fbpx Biennale Danza 2021 | Introduction by Wayne McGregor
La Biennale di Venezia

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Introduction by

Wayne McGregor

Director of the Dance department

“It is through touch that we are able to interact directly with the world; it is our primary conduit of both pleasure and pain. Touch may be our most immediate and powerful sense - “the first sense” because of the central role it plays in experience”
Matthew Fulkerson


As we are propelled into 2021, after a year of the pandemic, social distancing and enforced physical restrictions, we are powerfully reminded of the criticality of touch in our lives. Indeed, touch has taken on new resonances in our society at large and most personally as this fundamental sense we usually take for granted has been challenged and compromised. We have been unable to hold our loved ones nor reach out to feel our friends embrace, we have missed the powerful interpersonal relationships that are engendered by skin-to-skin contact and have registered most deeply the profound loss to our physical, mental and emotional well-being such touch-deprivation opens in us. And instead, we have become all touch-by-tech; remote interactions, computer communication, zoom exercises and digital meetings. Our bodies somehow suspended in the ether.

Today, we are desperate to re-connect to the world through and with our bodies and we are, now more than ever, ready to be exhilarated by a return to our fullest embodied existence.

Dance, the greatest of First Sense art forms is poised to inspire such a spectacular revival and our 2021 Biennale Danza programme will celebrate the diversity and dynamism of many exceptional artistic voices that express their truths through the breath-taking instrument of the human form.

Through the quiet choreographic brilliance of Pam Tanowitz, flying bodies sensitively respond to the elemental touch of pianist Simone Dinnerstein’s unique interpretation of the Goldberg Variations. Natasha Atlas’s haunting, velvet touch voice, accompanies Company Koubi on their personal, poetic and dreamlike Odyssey whilst super star dancer and cultural icon Mikhail Baryshnikov bears raw in an unforgettable installation work from Jan Fabre that touches the soul.

Brutal, fast and potent, (La)Horde physically scream their way through a rave inspired world with producer Rone - their hard touch a revealing counterpoint to the mercurially fluid dancers of Xie Xin Co, daring a philosophical battle of body towards and from chaos. And let’s not forget performance artist Oliver de Sagazan who literally uses clay, paint and contortion to transform his cast live, a living Francis Bacon painting where his touch smears, cuts and rips his body as canvas. We journey too, through intimate encounters of touch and feeling; through the sense making of our Golden Lion, Germaine Acogny and the visceral emotionality of our Silver Lion, Oona Doherty.

We pass momentarily between the inventive total worlds of D’Agostin, Bereishit and Metamorphosis as they guide us to new sensation and experience and we immerse ourselves in the future tense with adventurous, durational installation work by Wilkie Branson, Random International and Company Wayne McGregor.

The work and artists in the performance and installation programme are radicals in their own right. They are excellent communicators, provoking and stimulating fresh human awareness through their work. The sense of community and togetherness is present in the fabric of the pieces selected where interaction and collective experience drives the content. The work spans an eclectic and diverse range of expression with each artist articulating a singular and innovative perspective. These are refreshing works by major established names and emerging artists – all Italian or European premieres.

And what of the future art makers, the visionaries of tomorrow. If our LIVE season is the heart of the Biennale Danza, the COLLEGE is our blood supply. This year 20 dancers (half from Italy and half global) and 5 choreographer/dancers (international) convene in Venice for 3 months to train, workshop, explore, invent, and make together. Through expert tutelage and mentorship from exceptional dance professionals, the community of Biennale College artists will take a deep dive into the work and processes of choreographers Crystal Pite and myself, as well as engage in bespoke learning, creative and research programmes, tailor-made for their individual career development and progression.

In actively supporting a new generation of dance makers, Biennale Danza will initiate two new commissioning programmes aimed at nurturing emerging work for the future. The first will dedicate resources to the Silver Lion awardee annually and contribute to their next dream project. The second, will be a commission awarded to an Italian dance maker to include financial and artistic support as well as a commitment to present the commissioned work in the subsequent Biennale. This commission will be open to application in May and the recipient(s) announced during Biennale Danza 2021.     

Collaboration sits at the centre of our programmes and our evolving partnership with Biennale Architettura promises to be a highlight of the season. For Biennale College this rare opportunity allows us to work cross art form and as part of a major exhibition within the section Amongst Diverse Beings. Inspired by the concepts and provocations presented in the architectural spaces, the choreographers and dancers will develop ideas in intimate dialogue with their chosen site. For Biennale Danza, our collaboration amplifies and facilitates a unique context for artists working in the mediums and intersections of body, dance, technology, film, science AR and AI. By jointly presenting this work in both the Biennale Danza and Biennale Architettura, we hope not only to speak to a wider audience, but we acknowledge the blurring of boundaries within our own art forms, nurturing the artists’ wish to remain un-categorizable and working without any limits.

FIRST SENSE aspires to touch you, move you, both emotionally and physically - not only in our live performance and installation programme, but in public and professional workshops, artist talks and in our film series. It is all there in Biennale Danza 2021. And finally, we have an extra special guest - the dazzling photographer Mary McCartney, who for Biennale Danza 21, will be in residence, capturing the fleeting moments of our touch experiences, interactions, concentrations and joys. Images we look forward to sharing in Mary’s exhibition for Biennale Danza 2022.


“The longing to touch/be touched. I feel gratitude when I touch someone-as well as affection etc. The person has allowed me proof that I have a body- and that there are bodies in the world”
Susan Sontag

Biennale Danza
Biennale Danza