When Hamlet is calling: an interview with Teodora Castellucci/ Dewey Dell
— November 23, 2021

Next to ICK productions, ICK-Fest invites work from upcoming international artists. Dewey Dell is a dance collective of three siblings that started to make work to escape the nothingness of their everyday life in a small town in Italy. While it started out as a hobby of a bunch of bored teenagers, it grew into an interdisciplinary dance group that, when faced with a pandemic, felt brave enough to name their piece after the most iconic character of theatre history: Hamlet. 

Can you introduce yourself and Dewey Dell?

My name is Teodora Castellucci and I am the choreographer of the Italian dance group Dewey Dell. The company is directed by my sister Agata and me. we have a team that plays a fundamental role in the conception of new works. Firstly our brother Demetrio, musician and composer. Then there’s Guoda Jaruševicîūte for the costumes and Vito Matera for scenery and lighting.

When we started the company 15 years ago.  We were just teenagers getting easily bored in our small hometown, Cesena in Italy. We felt an urgency to create, although back then, it was just a hobby. Slowly over the years it became more serious and at one point we understood that we had to approach it with a professional attitude if we wanted to continue. 

Hamlet ©John Nguyen

Where did the name Dewey Dell come from? 

Dewey Dell is a character from the book As I lay dying by William Faulkner. It is an incredible book that I would recommend everyone to read. Dewey Dell is a girl who doesn’t speak much and communicates mainly with her eyes. We felt connected to this girl. Sight is her most important sense. Back then, we believed, and this has somehow changed over the years, that dance and theatre should first and foremost be entertainment, food for the eyes, and not trigger too much conceptual or mental work. We believed in dance and theatre merely for the eyes. We see sight as a form of knowledge. It is possible to learn with the eyes and not with words. Sometimes words can ruin or simplify things, while just looking at something can bring more layers and complexity. Besides that, we are siblings, so we know each other so well that words are not always necessary. 

How do you create together?

We work a lot with historical images as a source of inspiration. Like paintings, sculptures or artifacts. We believe that in the past there is a seed for the future. Our works do not evoke a projection of the past nor the future, they are something completely different, a modified reality. 

In the beginning, each of us starts to work separately around the idea of the piece: I work in silence and Demetrio works on the music without having a body in mind. When we come together, we try to combine the different outcomes which mostly leads to nice surprises. Things arise not because they were born together, but because they try to get along. This provokes interesting confrontations. Other times, there is a sound that we really like or a specific set design that we have in mind and these things then become the driving force. For each project, we try to find new ways of working to not get too comfortable with each other. Because we are brother and sisters, we don’t want to relax too much by working in one particular way.

Is there, because you are siblings, more space for vulnerability and confrontation? Characteristic about siblings is that they can argue like crazy and still love each other very much. 

That is exactly how we work. We can be brutally honest with each other, and this spares us a lot of time. With other collaborators, I can spend a day trying to find a compromise. With your siblings, you don’t have this. You just say, no I don’t like it. 

You will bring your performance Hamlet to Amsterdam. What inspired you in this very iconic theatre character.

When the virus arrived in Italy, we had just started the creation process. It was an intense time of fear, no one knew what was going on. With the first lockdown, we immediately understood that the premiere would be postponed by a year. At that moment, thinking was the only activity allowed. You couldn’t go to the studio. So, while I was overthinking the work, I realized that all the images we had gathered around this production, called out the name of Hamlet. 

Why was it calling to you?

I don’t know exactly. I am pretty sure it is about the fact that Hamlet is a family tragedy. And because of the relationship with his (ghost) father and his way of dealing with grief. It was a particular moment in the pandemic. We had friends who lost their parents and relatives. The relationship with death and the pain it caused was quite present. 

Hamlet is a very peculiar character. You cannot say that he is good or bad, he is full of contradictions. He is very theatrical but at the same time totally introverted. These opposite forces in him, prevent him to act. The inability of Hamlet to take any kind of action, is something very dear to me. I recognize this in my, and maybe even more in a slightly younger, generation. We grew up in a complete digitalized world with endless possibilities. Any step we make can be made different or in a better way. This paralyses us. 

It is also related to our story. Our father [Romeo Castellucci] works in the same field, but on a much larger scale. We are a sort of going in the same direction but without aiming for what he is doing. We have a very different aesthetic and vision. Still his presence in this small world of performing arts is so important, that it can be scary for us. 

You sometimes feel his ghost on your shoulder?

Yes probably. We never intended Hamlet to be a psychological interpretation of our situation, but somehow it made sense. It was only after we decided to give the work the title Hamlet that we dived deeper into the story. It didn’t change the main line of the performance, but it redefined some aspects. 

Before the pandemic we would never have been brave enough to jump into such a project, Hamlet being maybe the most important character in theatre history. But after the virus stopped all activity related to the performing arts, there was a need to be bold. If we are not brave, the possibility of not existing is just around the corner. 

And another source of inspiration are rites of passage from over the whole world. Can you tell something about that?

I am interested in a trance situation in which a person is both present and at the same time gives him/herself fully to another entity. My research focuses on possession, without copying the rites of any culture. The concept of having a person that is embodied by someone else, perfectly described the figure of Hamlet for me. He has been told to kill his uncle, but it is not his own choice. His father is taking control of him. 

With the dancers on stage, I was looking for that moment when you are still there but are also losing any kind of control over your body. To bring Hamlet to dance and to express everything through movement and gestures, the concept of possession was the key to the movement research. 

Hamlet ©John Nguyen

The vision of ICK is to work from, strengthen and to give space to the intuitive body. Can you relate to this concept? What is the intuition of the body to you?

I trust my body’s intuition more than any thinking or loud sentences. With the dancers, when we have to solve something, the intuition of the body always finds a solution. I trust body more than mind. In this performance especially. We were working on this idea of possession and any kind of words or thinking were breaking the magic. We needed to control the thinking rather than the body. 

On social media, there is a lot going on against body shaming, saying that a body is just a body and we must not pay so much attention to it. It is true that we shouldn’t allow any kind of judgment on other bodies, but it is not true that a body is just a body. Ancient Greek philosophy created the first distinction between mind and body, and Christianity detached the soul from it, but at the end of the day, we are all body. Our mind, brain, it is all body. I recently gave birth and that really made me understand that I am full body. The intuition completely takes over at that moment. 

What are your expectations for you trip to Amsterdam and the ICK-Fest?

First of all, to meet people and get different feedback. It is only the second time that we perform this piece. The premiere was in Berlin, where there is always the same crowd attending the dance festivals. We are looking forward to bringing it into a different context and hearing different opinions. 

— Article written by Ingrid van Schijndel


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