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Nicolao Valiensi brings ordinary life to a breathless standstill

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Impermanence Dance Theatre in Barga

In August 2007, the brilliant Dusseldorf musician and composer Nicolao Valiensi brought ordinary life to a breathless standstill in Piazza Angelio with “l’Anima dei Luoghi.” His theme was cultural ferment and its limitless possibilities, in an age that is more often obsessed with cultural boundaries and conflict.

Last night the Garfagnana born Valiensi did it again, in a marriage of jazz and dance that held the spellbound attention of a huge crowd in the town’s main square. Six years ago, his composition was a portrait of contemporary life viewed through a long lens, a birds’ eye view of western society in the first decade of a new century. This time it was up close and personal.

Like all great art, the performance opened slowly, as six dancers from London’s extraordinary Impermanence Dance Theatre entered the piazza separately, each accompanied by a musician playing a different instrument. It is only later that we understand it as the initial moment on an erratic journey – half a dozen horns that seem at cross purposes, three women and three men who appear to have nothing in common, taking their first shaky steps toward the ever-elusive nirvana of human collaboration.

The setting is here and now. The six dancers are seated around an outdoor table at the piazza’s Osteria (proprietor Riccard Negri even brings them a large platter of spaghetti). Just above, the musicians take their places on an elevated stage, playing their dissonant notes. What ensues, in a sense, is a series of three love stories set in motion over dinner on a Tuscan summer night, as the six solitary dancers gradually (and sometimes painfully) form three distinct couples. But more than that, it is a musical and balletic essay on the complex interactions that define all mating rituals, literal and figurative.

At the heart of this complexity is the simple, remarkable fact that harmony grows out of dissonance. The dancers spin and glide through the piazza in radically varied movements, drawing on influences that range from George Ballanchine and Pina Bausch to Michael Jackson. Their emotional state, its alternating waves of tension and attraction, is evoked by Valiensi and his fellow musicians in a masterful interplay of brass and reed instruments, guitar and drums, and in the spectacularly eloquent costumes designed by Barga’s Kerry Bell. (article here)

Valiensi has never been fond of borders or static restrictions of any sort. He conducted much of the performance while weaving amid the dancers, adding his own idiosyncratic steps to theirs.

Article by Frank Viviano

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