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La Biennale di Venezia

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Introduction by

Wayne McGregor

Director of the Dance department

We Humans
For thousands of years, We Humans have communicated by moving our bodies rhythmically, together. We’ve begged gods for sun and rain; displayed brute force in fearsome unison; paraded our love; teased with hints at fertility; celebrated joys and sorrows shared upon this earth, and whirled ourselves to ecstasy, release from the mortal pain. We no longer need to do this – we have plentiful ways, manmade and digital, to communicate our desires, thoughts, emotions, and intentions. To attract, explore and nourish authentic connection, intimacy. And yet we persist. Because dance is always within us. This expressive bridge, this ‘in-between’ avenue so immediate, resonant, versatile and powerful that words alone can never replace it. Indeed, when there are no words – when our feelings are too strong, too complicated, too much to bear, relief and solace are found through the body: both in the healing touch of others, and by the movement of our body as we run, shake, stretch, breath, dance it out. We Humans are movement.

All live communication then is 80% physical – it is a rich, unrivalled body to body transfer. And body does not convey information to body in anything resembling verbal (let alone written) exchange. Even a wave will be sent not by disembodied hand, but by whole human, including eyes, face, and body position. Depending on the shape and dynamism of the gesture itself – and accompanying facial expression, gaze direction, stance and posture We Humans offer and respond, interpret and misinterpret, laugh, love and connect. Our dazzling communication with and through our body goes far beyond the swapping of signifiers by isolated body parts, it is an intricate dance as we feel out an other’s intended meaning, attempt to build upon, align with, redirect or subvert it; offer our reply, having anticipated what’s likely to then happen, and so on, and so on. It is a dance, because it is live. Because it defies fixity, definitive transcript. In this way, it’s more reflective of our authentic selves than verbal dialogue. Which makes it all the more compelling, interesting, empathetic, rich, and devilish. We Humans are movement.

In an age where technology allow to see events on the other side of our planet playing out in real time and graphic detail, we are challenged, as at no other time in history to question where our humanity lies and to access it through a deeper connection with our own embodied state?

This forth year as Director of Dance in Venice culminates in an epic festival exploring the very nature of what it is to be human. An eternal quest that has occupied priests and poets, philosophers and politicians, scientists, and artists millennia in search, each attempting in their own special way to map and comment, pin down and undo, theorise and sense the vastness of human experience. And still We Humans somehow fall short in grasping the whole, the landscape too macro or perhaps its scale only ever to be seen by a million ones collaborating with the zero. A collective intelligence informing the whole, shared eyes allowing the planet to see.

Unwrapping the great complexity, contradictions and mystery that is human life is a career pre-occupation for the movement creatives invited to Biennale Danza 2024. All the artists and companies this year adopt the medium of dance as a philosophical act of communication – testing the fundamentals of our knowledge, challenging our notions of reality, and extending the understanding of our existence. Through their work they invite us to question where we have come from and where we are we heading whilst probing the essential within, the what and the why of sentience.

Biennale Danza 2024 we will continue our 5 programme strands: Live, Film Installation, Biennale College, Collaboration, Talks/Workshops.

 

Live
The artists this year are working collaboratively - in partnership teams, with and through technology or with analogue means, utilising AI as a creative and performative tool (or quite the opposite!) and presenting work across unfamiliar forms in surprising political, social and ethical directions. These ‘duets’ of content, form, medium and practise are revelatory, inviting us to reconnect with all that We Humans share, and all that We Humans can achieve in dialogue, exchange, and co-operation. As we explore the radical shades of sameness and difference, we do so in the spirit of respect, mutuality, and communal endeavour, climbing higher than we can solo. 

We Humans are movement. 

We are delighted to be commissioning and co-commissioning new work this year in a Festival of 7 World premieres, (including work by Caprioli, McGregor, Zulberti and more) with Biennale co-commissions with Dumb Type, Lucien, GN|MC - as well as thrilled to be presenting 2 European premiere and 11 Italian premieres from iconic dance world leaders to emerging innovative new voices. Over 160 artists will be LIVE in Venice with 80 events across 17 days.

We begin with the exceptional multi-dimensional practice of septuagenarian Italian artist Cristina Caprioli - our Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Dancer, choreographer, experimental theoretician, academic and curator, whose works advance an idea of choreography as “critical discourse in continuous motion”, in which the creative act is never severed from reflection Caprioli will use sites in Venice and Mestre as canvass for her accidental encounters, intimate exchanges, theoretical apertures and site responsive miniatures. We are delighted to present three of her most recent, thought provoking works Deadlock, Flat Haze and Silver and look forward to her extended residency in Venice. 

Movement radical and Biennale favourite Trajal Harrell (our Silver Lion) brings two emotionally charged works for differing environments. Sister or He Buried the Body is a searingly personal solo for/by Harrell himself performed in an intimate, close-up context whilst his Tambourines, a raw and stripped back version of Nathaniel Hawthornes’s The Scarlet Letter, sees Harrell’s extraordinary company dive into themes of race, gender and politics in colonial America. Both works exemplify the “fictional archiving” with which Harrell regenerates historic material and pre-existing forms of dance.

