Altrove literally means elsewhere. Born in Italy but – in his own words – “artistically adopted” by Switzerland, Alessandro Schiattarella is creating a movement vocabulary that claims space by transcending personal biography. His strategy is to understand, explore and re-think his disability not as a disease with a series of symptoms, but as a specific “new” body with a potential of its own. In a series of movements that are both autobiographical and political, Altrove is infiltrating mainstream contemporary dance with disability. Schiattarella gives flesh to the invisibility of his experience (which for a long time was only a diagnosis with no visible marks on the body), making it palpable in an attempt to fight back stigma and discrimination. An extremely difficult and delicate topic to talk about, Schiattarella successfully conveys his positions through dance and lays the foundations of future research interests: new movement vocabularies, deconstruction of “normal” bodies, empowerment of disabled dancers. His work opens up space in which we can all move, despite our differences.
performed by Alessandro Schiattarella
With the Houdini-like surprise of an insect suddenly appearing at your window, Schiattarella exposes a hand from behind the curtain. The arthropod tracks its way along the wall, beetle-backed and string-limbed. A creature less than human. Flat-packed joint isolations transform into a pop-up person as his sit bones reach for a stool.
Impulsive, involuntary gestures follow; a willful shoulder, a stubborn elbow suggests the body has an agenda of its own. Escaping extremities are controlled with the tested patience of a parent putting an unruly child to bed - but this kid is up for the night. More images materialise: Cossack squat-runs attempt to revive restless, flailing fingers, highlighting the performer’s struggle with a condition that weakens his hands. On stage, a fight for feeling. In my seat, I fight to feel his human experience in a melting pot of ideas that cause the magic to evaporate.
What if your hands are living a life of their own ? There is something going on behind the bare vulnerable back of Alessandro Schiattarella: His hands are restlessly flapping and twitching, suddenly setting off on their own, making the whole body twist and contort. A grotesque battle which he desperately tries to put end to by even ducking under the stage flooring. Transformation accomplished! As he reappears, he listens to where his flapping hands are leading him, exploring their directions in space.
Although the transition phase is somewhat blurred, Schiattarella reaches a crucial moment where he dances in the dark totally at ease. His black silhouette points back to the moving opening where he was pressing his body, frail arms and hands against the wall, as if he wanted to secure himself by becoming a stable twodimensional shape. In the end he has arrived at another point, Altrove (Elsewhere).
A bare back faces us and two spindly arms scrape, claw and sweep the wall. So begins a tortured and restless solo that takes us deep into the sinews of Alessandro Schiattarella. Since the age of fifteen, a neuromuscular disease has steadily reduced the strength in his hands. In Altrove, Alessandro imagines this has spread to his limbs. The body becomes the scene of an uneasy battle between fluidity and convulsion, control and chaotic shaking. Involuntary spasms are followed by attempts to rein back. Hands shake vigorously, sparking the arms to snap angularly around the head and torso, before being stapled behind the back. At one point, Alessandro peels up the black skin of the stage and climbs in, eventually emerging through a hole in the centre. It's a striking moment of the tense tussle. Sadness pervades. Although the piece suffers from a lack of punctuation between scenes, there is raw resonance.
A creature is hidden behind a curtain, immobile and stuck with its body on a black-board. It slithers across the walls and Alessandro Schiattarella is revealed, taking us with him on an unpredictable exploration of the recreated body. Throughout Altrove there’s a constant, swift shifting of power between Schiattarella and hisatrophic arms and hands. The latter have a life on their own, swinging and whirling him into twisted shapes. He lingers in this unrelieved battling dialogue with his limbs, sometimes the winner and sometimes not. Altrove teeters between a conflict and a discovery of new movement. The setting and atmosphere are suffocating yet gripping. Although this solo could be better developed, Schiattarella has some great raw material here.