Scrolling through the pages of history of Civitanova Danza, a festival born in 1994 - at first, only summer performances, then, as the current and sagacious artistic director Gilberto Santini wanted, those spread over almost every month of the year (Civitanova Danza All Year Round) – and you’ll be re-reading our history as dance spectators. What was seen at the beautiful theaters which the Municipality put in Festival’s hands – the High Town venue (the precious Annibal Caro), the Downtown area (the large Rossini auditorium), or the smaller waterfront dance space (Enrico Cecchetti), and also the various open-air arenas which were used above all in the first years of the exhibitions and in the warm months – is the synthesis of making the best choices then available, at times even taking chances on unknown artistic tendencies, involving the leading names in the international and national landscape that time has either confirmed , down-sized or even made to disappear.

It is certain that the long love story between the welcoming town of the Marche and the art of Terpsichore arose from the initial, enthusiastic, discovery of its link with Enrico Cecchetti. A dancer nick-named "Cyclone", above all an illustrious maître de ballet, teacher and theorist, Cecchetti had his origins in the Marche region. He was born, seemingly by chance, in a dressing room of the Apollo Theater in Rome on 21 June 1850, and it was also in a theater that he was destined to die, taken ill during a dance lesson at Teatro alla Scala, and he died while being transported home, on 21 November 1928. During his career, he often returned to Civitanova Marche, in the home of his parents, brothers and relatives: all dancers. In search of peace and quiet during the summer season, he left St. Petersburg, Paris or, Milan, and the various venues or stages of his didactic activity. His teaching method, lively, vigorous, jumps and swirling pirouettes, so recognized and adopted in all the world, especially so by the various dance companies that still bear his name, was bestowed at the time with rigor and genius to several Italian dancers who made their fortune in Russia. And too, there were stars like Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinskij of the Imperial Theaters of St. Petersburg, where Cecchetti remained from 1887 to 1910, that is until Sergej Djagilev wanted him in his Parisian Ballets Russes. Returning to Teatro alla Scala, his last talent discovery was Cia Fornaroli, future wife of Walter Toscanini, the son of the famous conductor, Arturo. It should also be remembered that in 1872, at twenty-two, Cecchetti danced with his father and sister, Pia, at the inauguration of the Annibal Caro in Civitanova Alta.

Here, as a last gift of the inaugural marathon (three shows) of this year’s 2019 Festival, we saw a pièce by Riccardo Buscarini, somehow and surprisingly also linked to Cecchetti. The title, Suite Escape, allows one to imagine the idea of ‘an escape’, but from whom and from what we can understand only by following the route of famous pas de deux taken from the academic repertoire of Buscarini from Piacenza (born in 1985) and surgically analyzed and even transfigured in the original language by this nomad artist. Trained first in his Emilian city, then in the capital of the United Kingdom (he graduated from the London Contemporary Dance School in 2009), the thirty-four-year-old choreographer is much loved in London for his varied and award-winning research projects, also between England, China and Taiwan , as well as Austria, Croatia, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and Russia. Here, Buscarini has recently obtained, thanks to Silk, created for the Russian Chelyabinsk Contemporary Dance Theater in Olga Pona, a double nomination as ‘Best Production’ and ‘Best Choreographer’ of the ‘Golden Mask’, the equivalent prize of our ‘David of Donatello’. There are not many opportunities to see him in Italy, even if he won a prize in Padua, creating a piece for the Balletto di Toscana Junior, and went to the Teatro Pim Off in Milan. In that fascinating bomboniera of the Annibal Caro, after a preview in Bari, home of the Equilibrio Dinamico Dance Company with whom he choreographed Suite Escape, Buscarini offered us a national debut, also the result of a residence in Civitanova Casa della Danza, another structure made available to guest artists to create or complete their pieces.

