The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement 2017, American choreographer Lucinda Childs will inaugurate the Festival on June 23rd (Teatro alle Tese) with three classics from her repertory: Dance, the manifesto of the abstract minimalism she pioneered which was destined to influence generations of dancers. The performance, which grew out of Childs' collaboration with Sol LeWitt and Philip Glass, will be presented in Italy for the first time with the rigorously black and white film-décor that American artist LeWitt created in 1979. The other two works by Childs will be adapted to the outdoor space of Campo Sant'Agnese: Katema and Dance II, originally two solos that Childs has developed into works for an ensemble.
Another triptych of performances will focus on Alessandro Sciarroni, one of the most revolutionary performance artists and choreographers in Europe, interested in all the practices of the body – sports disciplines, circus arts, trades – which he uses as a starting point to build choreographies that are often an act of physical resistance on the stage. Featured in Venice will be Chroma (24 June, Teatro alle Tese), in its Italian premiere performance following its debut in Paris, Aurora (25 June, Teatro alle Tese) and Folk-s (25 June, Teatro alle Tese).
Coming to Italy for the first time is Clara Furey, born in Paris but of Canadian descent, an artist who works on projects that blur the boundaries between choreography, music and performance. Untied Tales (24 June, Sale d'Armi), an Italian premiere performance created with Slovakian dancer and choreographer Peter Jasko, explores the relationship between fiction and reality, and the coexistence of two artistic languages that come together without cancelling each other.
Returning to the Biennale will be Louise Lecavalier, who for 18 years was a formidable performer for La La La Human Steps: this time she will be in Venice in the twin role of choreographer and dancer with So Blue (24 June, Teatro Piccolo Arsenale), in a performance with Frédéric Tavernini. At the centre of this whirlwind duo is the body "in constant search, swift as thought, that transgresses its limits to transcend itself; body that becomes breath, energy, light... Body that traces its own path, struggles, gives up, bounces back and disappears into space" (L. Lecavalier).
In the performances of Belgian Lisbeth Gruwez, trained as a classical dancer before joining Jan Fabre's company, and later the co-founder of the Voetwolk ensemble, sound and movement are interdependent. In It’s going to get worse and worse and worse, my friend (25 June, Tese dei Soppalchi), she takes advantage of fragments from a speech by the ultraconservative American televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, distorted by her artistic partner-in-crime Maarten Van Cauwenberghe.
An excellent example of Marie Chouinard's dance, in which every gesture is thought, is her most recent Soft virtuosity, still humid, on the edge (27 June, Teatro alle Tese), performed by her company, an excursus into the many forms of walking (breathless, limping, unbridled, amusing, en pointe and demi-pointe...), a journey across the stage and across the world.
Considered a promise of Dutch dance, having worked with the Elisa Monte Co., Galili Dance and Charleroi Dance before moving into choreography and founding WArdWaRD in 2000, Ann Van den Broek will present The Black Piece (26 June, Teatro Piccolo Arsenale). The production brings 5 performers onto the stage and plunges them into almost total darkness, pierced by flashes of light orchestrated by Van den Broek to highlight fragments, presences, perspectives, letting the space be shaped by the sounds that the spectator perceives.
One of the most original figures now capturing the attention of the international press, Dana Michel, the Afro-American choreographer from Ottawa and winner of the Silver Lion 2017, comes to Venice and the Biennale Danza for the first time. Dana Michel is an artist who draws on her own autobiography as the source of her experimentation: "making work by tapping into my life experiences is the most effective path to self-knowledge and to meaningful connection with others", she has stated. Her works are distinguished by a sort of "post-cultural bricolage" using live moments, object appropriation, fragments of personal history, desires and current preoccupations to create an empathetic centrifuge of experience between the artist and the spectators. Like in Yellow Towel (27 June, Tese dei Soppalchi, 7:30 pm), an Italian premiere performance, in which Michel stigmatizes and subverts the stereotypes of blackculture.
Daina Ashbee's mixed roots (she was born in 1990 to a native American father and a Dutch mother) influence her choreographic language, which borrows from both contemporary dance and tradition, addressing themes with powerful social impact, often concerning the female body, in which she breaks centuries-old taboos. "The art of dance brings me closer to my own body and to the awareness of my own thoughts and processes". At the Biennale she will present the Italian premiere performances of Unrelated (29 June, Teatro alle Tese) and the European premiere of When the ice melts, will we drink the water? (29 June, Tese dei Soppalchi).
On stage since the 1970s, Benoît Lachambre has worked with many artists – Meg Stuart, Boris Charmatz, Sasha Waltz, Louise Lecavalier, Marie Chouinard – and has received commissions from the major dance ensembles, including the Cullberg Ballet. Lifeguard (30 June, Sale d'Armi, 5:30 pm) will make its Italian debut at the Biennale: this is a piece that seeks to create an intimate space in which the spectator plays an important role, a performing action that changes depending on the space and the spectators.
La Biennale reserves the space of a beautiful solo for another important figure in contemporary dance, Xavier Le Roy. A champion of European anti-choreography, Le Roy transforms dance into a mental and philosophical space, into scientific research. Anti-choreography, a product of radical thinking that refuses representational theatre, is expressed in conceptual operations or resolved in ironic gestures in which everything is dance, like in the solo work Self Unfinished.
Working on a wholly different front than Leroy is Robyn Orlin, one of the most controversial and provocative artists who has redesigned South Africa's choreography and performance arts, her stage is a place where the universes of whites and blacks with their relative stereotypes often collide, like in her latest production, a kind of "political cabaret" titled And so you see... our honorable blue sky and ever enduring sun... can only be consumed slice by slice... (1 July, Tese dei Soppalchi), to be presented in its Italian premiere performance.
The 2017 Biennale Danza will end with a performance rich in echoes: Gustavia (1 July, Teatro alle Tese), the result of the complicity between Mathilde Monnier, the pioneer of French dance, and La Ribot, a performer from Madrid who now lives in Geneva, known for her series of "Distinguished Pieces". Gustavia is also the only female character brought to the stage by two women, a two-faced portrait, played out in tones of comedy and irony.