Where the body is without fear: Into the world of Alessandro Schiattarella’s Altrove

This Italian dancer overcomes his physical disability to present a unique show, titled Altrove

Karan Pillai Published :  12th November 2018 03:23 PM   |   Published :   |  12th November 2018 03:23 PM
Alessandro Schiattarella in Altrove

Alessandro Schiattarella in Altrove

For  Alessandro Schiattarella, having tried his hand in sports like judo, swimming as well as track and field, and then to see the nerves and muscles in his hands weaken considerably, was an extremely difficult transition. But the Italian performing artiste took the diagnosis of the neurodegenerative disease (called Hirayama) in his stride and tackled the physical challenges by drawing inspiration from childhood memories of watching his sister dance, to come up with his own dance theatre production, called Altrove (2014). Needless to say, his physical condition is a major inspiration. “Altrove is the Italian word for elsewhere —  a place of confrontation, a location where I try to answer questions regarding my identity. It is a room in which weaknesses can find a way to transform into strength,” he says, saying that he was lucky to have grown up in a supportive environment in Napoli, his hometown. “There, it is unusual for a boy to go to dance classes. But after watching my sister and her dance shows, I decided to become a dancer too,” he says. Alessandro will present Altrove in Chennai next week, brought to Adishakti by Prohelvetia Swiss Arts Counsil.

Best of both worlds
He graduated in 2000 from the Rudra Béjart School, Switzerland, and in the next 15 years, he worked with internationally renowned freelance and repertoire dance companies, such as Béjart Ballet Lausanne, Ballet Du Grand Theatre de Geneve, Konzert Theater Bern, Ballett Basel, and many others. He is presently supported by the Cultural Commission of Basel and the ROXY Birslfelden, with the help of which he was able to create Tell Me Where It Is (2015), his first full evening solo-piece treating the theme of less-visible disabilities, under an autobiographical perspective. Altrove, even if it is themed on his disability, is a little different, with the themes oscillating between ability and disability. “In this performance, the protagonist confronts his fears and shame in a playful way, while trying to find a way out from his troubles and transforming his weaknesses into strengths,” Alessandro says, adding that Altrove was created out of a need to make others understand his condition, and a desire to share his story. 

Getting immersive
Talking about how he tackled his condition, Alessandro shares, “In order to live with it, I had to be creative and find different strategies: At first, I tried to fight it (without results), then hide it with anything I could, and then I faced it (through choreography and studies on disability). Later, I surrendered to it, as I accepted it as a part of my identity. Finally I began to value it — thanks to Hirayama, I met some wonderful people.” At the upcoming version of Altrove, expect to hear and see a lot of medical and body-related elements — such as sounds from an MRI scan, a video projection showing rotating nerves, and such. “I made sure to add very little props on stage — like one light and a stool — and tried to tell my story via the interaction of these elements,” he explains, adding that there are no dialogues in the show. “I have used music by Canadian experimental music collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor,” he shares, adding that his next projects deal with themes like masculinity and nature. “Next stop for Altrove is Cape Town, South Africa” he signs off.

At Adishakti. November 14. 7 pm onwards. Entry free.