On the enclosed stage, decorated only with a carpet in the shape of a white diamond, which then becomes square, four dancers - two women and two men - follow the piano transformations of the most famous pas de deux of the Nutcracker, the famous Adagio from the second act, and the seductive pas de deux of the Black Swan from Swan Lake, which is placed next to the pas de deux of the Blue Birds of Sleeping Beauty, with the hypothetical Aurora who, in the Adagio della Rosa, escapes from her four suitors. All the music selected here is by Pëtr I’Ilič Čajkovskij, but reworked by Benedetto Boccuzzi, seated at his piano, close to the audience. The carefully delineated musical remake of the pianist helps us to understand how Buscarini not only looks for the essence of the famous late-Romantic duets chosen, but pursues his own choreographic design. He fuses four bodies, one inside the other; letting them be carried up and away, only then to fall to the ground; he wants their hands to intertwine, looking for impossible ‘loves’. Yet, the meetings take place, perhaps some in full light, while in the background others struggle in the shadows, in search of mutual support. Equilibrium, then lopsidedness, speed, feminine manège, and two dancers rolling on the ground, who suddenly seem to be the fusion of the White and the Black Swan, in a single heart-broken body, no longer in tutus or pointe shoes. The costumes are casual dress, or sought out in an approximate manner for the male dancers: one burgundy jump-suit, a crimson dress, two turbans, and for one of the male dancers, a black suit, worn shirtless. They are almost modern clothes, but suitable for wide body openings on the ground, or for small, spectacular flying acrobatics.

Every movement is far from classical ballet, or only at times near to it, but intensely treated, as would be a physical embroidery without respite, often tangled wherein rejection and attraction play an important part in the whole. Guessed right were the two digressions: Giselle, a Romantic ballet wherein the music by Adolphe Adam was reworked, which passes by in little more than a moment in ghostly light is danced by a man, joined by his partner in black, and by a woman who leaves the stage with great leaps. Don Quixote (music by Ludwig Minkus) is restored in jazzy intoxication, as befitted to its brilliant dance-like comedy, blazing in runs and chases. And then again, Sleeping Beauty, the choreographer’s slow walking, diagonal pas de quatre, then a quick detachment to run along the entire perimeter of the stage, all a prelude to the inquisitorial ending. With a male solo and a very strong light thrown into the faces of the spectators, the choreographer Buscarini seems to be saying that it is up to us to think or rethink about this Suite Escape, which could also be so sweet, but in effect ‘sweet’ only in certain moments (the onomatopoeic ‘suite’ for ‘sweet’), since for the rest, he talks about a humanity struggling to stay together, let alone in pairs ... and escaping is never a winning strategy. Choreographically, all is penetrating and beautiful.

In the previous show, again a vague homage to Cecchetti, and a very curious one at that: on the stage of the Teatro Rossini, we have the Italian premiere of Voyager of the National Dance Company of Malta. Its choreographer and director, the Italian Paolo Mangiola, was inspired by the famous astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan. In 1977, he had the idea of sending a time capsule into space to provide data on the diversity of sounds, feelings, thoughts of the Earth, then to address other possible forms of life. Named the Voyager Golden Record, the capsule is a disc for a gold-plated turntable, inserted into the two space probers of the ‘Voyager Program’. Sagan himself selected the contents of the recordings that the probe carried away: a variety of 115 images, and a large number of natural sounds – waves, wind, thunder and sounds produced by animals, such as birds and whales. With these was inserted a musical selection coming from different cultures and eras: from Akkadian, spoken by the Assyrians about 5,000 years ago, up to Wu, a dialect currently adopted in China.

