The language of dance

Italian-born choreographer Andrea Constanzo Martini will premiere his latest work, ‘Scarabeo,’ at the annual Curtain Up Festival.

November 1, 2016 20:29
Andrea Constanzo Martini

Dancer/choreographer Andrea Constanzo Martini. (photo credit: TAMAR LAM)

During one of his most recent projects, a fellow dancer mentioned to Andrea Constanzo Martini that she often feels objectified.

The conversation continued to graze over other terrain and yet that comment became lodged in Martini’s mind, so much so that it became the inspiration for the work he will premiere this month as part of the prestigious Curtain Up Festival.

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“A duet for two children,” SCARABEO, Angles and the Void began as an attempt on Martini’s part to electively objectify himself.

“What is being on stage if not presenting yourself as a very conscious object to be looked at?” asks Martini over lunch at Suzanna. Though he is an accomplished and well-respected artist, there is no pomp or pretension to Martini. He speaks candidly, even playfully, about his upbringing, his methods and his inspirations while enjoying a plate of lamb-stuffed dried fruits.

“I wanted to try to be just a body, without any emotion or drive that isn’t physical. As I worked that way, I found that a lot of images came up. The more I tried to empty myself the more space I found to fill with emotion.”

Martini asked to meet close to the Suzanne Dellal Center, where a technical rehearsal for Curtain 2 is about to begin. The evening is comprised of Martini’s work as well as Adi Boutrous’ Always is Here. Both works are duets for male dancers.

This is Martini’s first time creating for Curtain Up, a major step for any local choreographer.

The 33-year-old dancer and choreographer was born in the Piedmont region of Italy, in a small village close to the French border.

He cites Michael Jackson as his first inspiration to dance, followed by a local studio’s recital.

“Because I was always dancing like Michael Jackson at home they took me to watch the end-of-year show in a nearby, provincial town. I remember that I was so amazed. It was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. To see all these people dancing, this music, everything. There was not one thing I didn’t like about that evening. It wasn’t only the dance, it was the idea of performance, I thought was brilliant. I felt, yes, this is where I want to live. I looked at the stage and thought I want to be there all the time. With the stage I always felt that way. I love the theater. I love to be in all parts of the theater, backstage, on stage with the lights. I can spend days in the theater.”

Ten years ago, having completed his studies in a ballet school in Munich, Germany, Martini arrived in Israel. With his long limbs and nimble movement, Martini immediately stood out in the Batsheva Ensemble. He spent four years working for Ohad Naharin, first in the ensemble and later in the main company, before heading west to Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet. When he left Israel, he took his partner, lighting designer Yoav Barel, along.

“We spent two years in Sweden before realizing that it wasn’t where we wanted to be. We felt we were always waiting for something. So, in 2012, we came back and I joined Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollack Dance Company, where I spent two very happy years.”

Martini fell right into stride with Pinto and Pollack’s hair-splittingly precise aesthetic, so much so that they took him on as the main character in the nationally televised Superpharm campaign. Alongside his company duties, Martini developed a solo called What Happened in Torino.

“In my second year with the company, I started to get invitations to perform my solo abroad. It was always clashing with the company schedule and I realized that I would have to choose,” he explains.

In the time since parting ways with Pinto and Pollack, Martini has created a handful of works.

“I made a duet, which was performed only once and eventually became a second solo. Then I created two site-specific works in Italy. The first was in the ballroom of a castle, the second was in a small theater of a different castle. I have performed in all of my works until now. I enjoy performing very much, I love to be on stage. I am in my good years now, physically at least, and I feel that I can bring my expertise and strength to my works by performing in them.”

In SCARABEO, Angles and the Void, Martini and dancer Avidan Ben- Giat defined a set language.

“Scarabeo is the name for the game Scrabble in Italian. The point of the piece was to set a language that we could use in many ways just by rearranging it. The same movement can be humorous or it can be horrifying. We are trying to limit ourselves as much as possible in order to make something that is very clear.”

As he gets closer to the premiere, Martini worries that the work is potentially too simple.

“One of the thoughts of our process was that we would not question if we would feel we were imitating or we saw something already, to let it be. It’s OK. We don’t need to hide away from what we learned.

“The second was that there is no question that is stupid enough. We can do amazing stuff starting from the simplest, most basic question.

We didn’t want to work on a concept that is so big that it paralyzes us. I wanted to do the opposite, to find a concept that I can work on practically. A year ago, when I was at Cullberg Ballet, I did a solo project with Deborah Hay. One day she said, ‘guys. you all do ballet right?’ We were like ‘yeah,’ and she said, ‘why haven’t I seen one high leg yet? Why haven’t I seen a pirouette? There is nothing wrong with everything you learned. Don’t imitate the way I look. My form, because of my age, is how it is, but if you can sense all the information I gave you in a beautiful arabesque, why not? It’s amazing that you can do it, so do it.’” “I will never forget this thing she said: ‘maybe depth is on the surface.’ I thought that was so fascinating.

We are so worried about looking deep but sometimes everything is already there. We just need to reorganize it. There is no big secret, no secret well of information. Sometimes the surface is what there is.”

Curtain 2 will be performed on November 3 at Dimona Theater, on November 9 at Beit Masie in Jerusalem and on November 10 and 19 at the Suzanne Dellal Center. For more information, visit

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