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Italian contemporary ballet

March 2006

From tarantula bites to Bach – Italian contemporary ballet

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Italy’s leading contemporary ballet company Aterballetto brings its ensemble of 20 dynamic and beautiful dancers to the Festival stage in their first New Zealand appearance.

Aterballetto's first visit to our shores brings a riveting triple-bill including choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti's signature works, Cantata and Omaggio a Bach and a small sensual and refined pas-de-trois work called Songs, set to a piece by one of Bigonzetti's favourite composers, Henry Purcell.

“Aterballetto is a superbly talented company of dancers who perform Mauro’s work with utter commitment and skill. The work is full of a zest for life and Italian flair,” says Carla van Zon, the Festival’s Artistic Director.

Aterballetto’s Artistic Director Mauro Bigonzetti has created a repertoire that brims with style, fusing an excitingly modern outlook to accomplished classical technique.

The contrasting works highlight his musicality, sensuality and mastery of different choreographic styles. In this fine young company the dancers are all soloists in their own right.

As well as many works for Aterballetto, Bigonzetti's choreography features in the repertoire of such leading ensembles as the Kirov Ballet, the English National Ballet and the New York City Ballet.

Cantata bursts with the passion, energy, colour and wild beauty of southern Italy. The tone is captured in the melodious notes and lyrics of traditional Neapolitan songs performed live by Gruppo Musicale Assurd, a band of four female singers who also play tambourine and concertina.

In this vibrant piece, Bigonzetti is evoking southern Italian street life – this is not the Italy of the tourist trail but a rough, sweaty place poised on the brink of brawling chaos. Wild-haired women, legs splayed, are grasped by macho men who hoist them like bundles of laundry. The piece also draws from traditional dances, namely the tarantella, the 17th-century folk dance which is named after the jitters that follow a tarantula bite. The dancers abandon themselves in movement that is free and impulsive and full of Mediterranean energy.

In commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death, Bigonzetti pays a personal tribute to the great composer with his moving work Omaggio a Bach (Hommage to Bach). This starkly beautiful interpretation of Bach's musical universe explores the geometric and structural perfection of Bach's compositions. Among the musical excerpts, carefully selected for their particular hues, there is an original interpretation by Canadian composer and musician Glenn Gould and a delicate version for accordion.

Founded in 1979 and based in the north eastern Italian city of Reggio Emilia, Aterballetto is the principal producing and touring dance company in Italy and also the first permanent ballet-producing organisation independent of an opera house in Italy. The company enjoys worldwide recognition for its productions performed in theatres and festivals throughout Europe, North America, South America, Africa and Asia.

Sponsored by Stagecoach Wellington, Italy’s leading contemporary ballet company Aterballetto, brings its expressive, innovative and unmistakably Italian dance to the Festival.

Further info on Mauro Bigonzetti: Born in Rome in 1960, Mauro Bigonzetti graduated from the School of the Teatro dell' Opera in Rome. He joined Aterballetto in 1982, performing as soloist, and began to develop his early choreographic talent. Since 1985, he has received various awards as a dancer and choreographer.

His works have been staged by the Teatro dell' Opera, Balletto di Toscana, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Ankara State Ballet, English National Ballet, Julio Bocca & Ballet Argentino, Stuttgart Ballet, Staatsoper Dresden, Ballet Gulbenkian and most recently the New York City Ballet and the City Ballet of Sao Paolo, Brazil. Since his appointment in 1998 as Aterballetto’s Artistic Director, Bigonzetti has been developing a distinctive Italian dance idiom for the company.

Praise for Aterballetto:
"vigorous, passionate, bold" Dance Magazine

Dates: Wed 15 Mar, 7.30pm, Thu 16, Fri 17 Mar, 8pm; Sat 18 Mar, 2 & 8pm,
Westpac St James Theatre, Wellington


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