The outcome of the Voyager mission is still unknown, and who knows if it will ever come into contact with our possible alien companions living in the universe. Nevertheless, the choreographer Mangiola, a child of the time of space exploration, continued to cultivate the dream of communicating the history of our world to other forms of extra-terrestrial life. Here then, his abstract ballet, not distant from the danse d'école, in which the nine bravi interpreters, Maltese and not, immerse themselves in a very refined habitat, immediately becoming orange as the dancers' slips, in continuous dynamic movement against a backdrop streaked with strips of iridescent color. Groups alternate with solos; everyone's arms are often thrown into the air, and the dancers also fly up; the dance is wrapped in various sounds, of nature and other, at times like street noises, but there is also the wind, and those different languages introduced in his Voyager Golden Record by Sagan. The richness of the choreography, not always as astonishing as its inspirational source, is due to the author's extensive curriculum. In the early years of the 2000’s, Mangiola danced for some of the major national and international companies (Aterballetto, Tanztheater Nürnberg and WM|Random Dance), and was heavily influenced by bouncy dancing, but with the virtuoso peaks by Wayne McGregor, and the influence is still palpable in Voyager. No wonder he was fortunate while in London (Royal Ballet, The Place) but also in Germany and Norway and, among others, at the University of Malta, the bridge leading to his appointment in 2017 as the director of ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble, the Maltese national contemporary dance company, and at only 38 years old. So beautiful is the idea of this Voyager, and its elegant layout, which at a certain point has a huge golden microphone drop down from above - the transfigured Voyager Golden Record – only to have it disappear as the dancers in reddish slips are dragged away by the wind, through smoke and fog.

Last, but not least, the piece Ball by Guilherme Miotto, a Brazilian based in Holland, and winner of several awards despite having made his debut as a choreographer in 2010. Here, he delegates his work, or rather shares it with the alluring performer more than dancer, Nasser El Jackson. A lover of soccer to the point of making it a form of acrobatic dependence, Nasser surprised Miotto as being “a wizard of street soccer", by creating this very elaborate solo piece for him. In fact, Ball does not appear as a true piece for solo dancer, but rather a trio – with a very sexy Nasser, the ball and the space, which he uses with ease and without banality, almost in silence, broken by the often deliberately imperceptible music of Joel Ryal. As strange as it may seem, we are not entirely distant from the focus of a festival that this year, even with this sporting aperitif mounted at the Cecchetti Theater. The theme of swimming against the tide, when appropriate, focused precisely on choreographic thinking, even in performative works. Thus, among the other events of the Festival, now in its XXVI edition, we find Io, Don Chisciotte by Fabrizio Monteverde, a well-known freelance choreographer who created his synthesized version of Cervantes' masterpiece for the Ballet of Rome, but also Sergei Polunin. With the ballet Sacré, made up of Fraudulent Smile by Ross Freddy Ray and The Rite of Spring with the music of Igor' Stravinskij and the choreography of Yuka Oishi, the dancer Polunin (already a star guest of Civitanova Danza in 2008),) would like to narrate the tragic figure of the legendary dancer Vaslav Nijinskij. But perhaps this didn’t come across as such: there was some confusion and weak spots, albeit invisible to his fans. The power of the media.

With his excellent academic technique, the Ukrainian Polunin became a Principal Dancer at the Royal Ballet of London at just 19. Although plagued by a troubled life as he narrated in Dancer, a documentary film, he nevertheless became a social phenomenon. He has been moving the masses since his flash of genius interpretation of Hozier's song, Take Me to The Church in 2015, performing almost naked and tattooed, all captured in a video made by visual artist Davide Lachapelle, with the choreography by Jade Hale-Christofi. Twenty-seven million clicks! A record to be sure, yet here we still prefer the less obvious complexity of Metamorphosis by Virgilio Sieni and his company, of which we will write when touching upon Tanz Bozen. Meanwhile, Civitanova Danza 2019 continues until August 10 with an educational campus led by illustrious teachers from the Ballet of the Teatro alla Scala, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Ballet Preljocaj, and with Fabrizio Monteverde. The classes have been very popular for years at the so-called Civitanova Danza per Domani, and they are the breeding ground for new talents in the art of academic Terpsicore, as well as with the modern-contemporary style. Long live this festival, then, touched again by the spirit of Cecchetti. Best wishes for its multiplicity of activities run by Amat, a powerful circuit of production operative year round.