In a European premiere (a Biennale Danza Co-Commission) and the first new stage work in eight years by Japanese genre defying Dumb Type’s founder Shiro TakataniTangent explores the theme of liminal space. Rooted in the inter-relationality of art, science, and technology, this is a serene, beautiful, and dramatic stage work that deftly transcends the border between the visual and performing arts.

Winner of our International call out for exceptional new projects - Argentinian director, visual artist, installation specialist and contemporary dancer Melisa Zulberti challenges convention with her multi-modal and socially conscious body of work. In her innovative new interdisciplinary project, Posguerra, designed specifically for Biennale Danza 2024, this world premiere event Zulberti’s radical musing on the concpet of time, promises to provoke and surprise.

Cheng Tsung-lung, Artistic Director and choreographer of the seminal Cloud Gate, gives the European premiere of his new work Waves for Cloud Gate’s 50th anniversary. Collaborating with the uber talented digital artist, composer, DJ and programmer Daito Manabe they have set out to collect dancing body movements as digital data, metamorphosing them through artificial intelligence foregrounding an alternative perspective of how we see the world around us.

The practice that Guy Nader + Maria Campos has been developing exponentially over the past decade, investigates aspects of the principles of physics, and continues to expand, evolving towards the exploration of an extremely detailed time-space composition. In this way, GN|MC's work is based on rigorous research on movement, designing specific physical tasks in relation to weight, geometry, space, time and group dynamics, where the body is at the same time the subject, the object and the tool of his own knowledge. Biennale Danza 2024 will co-commission their new project An ode to life and its fragile atmosphere - an encounter between dancers that relies on repetitive and cyclical patterns of movement to evoke a hypnotic atmosphere that alters our visual perception and transforms it into a landscape of living entities.

Dancing in Italy for the first time - Afro-Colombian company Sankofa Danzafro, founded by Rafael Palacios in 1997, has sought to build a bridge between Afro-Colombian peoples and the African continent. Behind the South: Dances for Manuel is a tribute to the distinguished Colombian writer Manuel Zapata Olivella’s most acclaimed work: “Changó, el Gran Putas,” (Chango, the big badass) - through choreography and dramaturgy, the performance references reckless omens, miraculous births, and libertarian rebellion; expressing the pain of losing connection with the motherland and the nostalgia of no return.

Alan Lucien Øyen’s company winter guests come to the lagoon for the very first time with their take on the widening void between the world and it’s humans – between nature and ourselves – through means of dance, Butoh, and contemporary theatre. Still Life (a Biennale Danza co-commission) is a work that reveals itself through beauty and nature – this dance as Øyen posits is: “An attempt to reconnect with our poetic self”.

Bold, vulnerable and pioneer of hip hop theatre turned photographer, Benji Reid mixes Afro-futurist imagery with hard hitting tales from his life. Combining photography, choreography, and piercing theatre to make striking surreal images in real time, Reid has invented an awe inspiring new medium for physical expression. Find Your Eyes draws from his life experiences – exploring vulnerability, tragedy and triumph through the photographers’ lens. Choreographing three performers, Reid creates live photographs in front of an audience where the stage becomes his studio.

Nicole Seiler is a major figure on the Swiss contemporary dance scene fascinated by the interface between the body, new technologies, robotics and machine learning. With her apposite new work Human in the Loop, Seiler asks what happens when an Artificial Intelligence creates a choreography live in front of an audience? Seiler submits AI to a “stress test”, seeking to introduce it into the creative process with the dancers on stage. Crossing the boundaries between the human and the artificial to explore the technological body and the biological body.

UK Dance Theatre mavericks Lost Dog, bring their iconic blend of dark humour, physical power and deadly grace to bare on Ruination - a witty and inventive reinterpretation of the Greek myth of Medea and her relationship with Jason. “He’s much shorter than you’d expect and it's possible she didn’t murder her children” – a show about how love and forgiveness are not always the answer.

The newly minted collective Miller de Nobili Dance Theatre (joint winners of the Biennale call out for emerging Italian choreographic talent) shares a vision that seamlessly blends breaking, contemporary and urban dance theatre with acting techniques to produce intriguing and emotionally charged works. With There Was Still Time the dynamic partnership riffs off Samuel Beckett’s seminal work Waiting for Godot to explore an unconventional combination of physical forms and existentialist dread.

Noemi Dalla Vecchia and Matteo Vignali, alias Vidavé, also winners of the national call for a new choreography, delve into the past with Folklore Dynamics, borrowing stories, proverbs, games, superstitions and gestures from different traditions that take form in movement. How fascinating to witness choreographic teams devising work in partnership where authorship slips between artists as they shape a collective and dual vision.

 

Film Installation
The power, profundity, the technical skill, the unfathomable realisation and pure poetry of De Humani Corporis Fabrica, an epic film installation by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, made it a festival must for me. For the entire duration of Biennale Danza 24, the experimental work of these exceptional filmmakers and anthropologists will provide the emotional and reflective spine to We Humans

In five different Paris hospitals, the two filmmakers survey the most innovative endoscopic technologies that medicine uses to observe and operate for a journey into the mystery of the human body that defies physical and cultural limits. It is at once dazzling and disturbing, an awe-inspiring treatise on the nature of ‘us’.

