Puglia, way of moving: tiptoe
1. walk on the tips of one's toes.
2. It’s a kind of walk with very little surface on the floor. It requires grace and refinement to do it.
Think about Italy for a moment...
If I leave food a side, what comes to my mind is art, beauty and history.
Italy holds a very impressive western history. Widely spread all over the landscape in shapes of coliseums, domes, churches, sculptures, arches, fountains, paintings, ruins, etc… The legacy from the Roman Empire and also the Renaissance movement, which is considered the transition from Middle Ages to Modernity in Europe.
Bitonto, where I visited, is not an exception.
Placed in the region popularly known as the backdrop of the boot (if you watch the map, you’ll understand), It's a small, charismatic and surprising city in the east coast of the south.
This portion of the country is graceful and pictorial. Cities have old buildings, labyrinth centres, a bunch of churches, olive trees and the sea.
The good weather, the sun and the warmth push daily life in the streets, where physical encounter and human relations happen. The stamp of a typical Mediterranean city.
Italians of the region are definitely social.
Extremely expressive with their body language, their conversations flow nonstop with gestures and faces.
It’s kind of a code beyond the words that redefine the context and the meaning of it. And, of course, brings the emotional content to the interaction.
If we consider gestures as movement, without doubt, south Italians are quite frantic. Which is a surprising contrast with the quiet and sleepy and life of a place almost frozen in time.
As visitor, there’s not much to do but to let you be and witness the postcard.
La dolce vita?
About movement though, in Bitonto I got to see mainly the dance, and more specific Contemporary Dance.
Dancers were extremely expressive. Not a surprise.
They use all what they got: pointing feed, sliding, throwing themselves to the motion, swinging the head madly and often...
Moving up, down and around.
They are intense and passionate movers.
They give it all.
They sweat it all.
And they smile.
They dance like there is no tomorrow.
And, in a way, it feels like tomorrow has no physical space in Italy… just because it is, indeed, completely stuffed with remains of the past.
Contemporary dance (in Italy) is very rooted in the Ballet background of their dancers, which is not strange since Ballet was born in Florence with the Renaissance movement.
It means, that the dancers possess a very “strong technical level" in the most “conventional” sense of the contemporary dance world, which at the same time, places ballet as the core of the education.
As any other field that deals with movement, or as any other field, it’s a bunch of agreements, which might be necessary or might not. In my opinion, they are certainly not the truth on beauty, technique, health or efficiency, but they create a base for communication. And maybe questioning them it already adds some coherence.
So here is the thing: Ballet, certainly fits more the aesthetics of the Italian architecture: a classic, balanced, harmonic canon.
Can you imagine your gaze exposed to that on a daily basics?
How it can shape the way you look at art and the art of movement?
The seek for beauty sometimes is on the way of new or experimental purposes…
And Italy have some reminisces of past that are quite stuck in their way of being. No just in the sense of beauty.
Carry on old ways of doing, block new ways to come. And they do it without much noise, underneath, unseeing and unspoken, which is a dangerous manner that can lead to dangerous creations. Mafia, for example.
It is there and everybody knows… That’s why also I got to know.
But, more than the violence that the Mafia is creating in Italy nowadays (which I don’t know precisely), I think it is worth to point out how it gets on the way of any change in the social, economical or political structures. It sinks into the way of relating to one another, basing the human interactions on having good connections, personal influence, interest, power and money.
And if you don’t have any of that, well, I guess you are just left with passion, patience and perseverance.
Or you can just leave.
Italian contemporary dancers are travellers. But this is not any different from many other countries.
My interest in Italy and the dance thought, get more intricate with the presence of the Church. Italy is the centre of Christianity in the modern world. The story of dance and the story of expressing with the body had a point of inflexion with the appearance of religions. Sorry, maybe it’s more accurate to say with the way of interpreting them.
Christians, specifically, liked to demonize. They had the body on their target, as something that must be limited of its actions and boundaries of pleasure (maybe there is also a bit of it in old religions to be fair): the sin of the flesh.
Christians consider that our bodies belong to God, and they are the temples of the Holy Spirit. So everything we do must be honouring Him.
Dancing was done in worship or praise to God.
How can I know what is honoring or not? Who is in charge of setting up the limits of it?
And, even, before that
How somebody that can't be seeing can possess something so tangible as a body?
If my body belongs to God, it means that it doesn’t belong to me. It could belong to both… but I think “they” didn’t give this possibility.
Once the relationship with my body gets stolen from me, it takes away the possibility of connecting to it and, at the same time, the possibility to connect with the sense of ‘self’. Because despite the trick of the language that calls the body as mine, there is no hierarchy between different entities. All is part of my existence. All is me.
Shutting down one part of it doesn’t look to me a very good idea.
In fact, on one hand, the body is a big part of our relationship with certain “realness” and “concreteness” of the world. The body is the bridge between the sense of self and what surround us. Our existence is relational. Without that, we can easily be driven away from the present, create a false sense of absolute or even a lonely isolation. The mind can be full sometimes…
Unless you are a monk. Not my case, yet.
Controlling bodies is a very strong tool of domination and power because it becomes a way of controlling human existence.
Still today, the freedom of our bodies is challenged constantly in many parts of the world.
From more democratic countries to more religious ones, they all struggle with limiting its action. Scales are different, minorities are different, directness or indirectness is different. But, systematic limitation is still going on.
It fascinates me how all is connected. There is the tendency of seeing things separated or divided. But our understanding of the body, our understanding of the movement, our understanding of dance, our understanding of gender, our understanding of races, our understanding of us, our understanding... it is almost all related to history, perception and mind-sets that we heritage as societies or communities.
The question is, when is the moment to break through them?