‘Dancing Studies’, a cycle of performances

Lenio Kaklea
Close © Marc Domage
Wed, 02/15/2023 - 16:10

‘Dancing Studies’, a cycle of performances

‘Dancing Studies’ is a brand-new programme of performances designed and created by Palazzo Grassi - Punta della Dogana with the support of Bottega Veneta, held to mark the exhibition ‘Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies’.

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By Palazzo Grassi,

‘Dancing Studies’ is a brand-new programme of performances designed and created by Palazzo Grassi - Punta della Dogana with the support of Bottega Veneta, held to mark the exhibition ‘Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies’. This cycle of performances was presented from April to June 2022 and supported by the contributions of major international choreographers, invited by the curators of the exhibition - Carlos Basualdo and Caroline Bourgeois - to develop a tailor-made project that could dialogue with the artist’s work, specifically to be filmed for the production of a documentary being made by Sky Arte.
Just as the exhibition itself focuses on Bruce Nauman’s dedicated research into the body through the pioneering use of performance, so too do the choreographies seek to create a new idea of dialogue between art, dance, movement and the free expression of the body.


The idea for the ‘Dancing Studies’ came about during a conversation between Caroline Bourgeois and Philippe Parreno in the context of ‘Nauman Archive for the Future’, a series of online interviews in which artists discuss how Bruce Nauman’s work has influenced their artistic practice.


If “it is therefore the spectator who makes the work”, as Marcel Duchamp once posited, does an exhibition play out entirely within the space circumscribed by its physical display? Or is it, in fact, possible to conceive of its potential spatial and temporal extension through the perspective of the spectator or through the conversations and other artworks produced that the exhibition could stimulate? The premise of ‘Dancing Studies’ is therefore to extend the boundaries of the exhibition through a series of performances and installations that come to life throughout the city of Venice itself.


The performances are the brainchild of some of the most famous choreographers on the international scene: William Forsythe, Lenio Kaklea, Ralph Lemon and Pam Tanowitz. Each of them designed a performative action that then unfolded in various spaces of the Pinault Collection in Venice and at COSMO, in Campo San Cosmo on the island of Giudecca in Venice, with the contribution of sound designers and performers.


Launching the programme on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 April 2022 was American choreographer William Forsythe, winner of the Golden Lion the 2010 Biennale Danza, who curated and presented ‘MANUAL LABORS’, an event split into two parts across two venues: the Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana.

Visitors were welcomed in by two live performances in the Foyer of the Teatrino: ‘Both Sitting Duet’ by Jonathan Burrows, with music by Matteo Fargion and, subsequently, Thierry de Mey’s ‘Table Music’, performed by Les Percussions de Strasbourg; meanwhile, a selection from ‘52 Portraits’ by Francesca Fargion, Hugo Glendinning, Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion was screened in the auditorium.

At the same time, an action entitled ‘PARAPHRASE’ developed especially for the occasion by Forsythe took place in the rooms of Punta della Dogana.

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William Forsythe

Ad aprire il programma sabato 2 e domenica 3 aprile 2022 è stato il coreografo di origini americane, William Forsythe, Leone d’oro alla Biennale Danza nel 2010, che cura e presenta “MANUAL LABORS”, un intervento articolato in più parti su due sedi: il Teatrino di Palazzo Grassi e Punta della Dogana.

Due live performance hanno accolto il pubblico nel foyer del Teatrino “Both sitting Duet” di Jonathan Burrows su musiche di Matteo Fargion e, a seguire, “Table Music”di Thierry de Mey, eseguita da Les Percussions de Strasbourg, mentre in auditorium è proiettata una selezione dei “52 Portraits” di Francesca Fargion, Hugo Glendinning, Jonathan Burrows e Matteo Fargion.

Contestualmente, si sviluppa nelle sale di Punta della Dogana un’azione concepita da William Forsythe appositamente per questa occasione: “PARAPHRASE”.

On Friday 22 and Saturday 23 April 2022, the two preview days of the 2022 Venice Biennale Arte, the ‘Dancing Studies’ series continued with a contribution from Lenio Kaklea, marking her first return to Italy after receiving a prize from the Hermès Italia Foundation and the Triennale di Milano in 2020. The Greek dancer, choreographer and writer, who is based in Paris, performed in the atrium of Palazzo Grassi in a duet with pianist Orlando Baas, inspired by what is considered one of John Cage’s most significant pieces, ‘Sonatas and Interludes’. It is a cycle of twenty pieces for prepared piano intended to convey all the influence of Eastern philosophy and the pursuit of new sources of sound that characterised the composer’s output towards the end of the 1940s.

The choreographer focuses on one of the marginal aspects of the genesis of this cycle, namely the link between Cage and the African-American dancers Syvilla Fort and Pearl Primus, active in the same years, for whom he created sound compositions for prepared piano.

From Sunday 1 to Thursday 5 May 2022, Pam Tanowitz - best known for her abstract approach to classical and contemporary ideas on movement - presented a new dance installation entitled ‘Dancing the Studio’. Inspired by Bruce Nauman’s installation ‘Mapping the Studio’ and the artist’s particular emphasis on process over result, the performance erases the boundaries between the process and the finished piece: as such, the rehearsal and the performance become one and the same.

The American choreographer transformed the foyer of the Teatrino into a dance studio where she collaborated with six of her dancers (Christine Flores, Zachary Gonder, Lindsey Jones, Brian Lawson, Victor Lozano and Melissa Toogood), along with designer Jeremy Jacob, to create a choreography that grows and develops before the audience’s very eyes over the course of five days of work. Each day took the form of an intimate conversation between Pam Tanowitz and her dancers, consisting of a slow-paced labour of love that revealed the inner workings of her creative process.

The final part of the ‘Dancing Studies’ series was created and performed under the guidance of Ralph Lemon, from Thursday 16 to Sunday 19 June 2022 at COSMO, Campo San Cosmo, on the island of Giudecca.

The American choreographer, theorist and visual artist produced a piece comprising multiple fragments developed over the course of many years of research into movement, text and sound. Not a process geared towards reactivating Bruce Nauman’s performances, nor even emulating them, but rather a collection of actions with the power to evoke some of the works on display at Punta della Dogana, creating unprecedented connections framed within backdrop with a bold visual impact and a complex soundscape.