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Biennale Danza 2023: Altered States will feature movement alchemists
Dance -

Biennale Danza 2023: Altered States will feature movement alchemists

The 17th International Festival of Contemporary Dance will run from 13-29 July 2023. The programme includes 7 world premieres, 3 European premiere and 9 Italian premieres.

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 this fluid state of anticipation, curiosity and expectation, this 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 chemicals racing through each of our bodies – naturally occurring chemicals. 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 heartrate 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, energized, infuriated, surprised, adrenalized, 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.

For the Biennale Danza 2023 we will continue our 5 programme strands:

Biennale College

Live / Installations

The artists and art works selected for the 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 with 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 7 world premieres – as well as thrilled to be presenting 3 European premiere and 9 Italian premieres from iconic dance world leaders to emerging, innovative new voices. Over 150 artists will be LIVE in Venice with 89 events across 17 days. We will also be 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.

In a dynamic collaboration between Biennale Danza and The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, Biennale Danza 2023 will present the European opening of Simone Forti, an exhibition that explores the monumental career of this visionary artist. Forti is perhaps best known as a choreographer, which the exhibition will highlight with performances of her ground-breaking Dance Constructions, featuring a cast of Biennale College artists and creatives. At the same time, Forti can more expansively be understood as an artist who works with movement. Looking beyond the Dance Constructions, this exhibition surveys six decades of the artist’s incisive work, elucidating the breadth and depth of her practice through works on paper, videos, holograms, and performance ephemera and documentation. Featuring work from the 1960s through to the present day, 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 to Venice for the first time with their European premieres of 13 and 14. With a rigorously austere and minimalist aesthetic, Tao mesmerizes and challenges with their innovative circular movement system. Here, the body is presented as an element to be perceived for its optical allure – devoid of representation, narrative, or context, simply existing as an object alone. In confronting our felt sense of time, Tao Dance provokes us into a place of meditative focus whilst allowing us to access our deepest internal emotional landscape.

For Biennale Danza 2021 we welcomed Oona Doherty to Venice as our Silver Lion and invited her to present a dream project in the future. In her new major work, and our Italian premiere for 23, Oona returns with her unsettling Navy Blue, a Biennale Danza Commission. Featuring music from Rachmaninoff and Jamie xx, this confrontational and visceral work considers where we have been and where we are heading, as it urgently appeals for societal change. Navy Blue, an ode perhaps to the cruelty and pointlessness of life is shot through with Doherty’s arresting, shimmering beauty – fragments of hopes reaching out in the darkness.

Superstar dancer and choreographer Carlos Acosta brings his explosive eponymous Cuban company Acosta Danza to Italy for the first time. Formed in 2015 to harness and develop the young creative dance talent emerging from Cuba, Acosta Danza and their astonishing dancers have taken the dance world by storm in passionate and daring performances of joyous eclectic style. Choreographers Micaela Taylor, Alexis Fernandez (Maca), Yaday Ponce and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui share their breath-taking work in a four-part programme that includes a world premiere by Venezuelan dance sensation Javier De Frutos.

Our open call outs for choreographic artists in Italy and globally, to be commissioned by Biennale Danza, yielded incredible submissions. This initiative not only provides us with the rare opportunity and insight to discover fresh talent world-wide - artists sharing with us rich ideas ready for production and a desire to present their work in the Biennale context - but it also opens-up the Biennale to new nurturing dialogues, cross-talk and collaboration.

Columbian/Canadian multi-disciplinary artist Andrea Peña, the winner of the international call out will present BOGOTA – a brave and raw approach to new movement exploration and hybrid forms that explores the notions of death and resurrection, through a post-industrial, queer, and Latin American baroque lens.

With Vanishing Place, Luna Cenere, the winner of our Italian commission, 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.

Michael Keegan Dolan’s MÁM, storms onto the stage in a virtuosic ninety-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, stargaze and twelve international dancers from the Teaċ Daṁsa company, MÁM is a meeting place between soloist and ensemble, classical and traditional, the local and the universal.

Whilst 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 is hypnotized into an elevated altered states of experience.  

Launching his new company with us in 2023, Pontus Lidberg’s world premiere and Biennale Danza 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 to create an originally direct new medium. Seva’s, award winning company Far From The Norm invites debate on social 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. Overwhelming, hard-hitting and uplifting.


