2020 should have been a special year for Oriente Occidente Dance Festival with the celebrations for our fortieth birthday, but Coronavirus forced us to reconsider our plans. As "Pilgrims of our time", overwhelmed by a thousand uncertainties, often hesitantly, together with the artists, we were obliged, to find a new aim for the art of dance. 

Firstly, it was impossible to complete the Silk Road project started three years ago as. Understandably, three companies from China, scheduled pre-pandemic, were unable to reach us. Secondly, however, we reflected on what concerned us, of how we have changed in this time of isolation. Do we still conceive of the body in the same way? Certainly, the fear of contagion, the lack of physical contact dictated by protective practices, a widespread uncertainty about the future and the feeling of fragility that has pervaded us, have inevitably changed our lives and, with them, the perception of our body. Now, more aware of our own organic finiteness, we can envisage the chasm and the scream for survival during the fall that ensues. This is exactly what Marcos Morau creates in his brand-new Sonoma, for La Veronal, the manifesto-show of this 40th edition: here the scream of man, forced into the rhythm of existence, becomes primitive. From the union of the words soma and sonum, Morau derives the title of his piece to remind us, through the 'sound of the body', that we are still alive and, above all, awake.

All our guest artists have modified and adapted their creations, conscious that this new “spaced Polis” requires a new take on artistic gesture: gesture that becomes political, of presence, existence and collective transformation. Re-emerging after a long time in isolation during which interpersonal relationships were limited to 'technological surrogates', and contact was often simply vocal from windows and balconies,   the artists, constrained by social distancing in the rehearsal room, placed the relationship between bodies at the very center of their research. The works of the Italian guest artists and co-produced by the Festival speak of this dimension: Genealogia_time specific by Luna Cenere at the Campana dei Caduti, Pastorale, by Daniele Ninarello, a minimalist dance of entropic bodies that never touch, but 'agree' with each other; Echos danze trasparenti by Cristina Kristal Rizzo in the  Mart Museum Giardino delle Statue on the action of 'metaphorical touching'; Azioni fuori posto in the courtyards of Rovereto condominiums with the public viewing from their balconies; Over the Rainbow by Matteo Levaggi and Umberto Chiodi a danced installation of bodies and sonorous objects at the Mart; Hyenas by Abbondanza/Bertoni with the unveiling of the double; the company MF/Maxime & Francesco through the concept of gravity and weight (C’est pas grave).

Then, there is are the solo pieces which are clearly more sustainable given the period, a form of representation suspended between existential awareness (Mal Pelo, The Mountain, the Truth & the Paradise) and ideological positions that lead to reflection (Arkadi Zaides, Talos). Or solitary epiphanies, grappling with a 'collective song' despite the plexiglas barriers in the Museo antropologico del danzatore designed by Michela Lucenti for her Balletto Civile. Revelations of the purest technique and the democratic nature of the presence on the stage of multiple dancers, each one engaged in their own solo dance, characterize  the Cunningham Centennial Solos evening, a tribute to the revolutionary American choreographer and thinker Merce Cunningham, organized by a former dancer of the company, Daniel Squire, in consultation with the Trust, depositary of the artist’s entire creative heritage and the diffusion of his repertoire.

It is looking that now replaces the lack of contact, a metaphor which is more meaningful today than ever, and it finds its artistic exemplification in the Peep Show set up in the Mart Square. A velvet structure with a retro atmosphere will host sixteen voyeurs/ spectators at a time in its sixteen cabins rom which they will   view the  performance on the central platform. Performing in the Peep Show are many of the Festival guests, alternating with recitals of Cinderella, a show of the Teatro La Ribalta, inspired by Perrault’s famous fairy tale. And who more than Cinderella will be able to sanitize and clean the Peep Show before each new performance?

In the current context, with the pandemic that has shown us how fragile we all are, the path taken a few years ago by the Festival on dance and disability continues with increasing conviction. At a time when often unheeded minorities, who even in these extreme times go unheard, are joining together to be recognized, Oriente Occidente, stages Gravity (and other attractions) by Un-Label, a group with European participation, which represents the culmination of the European Community funded ImPArt project. 

Acrobatic magic to entertain the whole family is staged this year by the very best of contemporary circus the French company Cirque Entre Nous, masters of the Chinese seesaw, and the very Italian Sonics (Osa), who   mesmerize with their trapeze convolutions and aerial ropes.

Last but certainly not least, is the worldwide debut of Centaur by Pontus Lidberg with his Danish Dance Theater, a co-production of the Festival with the Parisian Théâtre de Chaillot. It is a reflection on Artificial Intelligence as a partner in our lives and a new creative challenge to the construction of a show, an anticipation of the innovative research that Oriente Occidente will undertake in future editions: the investigation of the dialogue between art, new technologies and neurosciences.

Lanfranco Cis
artistic director