Altrove & Memoirs of Africa

What Where When
+ Contemporary dance performance
+ Solo theatre performance
+ Workshop
+ Priyogopalsana Mini Auditorium, JNMDA
+ Yumpham Studio, Thongju

For our second pre-festival event, we are presenting Altrove by Alessandro Schiattarella & Memoirs of Africa by Kalakshetra. Alessandro is also conducting a workshop titled Inclusive Practice.

Altrove literally means elsewhere. Born in Italy but – in his own words – “artistically adopted” by Switzerland, Alessandro Schiattarella is creating a movement vocabulary that claims space by transcending personal biography. His strategy is to understand, explore and re-think his disability not as a disease with a series of symptoms, but as a specific “new” body with a potential of its own. In a series of movements that are both autobiographical and political, Altrove is infiltrating mainstream contemporary dance with disability. Schiattarella gives flesh to the invisibility of his experience (which for a long time was only a diagnosis with no visible marks on the body), making it palpable in an attempt to fight back stigma and discrimination. An extremely difficult and delicate topic to talk about, Schiattarella successfully conveys his positions through dance and lays the foundations of future research interests: new movement vocabularies, deconstruction of “normal” bodies, empowerment of disabled dancers. His work opens up space in which we can all move, despite our differences.

Yasen Vasilev in his review of Altrove

Alessandro is a dancer, choreographer and video-grapher based in Switzerland, and his research focuses on less-visible disability. Since the age of fifteen, he has been affected by Hirayama disease, a neuromuscular disability, which slowly reduced the strength in his hands; this didn’t stop him dancing in international and renowned dance companies such as: the Bejart Ballet Lausanne (2002-2008), the Ballet Du Grand Theatre de Geneve (2009), the Scapino Ballet Rotterdam (2011), the Konzerttheater Bern (2012) and Ballett Basel (2013-2014).

In the interregnum of history, when tensions accumulate and people wait for answer, Memoirs of Africa offers no solutions. Indeed, it does not even raise questions. What it does do is a certain faith in the resilience of human life, while acknowledging the brutality of our everyday existence.

Rustom Bharucha

As inspired by the poem, Africagee Wakhalda of the eminent Manipuri poet, L. Samarendra a short performance was created in 1985. One may claim it as physical poem or rather ethno oratorio as the materials and energy of the performance are deeply rooted in the culture of Manipur but objectively contemporary and universal.

The bullet you fired
Out of your inane thoughts,
Out of your fury
Burnt me,
I fell down as leaf dried
Melt with the earth crumbled among the dust.
But then I gestated with a plant anew
And reborn into a leaf green
Blazing bullet burnt my chest
I fell down on the earth
Into a dove I metamorphosed.
Birds from the sky carried my soul
Across Sahara, Nigeria of Africa
Across the sands of Arabia
Across Vietnam, France, Indochina
And Korea.
Renewed strength took birth in me
A new soul, A new body
My body
That was trampled by the boots of Hitler
That was crushed by the tanks of the Nazis
That was tortured in the Concentration Camps
My bones that was smashed and powdered!
But then I got resurrected
Only by the love of humanity.
My friend
The new rays of the sunyou are eclipsing
By your stinking rotten civilization
Which is obsolete
Which is unblended with the stream of the time.
From the top of the mountain high
I am looking
Waiting for the dark clouds to clear
Away from your heart.

Translated into English by Bobo Khuraijam
From the anthology Mamang Leikai Thambal Saatle(1974), of Laishram Samarendra.

We are grateful to Pro Helvetia for supporting this Pre-Festival Event.