Australian maverick Lucy Guerin brings her insatiable curiosity and gravity defying 39 digital PENDULUM installation to Arsenale, created with percussive artist Matthias Schack-Arnott. Throughout the Biennale Danza 2023, performers roam amongst a field of moving pendulums that each consist of a suspended bell that tolls, pulses and hums. Performers activate the bells; hurling, catching, stopping, spinning, dodging and resisting the swing in their dance with gravity. The power and vulnerability of the human body is revealed through these attempts to control the relentless rise and fall of the pendulum’s weight in this eternally moving frame. And we, the audience, feel the motion of time passing inside us, building an intimate kinesthetic empathy with performer, pendulum, and our internal chemistry.

Biennale College Danza

Biennale College has been a highlight of both the Biennale Danza 2021 and 2022, with superb, imaginative young artists growing exponentially during their intensive 3 months in Venice. Our ambition to connect our burgeoning young talent with unrivalled learning, training, mentoring, and creating opportunities has been fortified by the excellence we have experienced in the past two editions. 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 will be resident at Biennale Danza 2023, taking class, workshops, rep and vitally creating new work. In a special commission, Chinese dance phenomena Xie Xin, fresh from her creation period at the Paris Opera, will create a new work with the College participants for a shared programme in the Arsenale.

Continuing our ambition to have the greatest living dance artists working with the Biennale College, we are thrilled that our students will have William Forsythe’s work Duo remade on them and experience an intensive course in Forsythe’s techniques taught by 2 seminal dancers of his company Riley Watts and Brigel Gjoka.

Additionally, the Biennale College will be central to the celebration of our Golden Lion Simone Forti by performing her Dance Constructions that will form a part of her retrospective exhibition. Sarah Vox Swenson, choreographer, dancer, and Forti’s specialist will be in Venice teaching and re-staging the Dance Constructions on behalf of MOMA.

To have Xie Xin, Simone Forti and William Forsythe at the Biennale College 2023 is a remarkable testament to the quality of the work we are undertaking and the belief these artists have in the work of Biennale College in fostering the creativity and talent of the next generation of dancers and performers.

Biennale College 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 invitation, we can make significant support early for young makers and facilitate projects they could not easily access without us. This year, two international emerging talents will be commissioned to create new work for the Biennale College. Please watch out for our announcement later this month.


In a special project for the Biennale Danza 2023 in Mestre’s Teatro del Parco, Lucy Guerin’s sharp, elegant choreographic work Split will reflect the dilemmas of negotiating with oneself and others in a world of increased pressure and reduced resources. Featuring a musical score by UK composer Scanner, Split is a thought-provoking structural meditation rendered in movement.

Last year Indigo Lewin, our photographic artist in residence 21-24, unveiled her intimate dance portraits of the Biennale Danza 2021 – elucidating epic encounters with our recent past, whilst film maker Ravi Deepres shot all of our stellar performers/performances in hi-definition, multi camera captures for the Biennale archive. Continuing our collaboration Indigo and Ravi will both be in residence for Biennale Danza 2023 evolving their unique perspective on our special world. Look out for their printed exhibition of work in the Biennale catalogue 23.


Our dance film programme has had a steadily committed audience from its inception, and we would like to continue this strand of work in 2023. In the Biennale Danza 2023 we will profile film work from the festival artists, work curated by them and major releases from established makers, as well as raw experimental visions. This season we will also present premieres of work by multi-generational artists including the autobiographical film by UK septuagenarian choreographer Sue Davies in collaboration with David Hinton and Hugo Glendinning.

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 2023. 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 2023 will offer workshops for a broad range of participants during our festival itself. This ever-expanding 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. This year, Botis Seva will also undertake special participatory workshops in Mestre, inspiring with his positive energy and sharing his collective vision.

We are thrilled that Bottega Veneta will once again support our vision and programme for the Biennale Danza 2023. Developing and bolstering young creative talent is central to both of our missions and their championing of Biennale College and our invited global artists in resources, advocacy, profile and particularly artistic collaboration is a special partnership that we relish. Thank-you for going beyond.

Our Biennale Danza 2023 Altered States invites you to change your internal chemistry, to shift your states of being through experiencing dance, dancers, choreographers, composers, and artists work designed to take you somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere deeper. As we open ourselves to noticing the sensory information our bodies feedback to us minute by minute, effecting 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 of our rational and more towards this felt-sense – our very own Altered States.