fbpx Biennale Danza 2023 | Introduction by Wayne McGregor
La Biennale di Venezia

Your are here

Introduction by

Wayne McGregor

Director of the Dance department

Altered States
We sit in the darkening auditorium waiting for the show to begin. This precious moment before the curtain goes up, where all is possible. Our breathing slows as the collective pull of this shared experience – this “audience organism” – encourages us to wash away the energies of our day, and to be made ready for this “cut-out of time”. We are in a fluid state of anticipation, curiosity and expectation; a blissful state of unknowing. We are sensing, from the inside out, our internal chemistry – our interoception sense in overdrive.
Right now, in our bloodstreams, there are hundreds of naturally occurring chemicals racing through each of our bodies. Those chemicals direct how we think, feel, speak and behave. We operate largely at the mercy of them, experiencing reactions, thoughts and emotions, often without realising that we can actively manage them, gently altering our internal chemical balance to influence the way we breathe, move, empathise and communicate.
When we dance or experience incredible dance performances, our body’s inner sensations are provoked into states of change as chemical reactions inside us transform our perceptions in real time. We breathe faster, our eyes dart, our heart rate increases and our chest tightens; or we quieten, relax back, eyes wide, the hairs on our skin standing tall. The connections between our brain, body, mind and the world reshape and, sometimes, when we are lucky, metamorphosise. We can feel elated, challenged, energised, infuriated, surprised, adrenalised, transported or, quite simply, we sit there with tears streaming down our faces. This is the power of dance. The greater one’s new affinity with the artwork, the more radical the altered states as we are moved from the prosaic to the profound. Dance changing, then, our very state of being.
The artists selected for Biennale Danza 2023 are movement alchemists. Their work is driven by an insatiable curiosity to explore and experiment, both in process and performance; through improvisation, soma-sensory installation, radical minimalism or in surprising departures of form and context. Fundamentally, they challenge traditional dance orthodoxies, and in doing so release us to experience our bodies anew, connecting our external models of the world with our lesser- known internal maps – altering our states of understanding and experience.
We are delighted to be commissioning and co- commissioning new work this year, in a Festival of seven world premieres, and thrilled to be presenting three European premieres and nine Italian premieres – from iconic dance world leaders to emerging, innovative new voices. Over 150 artists are LIVE in Venice, with 89 events across 17 days. We are also hosting full-production residencies for artists who are premiering work with us, providing critical time in our theatres to test, experiment and technically develop their projects ready for international touring.


