How to learn to look at the stars

To oppose the commonplace that defines contemporary dance as difficult to read, and therefore to face the production and programming difficulties inherent in any artistic research project open to the new, gruppo nanou launched the project in 2017 Alphabet: not a show, rather a container within which various but systematic forms of development coexist.

“This experiment attempts to grasp evidence in the choreographic composition and in the reason why bodies, including sound and light, move in space and generate activity. The evidence has nothing to do with the caption: the evidence, as it is understood here, is the ability to remove questions by looking for that reason that does not ask questions, even if not exactly decipherable “. Thus stated the voice of Marco Valerio Amico in the Surrender, Alphabet project, at Teatri di Vetro[1], just before the bodies of Carolina Amoretti, Sissj Bassani, Rhuena Bracci and Marco Maretti began to move on the map traced with the duct tape on stage. And he went on: “An example that I often quote is the enchantment of star gazing. I am not a physicist, I cannot decipher the exact reason why the sky is so composed and so in motion, yet I read it for its wonder, for its accuracy. So I want to read the choreography, which, although mysterious, becomes evident for its reasons that reside in a severe device, capable of generating spaces “.

The Surrender that gives its name to that opening of the project is understood as “verification of the thesis. The application of choreographic compositional rules to achieve the yield determined by the chosen combination “.[2] A scientific approach, in which the variables in the field are eliminated to objectively verify the correctness of the choreographic composition, seems to be the basis of Alphabet: a multi-year challenge that establishes not the elements of audience development, audience engagement or participation, but rather the alphabet and vocabulary of one’s own choreographic language, necessary to define the clarity of one’s utterances and to allow a transparent dialogue with the public. Looking at the work of the group [3], a discourse similar to Alphabet seems to have always been present in the compositional methodology of the company, even if in a not so analytical way: Alphabet tries to create a system, and then returns to the exploration of a theme [ 4]. It is therefore defined as an experimentation of new ways of accessing the vision that starts, instead of from the public, from an analysis of one’s previous work.

Alphabet: Resa - ph. © Margherita Masè - Dancer: Carolina Amoretti

Alphabet – © Margherita Masè – Dancer: Carolina Amoretti

The beginnings

Nanou was officially born in 2004 after the meetings between Marco Valerio Amico, Rhuena Bracci and Roberto Rettura. The first studied at the Paolo Grassi school in Milan, Rhuena is a gymnast and dancer, Roberto a sound engineer and musician, all of whom are active in the independent italian scene. Participation in the GD’A – Giovani Danzaautori of ‘Emilia-Romagna competition (one of the opportunities offered by the Cantieri Association, with the aim of developing an original culture on dance and contemporary research [5]), is the first shared project. The first step involved the presentation of a project idea in an urban version, inside a showcase: so the group proposed, in 2004, a first fragment of Namoro, winner of the 2004-2005 edition of the competition.

In the fifteen years of the company’s life[6], work lines have been drawn that start from very precise research indications, in a logic of layering of information that allows to identify the different elements (such as movement, music, light, color) in their independence: precisely because they are related they acquire a different emotional value[7].

The relationship with word, which is superimposed on the stage action not as a caption but as a resonance, is already present in the first work and remains to indicate a counterpoint capable of broadening (and clarifying) the meaning of what is seen on stage. Common to the performances of the company is a fragmentation that moves away from narration to explore an abstract territory: starting from annotations, music, photographs, connections are created that determine a research project that is then divided into the work in the hall. There is no desire to have ideas recognized, which remain as stimuli and not quotes. As Lorenzo Donati writes, “Born and raised in an entertainment society updated to Berlusconi’s thirty years, Nanou seem to be wary of the linearity of the story, they do not trust entertainment and ask the viewer to choose, to take charge of the proposed ‘hooks’ and to carry out the narration independently as if faced with the multiplicity of evasions of a Bacon painting. “[8]

Just as the references are confused in the work, the movement information never starts with the intention of creating a figure intended as a narrative or symbolic element to be deciphered: they are “sporting” indications that trigger a system. They are actions proposed to be applied by dancers with their own body, and consequently open: their enunciation offers tools to be able to read or observe them.

As in any creative project aimed at seeking new artistic landscapes, clarity is always evident at the end of the process: the latter therefore acquires great importance in the group’s shows. In a similar work of exploration of the contemporary, questions related to his own doing soon appeared for Nanou, guided by a constant need for comparison with the interlocutor (spectator, artist, operator or professional of other disciplines).


