On your toes

Dance fair is forum for talent and rhythm

Alexandra Baker-Reggio
March 8, 2007

‘The philosophy behind the creation of the audition was simply to find talented dancers and give them resources to promote their artistic ability’.



Performers say being on stage produces an adrenalin rush like no other. Months of preparation boil down to a single performance of lights, music and emotions. The end result is the exhilarating euphoria of having hundreds of pairs of eyes fixed on your every movement. Multiply that feeling by hundreds of dancers, over four days and it may be possible to guess how a dancer feels at a dance competition.


‘Dance exhibitions like Danza in Fiera are important because the dance world is moving and any vehicle that increases that movement is, of course, beneficial’, says Keith Ferrone, artistic director of the Florence Dance School. Yet competitive dance exhibitions can sometimes become a double-edged sword. How do you compare hip-hop dance to classical ballet? The answer is, you cannot. Comparing one style of dance to another is like comparing the Italian opera and the London punk rock movement. Each has its own sound, with its own audience, and its own beginnings. They both exist to convey a message, inciting an emotional awakening within the spectator. But when so many dance companies come together to compete within such an expansive mosaic of genres, artistic expression can be stifled. Ideally, a large dance competition serves to connect and excite the public while maintaining its artistic integrity.


On March 15–8, Danza in Fiera will host more than 50 dance schools, companies and associations from all over the world. The exhibition has scheduled performances and competitions in many different genres, from belly dancing to modern jazz, from contemporary to tango, as well as dance lessons and fashion shows. The intent of Danza in Fiera is one of education, cooperation, and growth. ‘Any exhibition that allows the artistic side to breathe, shows dance in its true light’, says Ferrone. Respect for dance as an expressive art is achieved through that freedom. Because of popular TV shows like Amici in Italy and Dancing with the Stars in the United States, there is growing mass-appeal for the modern-day dance-off. ‘There are some dance competitions that create tension between the dance companies’, says Ferrone, ‘and with that tension you can lose the artistic quality’.

Some mass-produced dance has the potential to undermine the foundation of the performer-spectator relationship. Rosanna Broccanello, artistic director of Opus Ballet, worked with the administration of Danza in Fiera to create the inaugural exhibition in 2006. Broccanello argues that when creators of large dance events truly respect the art, that tension becomes obsolete. ‘The organizers of the Fiera’, says Broccanello, ‘have made it an important point to create an environment conducive and productive to dance’.


Groups participate in large exhibitions for a whole potpourri of reasons. The competitive aspect can be good for groups who don’t perform in theatres, because it showcases their ability to the important professional sector of the dance world.  Broccanello argues that the competitive side has only marginal significance to the participants and the exhibition. ‘The importance of this event lies in the fact that dance itself is being seen’.


Danza in Fiera is an international gathering point for dance to be seen, bringing groups from as far away as Texas University. Florence boasts a strong representation of dance at the exhibition, with over five dance schools, companies and associations. The event will host more than 10 open castings and auditions. Dancers can display their talent to such groups as the innovatively contemporary dance company Kataklò and the English National Ballet School. Performances are planned on both the professional and student levels. Participation will vary greatly as each school plans to present a different facet of dance. The A.C. Ballet Center, in collaboration with Harmony, will lend its dancers as models to a fashion show specifically showcasing Harmony dance apparel. The Opus Ballet is set to perform an hour-long piece entitled ‘Project’; the group also intends to hold a part of its seventh annual international choreography competition—a talent search occurring in 10 Italian cities, with a panel of internationally renowned judges, culminating with a gala performance this summer—during Danza in Fiera. The Florence Dance Company will be giving a three-part performance, including classical ballets set to the music of both Vivaldi and Metallica.


Marga Nativo, artistic director of the Florence Dance School, in collaboration with Danza in Fiera and The Florence Dance Festival, has already proposed a new audition concept for the exhibition. Normally, in order to select prospective talents, dance companies and schools sponsor auditions and castings. Judges look for the dancer ideal to their company or school and usually give dancers creative perimeters within which to dance. ‘Fatti Conoscere!’ created by Nativo, is an open-talent, open-style, professional audition, with no association to a dance company or school, and no a specific dance piece to perform. Dancers perform two three-minute pieces of their creation or choice, one classical and one contemporary. A panel of 10 professionals—artistic directors, dance critics and choreographers from some of the most famous dance companies—judge the dancers. The panel then decides which 10 dancers will have their résumés distributed to the participants of the exhibition and the professional dance world. The winners then dance this summer in the inaugural show of the 2007 Florence Dance Festival.


The philosophy behind the creation of the audition was simply to find talented dancers and give them resources to promote their artistic ability. Nativo hopes that the concept will become a widely used practice for talent discovery and promotion.


Promotion of dance talent and the arts also relies heavily on public support, which in the recent years has taken a visible dip. Public interest is stimulated thanks to shows like Amici, says Sabrina Margarolo of the A.C. Ballet center. ‘Even if a television show isn’t the most genuine representation of theatrical dance, it gets the public interested in dance in general, and that is the more important part’, says Margarolo.


So what is keeping Florentines from the theatres? Skepticism, says Ferrone. ‘People want more energy, more life out of their entertainment, but what the public doesn’t understand is that the life of theater gives more life to life’.


But, it’s not just Florentines who aren’t attending theaters, says Broccanello; it’s a national problem, an international problem. The people who attend the theater will always attend the theater out of love and habit. The lives of theater dance and dance exhibitions can co-exist because they attract different groups of people. Promotional contexts like that of Danza in Fiera attract those people who could become more acquainted with dance. That acquaintance leads to more involvement, which allows the arts to grow and develop. We, as consumers of art have to do our part as well. ‘The public just needs more faith in the arts’, Ferrone says. ‘Faith especially in modern contemporary ways of dance, faith in the underground dance scene. Those are the arts that need the most support’.

Dance needs active ‘consumers’. It is the conservation of the artistic quality that allows dance to endure as a respected form of expression. Danza in Fiera will provide performers and spectators alike a common ground on which to enjoy and celebrate the art.

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