Entertainment :: Theatre

Choreographer Mauro Astolfi :: ’Spellbound’ in Philly

by Lewis Whittington
Contributor
Friday Nov 16, 2012
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At the Performance Garage studios last week, the dancers of BalletX finished a complete run-through of "Instant God," a new ballet by Italian choreographer Mauro Astolfi. Because of Hurricane Sandy, the ballet (having its Philadelphia premiere) is being put up in record time. Tara Keating, a veteran company dancer, commented that it was going fine because Astolfi "doesn’t choreograph a lot beforehand. We couldn’t believe how spontaneous his process is. Of course, we had seen his company Spellbound and, they’re incredible, but this part was a surprise."

BX’s performance of "Instant God" was packed with theatrical punch and technically difficult dance. One of Astolfi’s signatures is his "in your face" contact dance and cinematic atmospherics, slo-mo backward drops (ala "The Matrix"), there are explosive layout sequences, martial arts pliĆ©s that morph into dancy inventive dance pumped with breakneck maneuvers and sharp technique.

For those who missed it there is a chance to see exemplars of his work on Spellbound at the Annenberg Center in Philly, as part of the company’s first North American tour. "Spellbound at the moment, is maybe the best expression of my work, not just because the dancers are Italians, but they know me a little more," Astolfi said this week by phone from Italy.

The choreographer commented that he made an instant connection with BalletX dancers, and went on to credit co-directors Christine Cox and Matt Neenan. "I had a great time in Philadelphia, from the first day, I think because the directors, Matt and Christine, made me feel, by the second day, that I was home. The dancers are full of passion," Astolfi said.


Impressed

He was particularly impressed with their precision and performance level.

"I try to be adaptable and this company is too. It depends on the energy with a particular company, with BalletX, they were ready and so open-minded, so the process of creation was so natural, for that to happen right away you have to have a good atmosphere. Sometimes when you are coming in and working with a troupe the first time, there is a distance. The first two days, we got to know each other and they had my moves and atmosphere."

Astolfi hopes he can return for an entire month to work with BalletX for a full evening work. "I really had a good time having the chance to build a full-length work for BalletX," he said

Spellbound performs two Astolfi ballets. First is "Lost for Words (The Invasion of Empty Words)" created over the past two years and scored to a score that ranges from electronica to violin virtuosity. Second is a 2009 work "Downshifting," set to electronica, jazz and Bach.

Asked to describe them, Astolfi was reluctant, except to joke: "I’m viewing from the point of inspiration, so I’m changing my mind a thousand times.

"But," he added, "we’re having a lot of international success with these two pieces."

Spellbound Dance Company will be at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, Nov. 15-17, for four performances. For more information go to http://www.annenbergcenter.org/tickets/?id=217#


Lewis Whittington writes about the performing arts and gay politics for several publications.

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