Matera 2019

Contemporary dance and the performing arts have been the protagonists of this first part of Petrolio, a project co-produced by Basilicata 1799. From 11 to 23 June site-specific entertainment and performances were the focus of a dialogue on the great, as yet unanswered, questions concerning the Anthropocene – the geological era in which human behaviour has directly affected environmental equilibrium and generated a new dimension of cohabitation.

Original productions, rehearsals and meetings with the artists explored the theme of the relationship between Man and Nature in a new aesthetic. The vision, ideas and actions are changing; people are no longer the centre of the universe and Nature is beginning to have real importance.

The performances were held in a natural setting without stage lighting in the field, wood and countryside of the Parco del Castello Tramontano in Matera, chosen for its position rather than its architecture. Almost all the shows lacked specific boundaries: the difference is in the way the public and the performers interact with the space. 

We start with Giacimenta (Deposits), curated by Francesca Corona and Michele Di Stefano. Their project consists of four episodes of artistic production, designed as an exercise in vision and an exploration model, in which they seek total complicity between the artist and the landscape, between places and people. The choreographers chosen for this episode, which plays with geological, social and human ‘layers’, are internationally renowned.

First was Alessandro Sciarroni, with a Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement award, considered one of the most revolutionary choreographers on the European scene. Starting from his observation of animal migration phenomena, his work focuses on ‘turning’, not only meaning ‘to turn’, but also to change or evolve. Bodies revolve round their axis in an emotional psychophysical journey. 

Sciarroni places one element at the centre of the creative process and repeats it relentlessly, using ballet to suggest something different. Unusually, youngsters also twirl incessantly en pointe. In the Matera version of Turning he chose five dancers through a call launched last November.

Another internationally famous artist, performer and choreographer in the Giacimenta section was Maria Hassabi from Cyprus. Her performances are examples of great symbolic value that link tensions and instincts between the environment and the individual in an expanded ritual temporal dimension. Minimalist movements and a gentle slowness, which suggest the need to slow down and a different way of experiencing the flow of things.

Hassabi’s Figures (2019) is a very delicate, complex and sophisticated work and for the first time she chose to use her way of working with a group of very young girls selected through a call launched in May. 10 dancers were chosen from the Lucania area to take part in this extraordinary experience, working with a professional who has performed in theatres, museums and public spaces worldwide, including MoMa in New York, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. 

Closing the first weekend of performances was choreography by Silvia Rampelli, who in a preparatory workshop presented movement, action and dance activities for senior citizens. Once a week the residents of the Brancaccio rest home in Matera took part in a gentle and novel activity, eager to try a small breathing exercise, about being together, perception and vision. With Child’s portrait we wonder: where are we? When are we? What’s around us? 

The final performance event in this section was Le Merende by the artist collective Industria Indipendente, mainly devoted to performance, theatre and visual arts. Le Merende occupied this space following the principle of sharing, free giving and offering as a way of informing artistic practice. A place transformed into a natural habitat, where you can take a break between one performance and the next, with everyone present and a lively DJ set.

On the second weekend, opening the Sedimenti section were contemporary dance performances and live music with a DJ by WHO CARES? | Ecologia del dialogo. In a co-creation project four young choreographers – Bassam Abou Diab, Yeinner Chicas, Olimpia Fortuni and Leonardo Maietto – from opposite ends of the Mediterranean and two musicians – Ayman Sharaf and Stefano Zazzera – joined together to present a performance around the themes of the Anthropocene.  

The scene was an imaginary piece of land in the Mediterranean, a geographical location that defies association with any particular people or places and represents the styles of architecture and traditions of the Lebanon, Italy and Spain, the countries where the artists come from.

As well as performances, meetings with the artists and rehearsals to kickstart the creative process, dialogues also started in the section Geo-logical Thought with Marcello Di Paola, an expert in environmental philosophy. Events planned for September include the team of architects, landscape architects and gardeners Volumezero, Bartolomeo Dichio, Alba Mininni, philosopher Emanuele Coccia and lecturer Gianfranco Pellegrino. 

Credits photo: Salvatore Laurenzana