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Dance as the Poetic Nourishment of Man: An Interview with Virgilio Sieni

FLORENCE, ITALY -- Throughout a thirty-year long career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher, the Florence native Virgilio Sieni (as seen in photo 1) has established a unique style, made of poetically narrative and evocative sequences (deriving from his training in classic and contemporary dance in Europe, USA and Japan) and mixed up with a cutting-edge research on movement as a way to interpret the inner and outer world. In 1983 he founded the Parco Butterfly Company, which in 1992 became the multi award-winning Compagnia Virgilio Sieni, considered as one of the brightest examples in European contemporary dance. Some of his most relevant works are Lucretius' De Rerum Natura (with texts by philosopher Giorgio Agamben), Aristoteles' De anima (as seen in photos 2, 3 and 4) and Tristes Tropiques (after anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss' book). His work as a guest choreographer includes leading opera houses such as Teatro alla Scala in Milan and Rome's Teatro dell'Opera.

The Board of Directors of the Biennale di Venezia has recently appointed Virgilio Sieni as Director of the Dance Section for 2013-15; and thalo had a chance to sit down with him to discuss his work and his new postion.

thalo: Mr. Sieni, in dividing your work between pure dance and basic movement, you have also been dealing with experiences far away from specific styles and training.

Virgilio Sieni: Those experiences go hand in hand. My work is about using verbal indications to make non-trained bodies approach a new expressiveness, to move them closer to the gesture of the pure dance. This is a technical step indeed, which leads you deeper into the most subtle and unutterable aspects of the body and of its tactile structure, something that lies at a very spiritual level. I am interested in all the stages of life: from childhood to old age, including special conditions such as visual impairment. It's always about the dancer's capability to devote himself to another person, whose body the dancer has become aware of. This practice deals with an idea of displacement of one's body into someone else's body.

th: How can you detect the different potentialities of a body and their value as means of expression?

VS: The artist's path is full of continuous falls and interruptions, is composed of many levels of refinement and absorption within a personal artistic language. Working with children or elderly you can see the entire system of symbols you are used to, crumbling into pieces. What remains is – again – a life experience, the one that the body has lived through until that very moment, with no codes nor specific directions. A form of fragility and dyslexia are always ready to emerge, and this represents an additional enrichment for the spirit.

th: How are you planning to bring your past work into your new appointment as Director of La Biennale Danza?

VS: La Biennale is a fundamental authority not only for the production, but above all for the training, a field which has always been crucial for me [in 2007 Sieni founded the Accademia sull'arte del gesto, Ed.]. A wide range of training programs and a workshop calendar dedicated to the complete creative process, from the idea to the choreography, will be developed inviting guest professionals. There will be a series of opened atelier, always in tight contact with the other arts and the social sciences, making room also for those hybrid and more popular forms of dance: I will generally focus on the body and its discourse as the poetic nourishment of man.

The Biennale della Danza Festival directed by Viriglio Sieni will open in Venice in June 2013.

You can find more information and ongoing updates on the website:

Photo credits:

Photo 1 courtesy of Biennale di Venezia

Photos 2-4 courtesy of Akiko Miyake