Anastasia Grigore is a young choreographer trained in Bucharest (Ungheria). She’s currently documenting the work of the Dance Well Group, which is used to collaborate and to perform with international guest artists from all around the world. In early April 2022 the Dance Well group took lessons of traditional Irish dance led by Kristyn Fontanella. In these days the group is rehearsing the choreography by Ian Ancheta at the San Giovanni Church, performing it for the students involved in Beyond the Body -a project promoted and supported by Operaestate Festival and Comune di Bassano del Grappa –
Here are the diary pages written by Anastasia. They tell us about these days, in a very fresh and spontaneous way. She journaled her free thoughts about dance, its mission, its meaning.
Part 1 | Honesty in the performative state
Over the years, as a choreographer, I looked for honesty in my performers. As a performer, I always wondered how do I keep it real – how do I keep it alive? The reality of here and now seemed to be this unsolvable equation for the performing arts, always trying to figure out “the new method” to be present on stage. But seriously, how do we do it? Is it technique, is it experience, is it magic? I don’t think I have my answers, but I have a couple more ideas, from a very unexpected place – which makes it even better! Ten days ago I came to Bassano del Grappa – a city (partially) hidden in the walls of a fortress where magic really does exist.
I am Anastasia, and this is my Dance Well story – or How I fell in love with dance. Again.
It all started on a Friday morning, my first morning in Bassano. I got out of my attic and landed between the old walls of the beige buildings in the city center, just a couple of minutes away from Piazza Libertà. I walked on the tight streets – like a princess running away from her castle – and met Roberto for my second coffee of the day. After this first live (absolutely lovely) encounter that took away all my concerns, we headed to the Museo Civico di Bassano. Right in the heart of the old fortress lies an old building with a strong personality, where every Monday and Friday people with stronger personalities meet to dance their cares away. For a second I wanted to say “old”, but they are definitely far from that.
So we gathered in the museum (!!! the times I danced in the museum I was asked to stop because…well, it’s weird), where we had an introductory Irish dance class with Kristyn Fontanella. I must say, not only that we managed to learn the basic steps and formations in just one hour, but I have experienced the energy of a dance workshop as I haven’t since before the global pandemic. And it felt so good! Kristyn pulled together a fun – and technical – class that brought smiles and laughs, along with challenge and determination. I found myself looking around and thinking that these people really dance! And dance is not something that is defined by how high you kick your legs, or how many fouettés you can make in one breath. Dance is about the body-mind-spirit connection. Dance is about being in the present, whatever that means. Dance is about community – not judgement and competition. Dance is about curiosity. Dance is joy. Dance is life.
All these thoughts that were already spinning in my head were fed by the beautiful teachers’ session I attented in the Museum’s chiostro (cloister I believe is the English word). Being outside in the sun, on the greenest grass I have seen, surrounded by headless sculptures and old columns of stone felt like a fairytale. I felt present and grateful for sharing these moments with these people who you can tell without knowing them that live through dance. Movement is their air, and when they dance they breathe. Keywords of the day – Connection. Community. Companionship.
Part 2 | Ian Ancheta working process
Sunday, April 10th, Chiesa di San Giovanni | Part of the Dance Well group – 13 people (12 ladies and 1 gentleman) will perform Ian’s work created over 2 weeks in the church in the middle of the city. Day 1 was the discovery day, and here are some thoughts I wrote while watching this amazing group.
– the feeling of a group that follows
– the feeling of a discovery
– is a church a mystical place, or is it just another space? How does the meaning of a thing change once placed in a church?
– THE JOY TO MOVE.
– THE JOY OF BEING YOURSELF WHILE MOVING.
– THE JOY OF FINDING YOURSELF WHILE MOVING.
– THE JOY OF BEEING FREE.
– FINDING FREEDOM IN YOUR BODY.
– FINDING FREEDOM FROM YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT
– CHURCH – meditation, thought, community = DANCE.
– creating frames for friendship
– testing the limits of touch
– how much do we need it? How do we respond?
– how far do we go for touch?
– how comfortable are we in space?
– how do we feel about touching the space and being touched by space? Keywords of the day – Exchange. Negotiation. Surrender.
Ian proposed a couple of improvisation exercises that went around the idea of non-verbal negotiations. We had the opportunity to unwrap, little by little, the strong personalities that were standing in front of us. We were fascinated day by day about the courage. I declared several times that I have rarely met professionally trained performers that were this open, courageous, eager and honest about trying new things. Which made me wonder – is it technique that takes away our joy and replaces it with judgment? Is it training that teaches us that shape and excellence are better than honesty and curiosity? When do we stop trying, because we fear failure and ridicule? When do we stop being curious? When do we stop dancing and become just form? What is it that gives us a hard time being ourselves in the studio? When do we stop being present?
I am not saying we should stop training. I am not saying that form is bad. We all love to see a perfect pas-de-deux once in a while. But what is shape without the substance? What is form without the meaning? What makes difference between a person and a performer?
I have been watching the evolution of our group (yes, they became our group) for a week, and every day I feel astonished by them. It is the curiosity in their eyes. It is the availability of their minds and bodies. It is the inner gut that drives them to be better every day. It is the sparkle of joy, boosted by the natural doubt that makes them genuine. Authentic. They are not pretending to be something they are not. They are not ashamed or afraid to show who they really are. They trust Ian, they trust us to lead them into the process, and they want to do it well. They are bold. They are strong. They are very special. I look at them every day and I feel blessed to watch them perform every day. I like to think that, everywhere we go, we have a precious lesson to learn. It is easy to form an a priori opinion, but let’s stay open to the new. Let’s see what the world has to offer. Let’s drop our judgment and see things for what they really are. The truth is we are not working with a professional dance company, but what is the difference? What would make this performance less of a dance performance? What defines dance?
There is a never-ending debate (I feel) on what is dance. Dance is the perfect formation in tutus on the big stage in the fancy theatre. Dance is the small company performing on the streets of a small town, hoping to be noticed. Dance is the chaotic run of people in the train station. Dance is the waiter’s ritual of fixing the table in the very specific order. Dance is the pigeon moving in circles on the roof of the house trying to impress the fellow pigeon-ess. Dance is the group of strangers stuck on the same bridge trying to reach the other side. For me, dance is the connection, the energy that unites us. Dance starts when we start being present. When we look each other in the eyes and simply acknowledge that we are here and now – together.
Trained as a choreographer in Bucharest, with a BA and MA in from the National University of Theater and Cinematography. Scout leader. Curious by nature, artist by heart. Mind never quiet. Looking for new ways to fall in love with dancing. Searching for different life perspectives. Using everything on the outside to express what is happening inside. Writing for passion and order.