 

Biennale College
Biennale College has been a highlight of the past three iterations of Biennale Danza, with a programme that has evolved and sharpened since its inception. Our ambition to connect our burgeoning young talent with unrivalled learning, training, mentoring, and creating opportunities has been fortified by the excellent teaching and mentoring we have experienced through internationally respected artists like Pite, Forsythe, Xie Xin, Teshigawara, Forti, McGregor and others. Each season we reflect and revise our offer and work towards a gold standard in dance training in the context of this wonderful international series of Biennale festivals. Again, 16 young dancers from around the world and 2 young choreographers (selected from over 400 applications) will be resident at Biennale Danza 2024 for three months, taking class, workshops, rep and vitally creating new work.

In a special large scale, site-specific commission, Biennale Danza Director Wayne McGregor will create a collaborative work with the young artists alongside his Company Wayne McGregor (in residence for Biennale Danza 2024) in the monumental Sala Grande in the Palazzo del Cinema on the Lido. A high tech, high touch collaborative project.

Continuing our ambition to have the greatest living dance artists working with Biennale College, we are thrilled that our students will have our 2024 Golden Lion Cristina Caprioli working directly with them in Venice. In a bespoke immersion in Caprioli’s work, the young artists will have the opportunity to delve into this polymath’s process through reconstruction, experimentation, social connection and critically in the creating of a world premiere The Bench. Caprioli’s rigorous intellectual and theoretical focus will also be excavated in lecture demonstration, mentorship and discussion.

And this season the Biennale College don’t only work with one Golden Lion but two - in three-day masterclass from a living dance icon, a visionary artist intrinsically connected to Venice and to Biennale Danza from its inception and our very first Golden Lion: Carolyn Carlson. We are very honoured to welcome back Carolyn to Biennale Danza, to share her practise with these young inquiring minds and bodies and to thank her for the catalytic part she has played in our history. 

Additionally, two emerging artists will workshop, create and present world premieres in Biennale Danza 2024, mentored by Wayne McGregor.

 

Collaboration
Mestre
Residency:

This February, in a special PREVIEW project for CARNIVAL Biennale Danza 2024 hosted in Mestre the incredible French Canadian performance art company Le Patin Libre. Renowned for their high-speed choreography – unbelievably fast because it is on ice – they performed their hypnotic new show Murmuration in a specially adapted ice rink. At the same time, a curated programme of creative ice-skating lessons, experiences and parties were developed to share the thrill of dancing on ice with the public and make accessible this art form to many. Over 2600 spectators saw Murmuration live and a huge 1117 participants joined the company for workshops and parties on the ice.

This Summer in Teatro del Parco – animation film, theatre, music and dance will all coexist in Antechamber, a work by artists and musicians Romain Bermond and Jean-Baptiste Maillet, known as Stereoptik. Their audience participatory show is the making of a short film, about a boy reawakening to the wonders of the world, and truly immerses the public into the way ideas take shape, how a character is materialised, how a story evolves. Fantastical, fun and fresh.

Indigo Lewin, our photographic artist in residence for the fourth year, continues her intimate dance portraits of Biennale Danza – elucidating epic encounters on our stages and the fragile behind the scenes moments of some the world’s greatest dancers and artists. In celebration of this unparalleled photographic archive of my tenure as Director of Biennale Danza, and in collaboration with Biennale Archive we will format and publish a stunning photographic dance book to be launched by the end of 2024. Whilst film maker Ravi Deepres and his collaborative team will again shoot all of our stellar performers and performances in hi definition, multi camera captures for the Biennale archive.

 

Talks/Workshops
Curated conversation and discussion opportunities to meet artists pre and post shows - to delve deeper into their work and their artistic vision is both revelatory and insightful. We will provide extra opportunities for these encounters in 24. Continuing and nurturing our in-conversation mentoring programme with the Biennale’s new group of young dance journalists and curators, we will provide a solid foundation for their future career paths as well as exciting our audiences with liberating debate.

Each artist performing or presenting work in the Biennale Danza 24 will offer workshops for a broad range of participants during our festival itself. This workshop programme allows a diverse audience of professional and non-professional dancers to experience live the incredible physical worlds of our Biennale talent. Many of these workshops will be open to the public and actively encourage amateur dancers to participate and enjoy the power of dance in action.

At the heart of our 18th International Festival of Contemporary Dance - We Humans are fundamental truths, expressed in uniquely made living choreographic objects that speak to us deeply, wake our instincts and prime our imaginations. Here new models of co-creation and experimental collaborative processes outside of traditional mediums, as well as art forms in conversation with nature, science, technology, and politics catapult us into unusual synergies with unexpected insight. Artists mining the expansive capacities of the human to exceed potential whilst together and quietly, gracefully, urgently reminding us that what We Humans share is far greater than anything that divides us.

Biennale Danza
Biennale Danza