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College Dance Biennale’s success turns Venice into a colorful and poetic living stage

by Marinella Guatterini

Venice is a natural theatrical stage, where you always feel like a performance is going on. Yet, in the last of the three Dance biennials he directed, Virgilio Sieni, a renowned Florentine choreographer and architect, managed to envisage a different, colorful and poetic Venice.
The event, which was held from June 25 through 28, entertained a 7,000-strong audience, with all theaters and performing spaces sold out.

In the third edition of the College Dance Biennale, organized by the Venice Biennale, Sieni chose internationally in-demand Italian choreographers, such as Michele Di Stefano, Alessandro Sciarroni, and Francesca Pennini, and foreign choreographers (including Emanuel Gat from Israel), asking them to set up seminars for dancers, teenagers and dance amateurs from all over the world.

He arranged for them to work “en plein air”, as well as in theaters and performance halls. He awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Flemish choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: an example of dedication to research on the relationship between dance and music.

Above all, he converted some forgotten locations, such as the hangar at the Squero San Trovaso, the only still existing gondola-building workshop.

Here, charming Annamaria Ajmone performed Buan, a solo show enhanced by passing or parked boats, and by the water quickly brushing against her body.

In hidden and quiet Campo Sant'Agnese, Claudia Castellucci's Esercitazioni ritmiche (rhythmic exercises) gave “dignity to the gesture,” as the title of this College Biennale reads, showing ten dancers in World War I greatcoats, still glowing with grace, albeit trapped in their costumes and by music.

In Campo Sant'Angelo, by contrast - the place itself a pure Goldoni scenography - Catalan choreographer Cesc Gelabert's show Dirty Hands and Beauty, ended with the dancers' hands, and not only their hands, smeared with the same mortar or “glue” covering Venice's palaces.

A trespasser even paid homage to a Bolero - re-named by Radhouane El Meddeb “Nous serons tous des étrangers.” With his hear stuck to his mobile phone, briefcase in hand, he walked into Campo San Travaso unaware of the music and the dancers, but absent-mindedly gave a meaning to that “we are all foreigners.”

Tourists and inhabitants of the Laguna alike will treasure the memories of a kind of magic that would have been impossible in traditional spaces, as well as of a skillful Biennale.