Marcos Morau and Alessandro Sciarroni at FOG Festival Milan | review

Words by Giordana Patumi.

Two faces of the same medal? Quite the contrary. I would rather say two gold medals of our generation that look at the body, choreographing the space in unique and sensitive ways. Each individual, each beautiful! On a warm Sunday, I attended two shows, different and poetic at the same time. Marcos Morau and Alessandro Sciarroni were invited with their performers at FOG Performing Arts Festival in Milan.

Marcos Morau’s Spanish company La Veronal returned to the FOG festival at the Triennale in Milan with Sonoma, a work inspired by the works and life of director Luis Buñuel, master of surrealist cinema. Sonoma is the title of the show by the brilliant Valencian director and choreographer (born in 1982), capable, like few others, of taking us on a journey into a surreal universe dense with theatricality, original visionariness, and fantastic frescoes that evoke cinematographic, literary, and pictorial climaxes. The title combines the Greek word soma (body) and the Latin word sonum (sound).

The scenic machine is perfect, in many details: nine extraordinary women performers: Lorena Nogal, Marina Rodríguez, Sau-Ching Wong, Ariadna Montfort, Núria Navarra, Àngela Boix, Laia Duran and Anna Hierro; almost on stage the entire time. Demarcated by three large luminous panels, the performers take us back to an archaic world where religion, folklore, mysticism, rituality, and transfigured reality are mixed with seductive songs and sounds from the folk tradition of geographical areas of the world – Greece, Russia, Mexico, Latin America – mixed with Wagnerian notes and electronic sounds. At first, they slide as fast as mechanical dolls in their ample skirts that cover their feet; they twirl like dervishes; they drag enormous trunks that they open and close as if to extract memories that materialise in the change of clothes; two of them wear enormous wrinkled faces of old women, lost and wandering until they are locked inside the box to bid farewell to life. As they slowly compose and decompose, they articulate crisp and intricate poses of hands and arms, of legs in the air, lying on the ground or kneeling, in rows with a domino effect, performed in unison or in fulminating single sequences. They are sharp, jerky gestures with a plastic quality of movement, of convulsive canons that slow down and resume.

There is a bucolic sequence in the calm and playful pause of the women against the backdrop of a painting lowered from above by Pieter Bruegel representing the Earthly Paradise, and a musical reference to Debussy’s Apres midi d’un faune. The entire performance is accompanied by a continuous and long list declaimed in French, poured out in chorus or by individual voices, in which everything man can imagine of the library of existence, of yesterday and today, is contemplated in those words taken from texts by El Conde de Torrefiel, Violeta Gil, with the Blessings of Carmina S. Belda and Celso Giménez.  Quotations (including musical ones) naturally follow one another and overlap, but what is most striking is the high tightness, the intense duration of a stage organisation that is ultimately simple, almost elementary, even un-choreographic. In the sense that the gesticulations, as well as the dense paths and entrances with outstanding costumes, are intensely repeated but only by spatial arrangement not by kinetic design. 

The sisterhood between body and sound has given us one of La Veronal’s best works. It is a delight for the senses and a voracious imaginative prodigy. It goes further than the current ethnic-based dance because its strength lies in its plasticity and in the investigation of the possibilities of delving into the depths of the collective imaginary to construct the confrontation between tradition and the avant-garde with a sense between folkloric weight and dream. Outstanding, which deserved the collective applause of the standing audience.

With our eyes and hearts filled, we left the theatre to take a short break, grab an espresso and get ready for the next experience…

After its debut last autumn during the festival d’Automne à Paris, DREAM, Alessandro Sciarroni’s new project, has arrived in Italy.

Six performers; Marta Ciappina, Matteo Ramponi, Elena Giannotti, Valerio Sirna, Edoardo Mozzanega, Pere Jou, inhabit a space for long enough to lose the notion of time. The pianist Davide Finotti in front of a piano breaks the silence by playing pieces of music from the international classical and contemporary repertoire as if he were dreaming. The audience is free to come and go as they please, to approach, to stand between the performers, to move away.

It is a moving installation rather than a performance, a site-sensitive work, imagined for spaces other than the theatre context, a complete work in terms of sound, light and body, to be seen and read. In DREAM, a relationship of proximity is established between spectator and performer that alters and transforms the state of the performers. In their proximity to the spectators, the performers give life to an empathic restitution made up of slow micro gestures borrowed from everyday life: they are figures that the spectator is allowed to visit as if they were inside a museum, works in the flesh like sleepwalking bodies with their feet planted in the here and now and at the same time in the elsewhere.

Through proximity, the presence of the spectator can alter the state of the performers who organise their field in relation to the gaze that passes through them. As time passes, the evolution of the dramaturgical path allows the possibility of encounter, of communicative strategies that elude the oneiric dimension. The passage of the spectators is the generator of the energy that drives them to stay and/or move, in a path that for each one remains individual, with the exception of the musical moments. Music is the only possible representation of the soul, which like the soul is immaterial and has no meaning. The music performed by the pianist – in a similar state to the other performers – urges them to listen to each other in an attempt to compose themselves in unison. Until a new silence.

Between 2019 and 2020, Alessandro Scarroni took an intimate and private approach to the practice of writing. The text, initially conceived as a script for a theatrical staging, slowly takes the form of a novel. The narrative, realistic and fictional at the same time, approaches a humanity that serenely accepts, almost with tenderness and calm joy, the failure of man’s dominion over nature and decides to voluntarily extinguish itself.

The audience leave the space with a copy of the books DREAM. Written by the choreographer himself. Sciarroni’s book, is poetic, touchy and well written, resembling, or better dialoguing with a Virgina Wolf kind of writing and homaging her work “The Waves”. Would have been more interesting to read it before?! No concrete answer, it’s not needed.