The openness to sharing processes therefore seems to be inherent in the company’s identity: even before the need to question one’s own artistic work through comparison led to the birth of Alphabet, other events have responded to this need. In 2008, by the will of Nanou, Aksè was born, a creative residence in which several companies share the same space for rehearsals, with an openness to confrontation but without the need to produce any performative results. The project developed as a four-year program of meetings between artists accompanied and supported by L’Arboreto Teatro Dimora di Mondaino and Centrale Fies di Dro, in search of a dialogue between languages and methodologies that would overcome the need to recognize themselves in a scenic rendering. As Mario Petruziello states in the introduction to the publication describing the project, “I believe that the thinking on which Aksè is based has to do with theater, but in a problematic way. If we want to consider this term according to its literal sense, it should be noted that the theater is structured on a relationship, that between performer and audience, which Aksè does not foresee, given that in its unwritten statute it excludes in a constitutive way the opening to the spectator. external to come true, instead, in a deep relationship between companies. “[9]

One of the key elements of the Aksè project is time: the luxury of taking the time not allowed by the production systems, and rather allowing oneself to have unproductive moments related to the exploration of the error rather than the achievement of a result. In this context, the paths of companies such as Santasangre, Muta Imago, CollettivO CineticO, City di Ebla, Teatrp Sotterraneo, and many others met.

From this need for confrontation we recognize an attention to the interlocutor that becomes an attempt at profound dialogue with the other, and therefore with the viewer: “the approach to dialogue, to confrontation, before arriving at the” show “object, which is the synthesis of a process, must have a starting question: who am I talking to? “[10]

In asking this question, two elements were at the center of the company’s artistic work: the exploration of a mode of fruition that moved away from the purely theatrical ones, and that once again favored dialogue in an inhabited, and unobserved, space of relationship. frontally; and the search for clarity, the identification of elements in a very rigid grid of rules, from which to allow oneself to make mistakes.

Distraction: non-theatrical spaces and times

A form of articulation of the first trend is the Strictly confidential project: a museum device, an open site specific project, born in 2013. Far from the idea of entertainment, the work allows the viewer the freedom to move and take breaks exactly as it happens in front of a painting.

“The idea of the project stems from the desire to accompany the viewer within the universe of the artistic path of the nanou group, consisting of emotional effects and cultural references, within the work that precedes the disclosure of the work in the form of a product business suit. […] It is the prototype of a choreographic museum work: the guest / spectator is invited to choose his fruition time by moving freely, choosing his path with the possibility of retracing his steps to continue to get lost in his desire of visitor. “[11]

Within the concept of strictly confidential we find a new way of conceiving time and space and, in other words, the enjoyment of the viewer. A project that has become a device to be deployed: going beyond the theatrical conventions of a defined space and time, without accompanying the viewer, one enters an open habitat.

“For this project I need to leave the theatrical space to allow you to walk among the works, as in a museum space. It is precisely to the museum that I turn my gaze because the works allow themselves to be looked at, they allow a relationship in which abandonment, moving beyond, is contemplated, as much as the chatter that is created between those who observe together. I need to leave the space of the audience that holds the people seated to access the opportunity to meet the other who observes with me in that instant without the assigned seat but for sharing attractions. I am talking about the opportunity to build an impromptu community in which each individual is free to choose. I offer the opportunity of disorder so that everyone can find their exact and mobile place. I need to let the beginning and the end be dictated by a personal choice. All that remains is the opening time and the closing time of the place, the access time. The body, like the painting, abandons the rhythm, abandons the need to reflect itself in the beholder. “[12]

A similar concept is what guides the use of space in the notes accompanying the birth of the Alphabet project: “[…] The areas free from geometric shapes will determine the way, the possible path for the viewer. The eye will take some time to see the dancers and their activity as it will first get lost in the vastness. The viewer is free to move in the space just as he is free to enter and exit. The time of use is left to the viewer as well as the viewing point. […] A bar is located at the entrance to the space. “[13]

To clarify

gruppo nanou’s work recognizes the need for research into practice guided by clarity, method, rules: an obsession capable of finding the key to access a performance. Marco Valerio Amico declares himself opposed to the posters but admits “the need to be obvious” with a Manifesto for a doable dance divided into three elements (body, space, time) and, for each of them, numerous points whose reading order can be changed at any time.[14]

Alongside a practice that, starting from the references of minimalist art, experiments with new relationships determined by the clarity of the device and the grammar of movement, the tendency to find unequivocal rules finds its extreme consequences in the Alphabet project.

A fundamental question about the viewer leaves room for a questioning of one’s work: who am I talking to? Does my interlocutor have the tools to understand my language?

Instead of starting from the dramatic data (as happens in the creation of a show), every narrative element is eliminated to work on pure movement, on the repetition of even simple and frustrating exercises, with very rigid rules (the elementary movements of Calico Mingling by Lucinda Childs from 1973, where in a shot from above the dancers look like pawns on a chessboard, which make simple movements a choreographed practice of crossing space).

