but then she moved to Rome for graduate school and I eventually moved on to Austin. We had a great time on Friday with an intensive rehearsal session creating new choreography and improvisational structures for the Schubert Waltzes Sentimentales and for pieces by Debussy, Faure, and Gade. I’d love to continue to develop some of the work we started on this trip, and I’m looking forward to dancing for Julia later this summer in the northeast (stay tuned for details about our July 30th showing in Old Saybrook, CT).

Saturday was a travel day, flying back to Genoa and driving to Casselegio. Cheryl and I ran errands, including a trip to a tack shop for the horse Tigre and grocery shopping at the Bennett. Sunday morning, we drove over to Gavi, a beautiful town underneath an impressive and ancient citadel, and Cheryl’s sister-in-law Mina and her son Jacopo gave me a tour. We joined them for lunch back at the country house—amazing pasta, salad, focaccia, wine, café, and amaretto cookies. Sunday night we had our final concert in Mornese, for an audience of enthusiastic local supporters.

All in all, an amazingly eventful and generative two weeks. I very much look forward to the next iteration of this project and have already found myself promising to return next year—other possible performance venues include Austin, Houston, Sweden, Moscow, and who knows where!

 Pix coming soon!