How to create a unique dance performance? Italian dancer and choreographer Nicola Galli is passionate about arts and science. His newest piece is based on genome research and invites the audience to take part in creating the choreography. Genoma Scenico is part of the international program at the ICK-Fest.
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m Nicola, I am 31 years old and I am a contemporary dancer and choreographer from Italy. I started with artistic gymnastics when I was young and I like to think about my encounter with dance as a “happy accident”. I was very interested in the anatomy of the body and this research eventually brought me to physical theatre and contemporary dance. My work varies from choreography to performance and from body installations to graphics. There is always a strong relation between the human and nature in my work. This is because of my personal passion for geometry, astronomy and photography. It all has to do with proportions and details, which I also find in my work with the body. Since 2014, I am supported by TIR DANZA, a dance organization funded by the Italian Ministry.
In 2019 you were part of the ICK-Fest with MARS, the third episode in your series about the solar system. Now you are back with Genoma Scenico, a performance inspired by genome research. How does this interest in science translate into your work?
I remember with pleasure my first visit to the ICK-Fest. People were sitting very close to the stage, their faces lit up by the red light of Mars. I am very happy to come back to Amsterdam and present a new work. Science and astronomy are my passions. Genoma Scenico is an interactive dance performance, created in 2018, thanks to a collaboration with an Italian science museum based in Trento. This work was created in relation to a temporary exhibition focusing on the recent discoveries about the human genome. I was contacted as a choreographer to create a piece that could interpret genomics through dance.
Genoma Scenico is structured as a game in which people are engaged in the creation of short dance performances. There are 33 cards on a table representing a multitude of parameters that compose a performance. Just as each person has its own genetic code, the audience is invited to discover the uniqueness of the live performance selecting a combination of cards. These cards form a genomic string that contains all the information to guide the dancers to dance a short performance.
So, the audience in Amsterdam will get a unique performance
Yes, everyone can create a short performance selecting the cards, because with this device you can create more than 70.000 different combinations. For us as dancers, it is impossible to have everything planned and remembered. During the artistic process we tried to rehearse what each card meant and tried some combinations, but we put our fate in the hands of the audience. I am interested in creating an artistic possibility for a real human exchange with the audience. The spectators can, for a moment, experience the role of author and choreographer. They can organize bodies in space and time in relation to music and light. It is an opportunity for me to use this playful set-up to introduce people to both genomics and contemporary dance.
In Amsterdam you will include two ICK NEXT dancers in the work. How will you prepare them if there is no fixed choreography?
It is the very first time that I will re-stage the work so I am very curious to discover how the dancers will approach this. I have five days to work with them and get them to be confident with the methodology. Performing this piece creates a lot of adrenaline. There is no score to follow, you have to get inspired by the cards.
To get back to your fascination for science: what do you think that art can learn from science and the other way around?
I think that we can learn a lot from both. Firstly, science offers the possibility of getting to know the world we inhabit, as well as getting in contact with the unknown. But art does exactly the same. It gives us a way to understand the world around us and ourselves. We can imagine and discover different worlds where questions matter more than simple answers. It is the nature of both art and science to make us wonder.
Can you tell us a bit more about P A N O R A MA, your short film that will be shown at the ICK-Fest?
P A N O R A M A was born during the first lockdown. All the supported artists of TIR DANZA were engaged to make a short video in collaboration with Davide De Lillis, a director and visual artist. We could not go out, so the whole film was shot in my living room which was transformed into a set. We had to work with what we had, since shops were also closed. In my garage, I still had a white cube, so this became the starting point for the video. We worked remotely eight days on the recording and after that many hours on the edit, sharing our screens during the calls. That left us with 6 minutes of footage which is now the film P A N O R A M A.
The vision of ICK stems from giving space to the intuitive body, can you relate to this? Or what is the intuition of the body for you?
For me, the body is pure intuition. We record our experience not only in our head, but also in our muscles. Also, when we dance, or look at dance, we follow our intuition. The body is our most intelligent tool to experience and record the world. With Genoma Scenico, we train ourselves as dancers to read the cards and interpret what they mean. At the same time, the audience influences the artistic outcome. In the end, the body, mind and artistic outcome are based on intuition.
What do you expect from your visit to Amsterdam and ICK-Fest?
I am very excited to get back to Amsterdam and continue the dialogue with ICK, the audience and to work with two dancers of ICK NEXT. I am looking forward to this trip and am very curious to see how the Amsterdam audience will approach the cards.