This year we begin with a major collaboration to celebrate one of the most gifted and revolutionary movement artists of the century, Simone Forti – our Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.
In a dynamic collaboration with The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), the 17th International Festival of Contemporary Dance presents the European opening of Simone Forti – the first in-depth exhibition to explore the monumental career of this visionary artist. Forti is perhaps best known as a choreographer, which the exhibition highlights with performances of her ground-breaking Dance Constructions, featuring a cast of Biennale College Danza artists. At the same time, Forti can more expansively be understood as an artist who works with movement. This exhibition surveys six decades of her work, elucidating the breadth and depth of her practice through works in paper, videos, holograms and performance ephemera and documentation. Simone Forti is a homage to a towering artist who has forever reframed the dialogue between visual art and contemporary dance.
Tao Ye and Duan Ni – our Silver Lions – bring their exceptional company TAO Dance Theater to Venice for the first time with their Italian premiere of 11, and European premieres of 13 and 14. TAO Dance Theater mesmerises and challenges with its innovative “Circular Movement System” and rigorously austere, minimalist aesthetic. In confronting our felt sense of time, TAO Dance Theater provokes us into a place of meditative focus, while allowing us to access our deepest internal emotional landscapes.
In 2021 we welcomed Oona Doherty to Venice as our Silver Lion and invited her to present a dream project in the future. Now Doherty returns with her unsettling Navy Blue, commissioned by La Biennale di Venezia and our Italian premiere for 2023. Featuring music from Sergei Rachmaninoff and Jamie xx, this disruptive and visceral work considers where we have been and where we are heading, as it urgently appeals for societal change.
Superstar dancer and choreographer Carlos Acosta brings his eponymous company to Italy for the first time. Formed in 2015 to harness and develop the explosive young talent emerging from Cuba, Acosta Danza and its astonishing dancers have taken the dance world by storm in passionate and daring performances of joyous, eclectic style.
For Biennale Danza 2023, choreographers Micaela Taylor, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Alexis Fernández (Maca) and Yaday Ponce present breathtaking works in a four-part programme that also includes a world premiere by Venezuelan dance sensation Javier de Frutos.
Michael Keegan-Dolan’s MÁM storms onto the stage in a virtuosic 90-minute dance and music marathon embodying every single human emotion. Bringing together the virtuoso Irish traditional concertina player Cormac Begley, the European classical, contemporary collective s t a r g a z e and twelve international dancers from the company Teaċ Daṁsa, MÁM is a transformative meeting place between soloist and ensemble, classical and traditional, local and universal.
Paris-based Rachid Ouramdane’s Variation(s) pitches two phenomenally danced solos in an extreme musical work verging on trance, our everyday “normal” waking consciousness hypnotised into an elevated, altered state of experience.
Launching his new company with us in 2023, Pontus Lidberg’s world premiere and La Biennale di Venezia’s commission On the Nature of Rabbits is a collaborative tour de force; Pontus’ team includes Emmy award-winning animation director Jason Carpenter. On the Nature of Rabbits interweaves a soul-searching true story of connection, love and sexuality in the early 1990s with a reflection on our evolving relationship with nature in a time of rapid change.
Deconstructing street dance and challenging perceptions of hip-hop, Botis Seva’s work is emotionally charged, theatrical and popular – mixing urban dance, text and physical theatre. Seva’s award-winning company Far From The Norm invites debate on socio-political issues and the contemporary world. In this Italian premiere, and through haunting childhood memories and adult life traumas, BLKDOG questions how we fight through our vices to find a sense of peace.
Rome-based circusnext laureate Andrea Salustri provokes and beguiles with MATERIA – A Choreography for Several Polystyrene Shapes and One Human. Drifting between discovery and destruction, the material becomes the protagonist and the performer the facilitator in a continuously shifting relationship between object, manipulator and manipulation.