A constant counterpoint is thus recognized between the need to affirm an unequivocal, almost scientific score, and a search for the unpredictable, which continually points forward and which recognizes the variables of creation, vision and interpretation. An example of this relationship is the use of the map, used as a module and grid, as an element to orient oneself, within which both the interpreter and the spectator’s gaze move.[15]

In this way an almost scientific analysis is activated in the observation of the mechanism: the compositional process thus becomes the development of a code of dialogue with the public.

  1. The show is a relationship with the spectator; 2. Reconfigure the concept of spectator; 3. Reconfigure the viewer; 4. Carefully reread the previous two points. They are not repetitions. They do not contain errors; 5. The spectator is invited; 6. Accepting the invitation means: getting ready for an exploratory activity, therefore one of wonder; 7. Accepting the invitation is: accepting the disorientation intended as a modification, a shift forward in customs, to welcome a different world, a point of view not contemplated, a political organization; 8. The invitation is: to accept the discomfort presupposed in disorientation as a new ease because it is not yet known; 9. If discomfort persists, consult your doctor; 10. The action and the gaze assume the presumption of coinciding so as to be exactly in sync with the wonder of the event.[16]

Alphabet: video movement - Space Rossellini ATCL, Rome

Alphabet - © gruppo nanou

[1] Surrender Alphabet, Teatro India, Roma, December 17 2018

[2] From the hall program of Teatri di vetro, 2018

[3] cfr. Iperscene. Città di Ebla, Cosmesi, gruppo nanou, Ooffouro, Santasangre, a cura di Mauro Petruzziello, ed. Editoria & Spettacolo 2007

[4] The company's latest work, We want miles in a silent way(2019) is the first experiment following this clarification of the method: how to go back to working on an imaginary (in this case Miles Davis) with the same lucidity and clarity? How to go from good / bad judgment to working / not working? (cfr. Interview with Marco Valerio Amico, infra)

[5] cfr Cantieri extralarge. Quindici anni di danza d'autore in Italia, Editoria & Spettacolo

[6] Here we recall the main works by the group, after Namoro (2005): Motel project (2008-2010); Sport (2011); Dancing Hall project(2012-2013); J.D. project (2014-2017).

[7] cfr Interview, infra

[8] Lorenzo Donati, Al lato della rappresentazione. I paesaggi performativi di gruppo nanou, in “Arabeschi”, n. 6, July-December 2015, pp. 16-28 [15 luglio 2019]

[9] Mauro Petruzziello (curated by), Aksè. Vocabolario per una comunità teatrale, L'Arboreto Edizioni, Mondaino 2012.

[10] Marco Valerio Amico, Che confusione, sarà perché ti amo, in Stratagemmi - Prospettive Teatrali, n. 37 / Guardando I Processi Creativi, 2018

[11] From the presentation text of the performance

[12] Marco Valerio Amico, Una nuova scommessa strettamente confidenziale, in Roberta Nicolai, Ludovica Marinucci (a cura di), PITTI - Piccoli testi (non solo) teorici, TriangoloScalenoTeatro, ebook 2014.

[13] Marco Valerio Amico, Alphabet: lo spazio che desidero, in “Edel: per una poetica degli spazi”, anno 5, numero 7, ottobre 2017

[14] Marco Valerio Amico, Manifesto per una danza possibile, Artribune, 4 maggio 2017 [15 luglio 2019]: “Lightly, I don't believe in Manifesto. Manifestos stare at something that should keep moving forward. Yet I feel the need to fix in order to leave behind, to make evident what is now assumed (or at least it should be). I hope they are capable of generating an unexpected dialogue because, no matter how light this exercise is, there are things that need to be clearly stated ”.

[15] cfr. Vittorio Fiore, Alphabet by Gruppo Nanou. Towards the evidence of a creative process, in Arabeschi n. 13, [15 luglio 2019]: "The need for a study that folds in on itself, for a stage space reduced to a 'map' which, remaining visible even after production, makes the reference that conditioned the choreographic elaboration legible to the viewer, brings us back to the artistic conditions in which the process replaces the result: showing creative elaboration is more important than performance ”.

[16] Marco Valerio Amico, La coreografia è politica. Alphabet: manifesto per una danza possibile, in Clemente Tafuri, David Beronio, Teatro Akropolis. Testimonianze ricerca azioni, Vol. 9, Genova, Akropolislibri, 2018, pp. 85-87.

Francesca Serrazanetti, Audience in dance. Community, Memories, Devices. Scalpendi Editore (2019)

Francesca Serrazanetti, Audience in dance. Community, Memories, Devices. Scalpendi Editore (2019)