«Trying to say something which deserves to be listened to». Conversation with Roberto Castello
The title of your work, In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni , is very peculiar: it is a latin palindrome which means “We go wandering at night and are consumed by fire”; and, despite being enigmatic, it actually tells a lot about the show. How did this work come about?
Everything started from a walk which acts as a bourdon to the show, and the rest came somewhat by itself. We found the title – or rather, the title found us – when the work had a definite identity already, and it was clear that the discourse which was unfolding was centered on desire. Also that which finally became the soundtrack at the beginning was only a metronome for reharsal, just as the female voice which accompanies the show was introduced with a purely practical purpose. We did not have the slightest intention to keep them on the scene, but at some point we realised that they had become absolutely irreplaceable. In the end, the show took the radical format which characterises it without having been explicitly thought of this way by anyone.
You are the author of the show, which is created in collaboration with Mariano Nieddu, Stefano Questorio, Giselda Ranieri, Irene Russolillo and Ilenia Romano. How did you work for this choreography and to what extent is it a shared creation?
I believe that creation should be a pleasure and fun for all those who take part to it, and I find it normal and fair that those who go on stage bring somthing of their own to the work. I do not like mercenary relationships. Theatrical work is a collective work after all; many eyes see more things, and many heads think better than one. That of the artist-demiurge is an approach that I just don’t get. And it is not by chance that my name does not appear in that of the company.
What is the role of music, of costumes and of scenes in this show?
The music does not have a decorative, symbolic, or connotative role. It is totally anonymous; but at the same time, in its fierce radicalism, it is absolutely irreplaceable. The same goes for the costumes: basic, both for their ability to move the characters in an atemporal dimension, and for the way they interact with the lighting, the most spectacular component of In girum. In fact, we do not use theatre lights; but only a videoprojector which constantly re-designs the space of the action, following up on an intuition which dates back to the early 2000s but, due to the inavailability of the software and of the devices, it had never been possible to implement before.
As a dancer and a choreographer, you also worked in cinema, television, and in the world of art. How do you live these experiences and how do they affect your work?
I am, just like anyone, the result of all the experiences I have had, and I see artistic production as production of ideas. This is why the techical component, fundamental as it may be, is never at the center of my works, and I have no hesitation in using linguistic elements which have nothig to do with dance. It is something which is done normally in visual arts, and I believe there is no reason why this should not happen also in theatre. In the end, I do not care about whether a show is a “dance” show or not and to what extent (but what is dance, exactly, after all?); but only about whether it tries to say something which deserves to be heard.
In 1993 you established ALDES, an association of artists and cultural operators you have been coordinating since. Why is this experiment still so important, and what has changed in Italy over the last twenty years, in your opinion?
Any importance ALDES may have is probably due to the fact that it is based in a place where art is not interpreted as a technique or a profession, but as that sphere of human activities where people try to talk about reality using languages that are more complex and closer to things that the verbal one – to which is normally limited the conversation among strangers, and it is not by chance that I am using it now. A place where many people are guaranteed modest but decent working conditions, and such conditions are strictly equal for all – myself included. In short, a place where we try to live getting the sense of the things we do, but without being slaves to the dynamics of money.
You are considered an engaged and politically controversial choreographer. What is engagement for you today?
I believe that the engagement I am credited with consists mainly in my rigour in living up to my idea od democracy and citizenship, which imposes upon all – and indeed to all – the same rights and duties. Hence my tendency to have difficult relationships with those who, in my opinion, do not make proper use of the power they have.
What do you expect from this edition of NID Platform?
I expect that it creates a link with programmers in Countries where the circulation of shows is less difficult than in Italy.
(Torino 1960) Dancer, choreographer, teacher. Castello is probably the most ideologically engaged and politically controversial choreographer among the founders of Italian contemporary dance.
In the earliest ’80s, he dances with Carolyn Carlson’s Teatro Danza la Fenice where he creates his first choreography. In 1984 he’s one of the founders of Italian modern dance company Sosta Palmizi. In 1993 he founds his new ensemble, ALDES.Among the other prizes, he wins Ubu Prize in 1986 and 2003 (“Il Cortile” / “Il migliore dei mondi possibili”). Since 2008, with ALDES is carrying on the project “SPAM! rete per le arti contemporanee”, organizing residencies, several programming events, a multidisciplinary Season, workshops, public meetings and didactic activities.
During his career, he collaborates, among the others, with Peter Greenaway, Eugène Durif, Rai3 / Fabio Fazio e Roberto Saviano, Studio Azzurro.
Interview by Lisa Cadamuro, NID Platform staff
Translation by Chiara Andreola, NID Platform staff