The occasion for the program was the presentation of ROCCO, a dance performance choreographed by Italian dancer Emio Greco and Dutch theater director Pieter C. Scholten of ICKamsterdam and loosely inspired by Luchino Visconti’s film Rocco and His Brothers. The performance of ROCCO at the Kasser was followed a few days later by a conversation with the choreographers and dancers, enriched by screening of clips from Visconti’s 1960 classic, and by live demonstrations of scenes from ROCCO
During his stay on campus, Emio Greco carved out some time for a conversation on his personal and artistic trajectory using Italy as a fil rouge. Emio was born to a peasant family in Brindisi in 1965 and received his first training as a dancer in his town. At the age of 21 he moved to the Côte d’Azur and then Paris to receive rigorous training and to be part of a vibrant scene, while also making a living as a cabaret dancer at night.
After two enriching experiences with Jan Fabre and Saburo Teshigawara in Belgium, Emio met Pieter C. Scholten with whom he forged a joint philosophy and practice of dance in Amsterdam, the city where he still lives (a recent assignment as co-director of the prestigious Marseille Theater may take him back to France). Italy in the course of this interview comes across as a land of origin and inspiration; only relatively recently has it been conceived of as a place of return, after years of distance. Italy is like a dancer interacting with Emio in a complex duet.
Rocco and His Brothers is a pivotal text to see the connections between boxing and dancing. It is also a film linked to my family history: my father was a boxer both because he liked it, and because in the gym he could find free food like chocolate, for example. He participated in a local league: at times he would win… a coffee pot – it was another world then. As I was preparing for the show ROCCO, I asked him to share some stories about techniques and training, but also personal experiences since he was a peasant who boxed on the side. He would go till the land in the morning, then train in the gym in the afternoon, and then fight in a match at night: when he talked about the physical pain he was not complaining like dancers often do for far lesser discomforts. His tale of ordinary physical endurance was staggering and moving.
The same for setting up residence in Italy: frankly I would love to buy a house in Sicily and in particular in Pantelleria, where I go during the summer. This is more of a personal dream because moving the company to Italy would not be possible anymore: at some point Sicily represented a mythic and unknown land that provided an ideal counterpoint to Amsterdam, and we were considering building an artistic bridge. This said, I would like to work in Sicily, if possible.
I am available, I feel ready: I can “allow myself” the South [concedermi il Sud]. Sicily holds a particular attraction for artists, even though right now it is experiencing real challenges. It is a land of magnificence historically, and until not long ago it went through an amazing renaissance: if it was possible then, it’s possible now. Indeed, I am interested in moving beyond this rhetorical cul-de-sac by which the South is said to have great potential that remains untapped – I am interested in action. Too often there is this representation of Italy as a place that has incomparable cultural richness and historical greatness to offer: yet, this view can be immobilizing, especially in the South.
At the same time, the South can offer ancient history and art, which I find more authentic: its archaic quality makes it different from the Renaissance, with its soft and genteel character. In the South you often have this leap from antiquity to modern, and this is what makes the South so special. Appreciation of art, culture, and history in the South does not follow the commonplace expectations. For me, for example, Catania is the most beautiful Italian city.