By Anna-Maria Vuosmala
The red carpet of the Gods had been cut by a materialistic cult, and while its followers were feasting, the masses were captivated by miracles, trading their freewill. A black army is moving forward to crucify Rome, twisting all the teachings of the first. We have no idea of how many impregnable rooms there are, darkness can be found even in the highest rituals. The statues observe like sentries the thin line between light and shadow.
R O M A is an inquiry on the charm of the city, on the reason why the city has been the center of a complex history, brutal and so inspiring for so much art and beauty. - Siciliano Contemporary Ballet
In his latest contemporary ballet piece "R O M A", Italian born and Berlin based choreographer Salvatore Siciliano takes the viewers on a journey through images of sarcasm infused with religion, art, and the history of Rome. The scene is set in one of Berlin's hidden gems - an old silent movie theater with a vaulted ceiling, creating a church like atmosphere for the dark story. When the lights go off, ballerinas dressed in white costumes strut in a fashion show like manner onto the stage and the enchanting dance performance begins. The audience is first taken into a Roman party and led through various scenes familiar from the Bible and Christian art, such as Jesus' resurrection, Maria's passion, the Last Supper and finally, crucifixion of art that is owned by the church. Beautifully crafted architectural costumes and a powerful techno soundtrack accompany the piece that leaves everyone in awe; the performance is definitely something Berlin has not seen before.
To get inside the story behind R O M A, we sat down with the creator himself, choreographer and artistic director Salavatore Siciliano, and talked about his latest contemporary ballet piece.
*all photographs by Underskin
The Brvtalist: How did you build the story for R O M A?
Salvatore Siciliano: I usually create a visual story with different images. There isn't really a continuous storyline in this performance, but I built the concept and aesthetics through the curated images that touch upon religion, art and history.
TB: What kind of images inspired you?
SS: All my pieces are inspired by pure darkness, not the bad kind but something that you feel very comfortable in. I also like to play with the themes of religion, rituals, sexuality, sarcasm, and art in my work, all of which were present R O M A as well. I often find my visual images and inspiration from movies, music, paintings, sensations, and fashion – they are all important sources for me.
TB: Religion was very heavily present in this piece. Does that have a personal connection to you?
SS: I grew up in southern Italy in very religious settings, but I am not religious anymore. Even though I’m now looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, this topic still comes out in my work because there is a deep connection to it from my past. With R O M A, I wanted to expose the evil part of the church, and as you might know, the church is much dirtier than it appears from the outside. Of course there are good elements in religion and the church too, and in this particular piece the good side was represented by a good Pope.
TB: The wardrobe and the soundtrack were really special and played a big part in this performance. How did you connect the costumes and the music to your choreography?
SS: I have two costume designers and a composer (Matresanch) working with me who create the wardrobe and music based on my instructions. I love fashion and my aesthetic for the costumes is usually very pure and minimal with a touch of elegance. The white costumes in Roma were inspired by the cardinals and represent the rich where as the black outfits were inspired by Jerusalem and represent the poor. When it comes to music, my composer and I share the same taste and it's important to have a good connection between movement and music. In this piece we used techno because it is very powerful and fits the strong images I used for R O M A.
TB: Was dancing something that was always in your blood and how did you get specifically into contemporary ballet?
SS: I started with Latin dance when I was a teenager. However, in school I studied arts and music, so the connection to the art world was always there. As the last art form, I went onto studying dance and this is where I found my calling. I started doing choreographies when I was still in the academy and got involved with different events, leading to my first dance piece in Athens, Greece. There I also begun to build my own dance group, and when I moved to Berlin, I started to create more performances. In Berlin the group became more solid and in 2015 I gave the name “Siciliano Contemporary Ballet” to the company. Now we are in a point where we have our own identity and we are developing our direction even further.
TB: How would you describe your style of creating a choreography?
SS: I like to build it very spontaneously and I have my own technique. I tend to mix sophisticated ballet lines with raw structures to make it more extreme. Since I'm very visual, expression is extremely important and this often comes out in the form of using facial expressions to support the choreography.
TB: What are the future plans for Siciliano Contemporary Ballet? Will you take
R O M A on a tour?
SS: At the moment we are not taking R O M A or other performances on a tour. However, our dance company is developing and growing, so we are planning to have continuous shows in the future. I create a new piece every three months and our next show will be presented here in Berlin in June. It's called “Viole Somewhere” and it’s based on the story of Alice in Wonderland.
You can catch Siciliano Contemporary Ballet in the Performing Arts Festival in Berlin during June 13-18th and the next official performance Viole Somewhere between June 29-30th in Berlin’s Pfefferberg Theater.