Dear Kickstarter Supporters,
ChavasseDance&Performance returned from a very successful residency and tour to Italy on July 19. Since then, I’ve been working diligently on getting your rewards/ gifts created and will send them out in a couple of weeks. The t-shirts are in production now, one video of studio rehearsals in Giovinazzo has been posted on Facebook and Vimeo (search Amy Chavasse or ChavasseDance&Performance) and we’ve all been posting photos of our incredible trip on FB.
Here’s a brief overview of our trip:
The company flew from NYC and Michigan to Fiucimino airport in Roma, took the Leonardo Express to Roma Termini and boarded a fast train, the Frecciargento to Firenze. (there were a few hours of suspense as we tried to track Steve Rush down… somehow he missed the crew in Roma and took a much later train…) This detour to Firenze represented a big, but exciting, change of plans. We were invited to perform at an international dance festival, produced by Alambrado Danza, Concorso Coreografico “On Stage International” at the very impressive Teatro Saschall on the banks of the Arno. Participants included student and professional companies from Israel, Spain and all over Italy. This meant, however, that the performers would have to tap into some deep reservoirs of stamina and determination. I met them at Firenze Santa Maria Novella, we took a bus to the studios of Alambrado Danza (where I had been teaching and choreographing for the previous 3 weeks), and rehearsed for one hour and ½. We hadn’t been together for performances or rehearsals since March, in New York!! After our brief rehearsal, we took taxis to the theater where we had a very rushed and hectic on-stage rehearsal… (particularly hair raising was the episode where the sound technician plugged in Steve’s amplifier, blowing out the fuse due to the excessive current—different from what our equipment in the US functions on.) Jessica Jolly and Donnell Oakley wowed the crowd with an excerpt from Spatula Sound Check, a duet that we recently revived from 2005, and then we performed an excerpt from Hunger from the Longing. (we were minus Austin Selden, one of the original cast members for this work, and we had to make considerable changes in his absence). The stage had about a 5% rake, a new experience for the dancers. After our performances, the dancers/musicians retired to a pub next door for food and drink. I was one of the adjudicators for the student work and had to continue on in the theater. The performance finally ended around 1:30am—the Italians love their late late nights and long shows. Then we had to find taxis to get the crowd to the hostel—and all the luggage. This was very difficult and we didn’t get to bed until 3:30-4am. The company had been up for well over 24 hours by now!
The next morning, a few early risers took in a very brief tour of Firenze, and then we all met back at Firenze S.M.N. station for our trip back to Roma and then to Bari. On the 4 hour trip from Roma to Bari, we had the train car almost completely to ourselves and we engaged in a lot of much needed frivolity and laughter. The train porter also brought around several rounds of prosecco—which contributed to the fun. Arriving in Bari in late afternoon, we were met by our gracious hostess, Elisa Barucchieri, artistic director of ResExtensa Danza Teatro Danza. After a short train ride up the coast to Giovinazzo, we were met by Nicola Erboli who loaded up our luggage and we walked to the ResExtensa studio space chorused by raucous parrots in the branches above. It felt great to be in our “home” for the next week and take a break from the traveling. Giovinazzo is a lovely seaside Italian town with a grand piazza, a fascinating medieval section and a rocky shoreline along the Adriatic. The ResExtensa studios are housed in a 16th century building right on the piazza that has functioned as a monastery, hospital, orphanage and during WWII a reception hall where Mussolini greeted dignitaries and political figures from throughout the region of Puglia.
We had an intensely productive and creative week of rehearsals, interspersed with delicious and much needed swims in the cool waters of the Adriatic and wonderful dinners with our new Italian friends—great conversation, camaraderie and a helpful quotient of excellent food and plenty of inexpensive and wonderful local wine. Primitivo and Negroamaro are two of the grapes that make the famous wines of the region. Puglia is also known for its fresh seafood and olive oil. It was very very hot, and even with four fans blowing in the studio, we found ourselves drenched in sweat after the first five minutes of dancing. ( I found it glorious after the chilled studios in Michigan… the joints and muscles reveled in the heat!)
We were invited to a press conference at the City Hall and mayor’s office in Bitonto, the “sister” inland city to Giovinazzo. Sarah Konner and Stephen Rush accompanied me and Elisa served as translator. The cultural attaché of Puglia, Elisabetta Tonon and the mayor of Bitonto stopped in to welcome us and express their support for the new U.S. – Italian artistic exchange that ChavasseDance&Performance and ResExtensa had initiated.
The press corp – actually only 2 writers—asked us insightful and intelligent questions that pushed the conversation into new territory, including the final question, “Do you consider your work to be politically correct or politically incorrect?” Sarah Konner, who has been with the project since its inception as a student at UM, gave a very interesting response reflecting her experience as both a collaborator and performer. We all learned more about the work by talking about it to non American journalists. They knew a great deal about the Woody Guthrie song and the era of American history that supplied some of the inspiration, including the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.
We performed the next night, Friday July 15, in Teatro Traetta, a classic jewel box theater with a 8-9% gradient raked stage. The audience was extremely receptive and gracious. Stephen Rush and Jeremy Edwards performed a suite of Rush’s compositions to open the show, followed by Spatula Sound Check—Jessica and Donnell blew the roof off—and then Hunger for the Longing that includes two stop-action videos by Caroline Chavasse. Stephen and Jeremy created a rich and strange sound score that included electronic music, vocals (samples from Woody Guthrie song book) , ukulele and an assortment of quirky sound effects. A highlight was a Tom Waits styled honky-tonk vocal passage by Steve during a duet by Aidan and David. A reception was held for us in the theater gallery/café and we were greeted by the wildly enthusiastic audience members with calls of “Complementi! Complementi!” We were kind of overwhelmed, but felt utter and complete gratitude that our work was received so well.
We had a brief layover in Roma, allowing for an afternoon and evening of sightseeing and then flew back to the U.S. on July 18.
You can check out postings of the many reviews and previews we got in the Bari, Bitonto and Giovinazzo press, a brief video of studio rehearsals and many photos from our Tour Italia on my Facebook page and on Vimeo—search Amy Chavasse or ChavasseDance&Performance. I’ll compile the press, with english translations soon. Below are a few for those of you fluent in Italian...www.quotidianodibari.it
Keep following our progress as we continue to build Hunger for the Longing. Performance dates are pending for Ann Arbor, NYC and beyond for 2011-12.
Again—we thank you from the very bottom of our hearts. This was a fantastic opportunity for us.
Amy Chavasse- Artistic Director