Australian maverick Lucy Guerin brings her gravity defying 39 digital PENDULUM installation, created with percussive artist Matthias Schack-Arnott, to Arsenale. Performers roam among a field of moving pendulums, each consisting of a suspended bell that tolls, pulses and hums. The power and vulnerability of the human body is revealed through the dancers’ attempts to control the relentless rise and fall of the pendulums’ weight – and we, the audience, feel the motion of time passing inside us, building an intimate kinaesthetic empathy with performer, pendulum and our own internal chemistry. In a special project for Biennale Danza 2023 in Mestre’s Teatro del Parco, Lucy Guerin’s sharp, elegant choreographic work Split reflects the dilemmas of negotiating with oneself and others in a world of increased pressure and reduced resources. Featuring a musical score by British composer Scanner, Split is a thought-provoking structural meditation rendered in movement.
Our call-outs for new choreographic creations yielded incredible submissions. This initiative not only provides us with the rare opportunity to discover fresh talent both in Italy and worldwide, but also opens up La Biennale di Venezia to new dialogues, crosstalk and collaborations.
Columbian/Canadian multidisciplinary artist Andrea Peña, winner of the Biennale Danza 2023 call-out for a new international choreographic creation, presents BOGOTÁ – a brave approach to new movement exploration and hybrid forms that investigates notions of death and resurrection through a post-industrial, queer and Latin American Baroque lens.
With Vanishing Place, Luna Cenere – winner of the Biennale Danza 2023 call-out for a new Italian choreographic creation – continues her research on the naked body, posture, object, landscape and gesture in startling dialogue with one another – piercing the very heart of what it is to dance.
Last year, Indigo Lewin, our photographic artist in residence 2021-2024, unveiled her intimate dance portraits of Biennale Danza 2021, while film-maker Ravi Deepres shot all of our stellar performers/performances in high definition, multi-camera captures for La Biennale di Venezia Historical Archive of Contemporary Arts (ASAC). Lewin and Deepres are again in residence for Biennale Danza 2023, evolving their unique perspectives on our special world. Look out for their printed exhibition of work in this catalogue.
Biennale College Danza has been a highlight of both the 2021 and 2022 seasons, with superb, imaginative young artists growing exponentially during their intensive three months in Venice. Our ambition to connect our burgeoning young talent with unrivalled learning, training, mentoring and creating of opportunities has been fortified by the excellence we have experienced in the past two editions. Once more, 16 young dancers from around the world and two young choreographers have been resident at Biennale Danza 2023 – taking class, participating in workshops, learning rep and, vitally, creating new work. In a special commission, Chinese dance phenomenon Xie Xin is creating a new work with the College participants for a shared programme in the Arsenale.
Continuing our ambition to connect Biennale College with our greatest living dance artists, we are thrilled that our students have William Forsythe’s work Duo remade on them, by two of the most important dancers of his company – Brigel Gjoka and Riley Watts.
Biennale College is also central to the celebration of our Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, Simone Forti. Sarah Swenson – choreographer, dancer and Forti specialist – is in Venice teaching and restaging the Dance Constructions on our students as part of the Simone Forti exhibition.
Biennale College Danza is equally committed to investing in the future generation of choreographic dance talent, through a focus on young artists and emerging dance- makers. Through co-productions, residencies and invitations, we can make significant support early for young makers, and facilitate projects they could not easily access without us. This year, two new international emerging talents have been commissioned to create new work on the College dancers.
Our dance film programme has had a steadily committed audience from its inception, and we continue this important strand of work this year. Biennale Danza 2023 profiles film work from Festival artists, work curated by them, and major releases from established makers, as well as raw, experimental visions. This season we also present premieres of film by multi-generational artists, including the autobiographical film Transparent by British septuagenarian choreographer Siobhan Davies.
Curated conversations and opportunities to meet artists pre- and post-shows are revelatory and insightful, and this year’s edition offers further fascinating encounters. Our in-conversation programme continues to nurture and mentor a new cohort of young dance journalists and curators to lead art form debate now and in the future.
As always, each artist performing or presenting work at Biennale Danza 2023 offers a workshop for a broad range of participants during our Festival itself. This ever-expanding and (for us) mission-critical programme allows a diverse audience of professional and non-professional dancers to experience live the incredible physical worlds of our Biennale Danza talent. This year, Botis Seva also undertakes special participatory workshops in Mestre, inspiring with his positive energy and collective vision.


We are thrilled that Bottega Veneta once again supports our programme for Biennale Danza 2023. Developing and bolstering young creative talent is central to our joint ambitions for the art form, and their championing of Biennale College Danza and our invited global artists in resources, advocacy, profile and particularly artistic collaboration is a significant partnership that we relish. Thank you, Bottega Veneta, for going beyond.

Our Altered States Biennale Danza 2023 invites you to change your internal chemistry; to shift your states of being through experiencing dance – the creativity of dancers, choreographers, composers and artists designed to take you somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere deeper. As we open ourselves to noticing the sensory information our bodies feed back to us minute-by-minute, affecting our every decision, perception, move and emotion, we hand over our sense systems in the theatre to be hijacked and aroused, stimulated and infused, influenced and touched.
And, if nothing else, let the exceptional dance transport us beyond words, outside our rational and more and more towards this felt-sense – our very own Altered States.

Biennale Danza
Biennale Danza