A Bellydance Production of Dante’s La Divina Commedia
Interview with Francesca Pedretti
Words by Rachael Lundy (The Ruby Lady)
Translated by Sarah FaraSaier
posted July 12 2015
Over a cold winter weekend in New York City, The Ruby Lady encountered a dancer and her project unlike anything she had seen before. Completely collaborative, experimental, theatrical and soaking in a uniquely Italian emotional authenticity, Milan’s Francesca Pedretti and her traveling production of Dante’s La Divina Commedia has the potential to transform belly dance communities around the world.
Tell me a little about how you started belly dance?
Back in 1996, a friend of mine suggested I try belly dance as a way to overcome my social fears and gain self-confidence; I was painfully shy back then! I had never danced before, so that was my very first time.
What was your first belly dance teacher like, and how has she continued to influence your work?
Well, you can never forget your first love! Every time I see my first teacher, Ada, I still feel quite shy; she is still a big role model for me. Ada is extremely creative and innovative, always drawing inspiration from the great divas of the past. One time I caught her studying old Samia Gamal films (in those days, YouTube didn’t exist yet!) and that was her big secret!
Another of my great inspirations in my dance is, without a doubt, Anasma Wuong, who introduced me to the world of theatre. After meeting her, nothing was the same for me again. From that moment I immersed myself in theatrical dance and theatre classes in Milan, which I still attend to this day.
What is the most important thing a teacher should pass onto her students?
That’s a hard question to answer…I often wonder about that myself and can never find the one and only answer…I guess teachers should always push their students to find their own dimension, their own voice, to keep studying and learning different things in order to have the tools to build their own vision of dance.
Do you feel that Italian belly dance differs from belly dance across the globe? How does Italian culture and context influence your work?
Italy is actually very much influenced by artists of the United States – we are fascinated by the American myth! But in saying that, my work is filled to the brim with this country’s culture. I love its history and its people. I love its artistic legacy that has made Italian culture so world renowned. La Divina Commedia is the perfect example. I love reaching into our local past and artistic traditions for inspiration, as this project does.
Tell me a little about what inspired La Divina Commedia?
For a long time I have dreamed of producing a stage show utilising improvisation and collaboration, drawing on those theatrical techniques that so inspire me and fusing it with dance. I proposed the idea [of La Divina Commedia] to the dancers of the 4th Edition Tribal and Belly Dance Academy (a tribal and fusion event produced by myself in Milan). I chose a very canonical Italian theme, and collaborated with Ilan Riviere and Alice Giampier who enthusiastically offered their wealth of experience and knowledge to produce the ‘Paradise’ and ‘Hell’ scenes. They were also assisted by Silva Colombara and Francesca Gigarte. I chose to concentrate on ‘Purgatory’, working alongside Patrizia Pin.
Your New York show was cast largely from local guest dancers, and even certain scenes were directed by local companies; how did this process work?
We select the dancers through an online casting similar to Belly Dance Evolution. They have to be open to experimentation and willing to perform a mere hours after learning the choreography in workshops! That’s how La Divina Commedia was really born…a unique and original show, always different and a thousand times more exciting due to this collaborative element.
La Divina Commedia has already shown in New York and is about to tour extensively through Italy- what are your ultimate goals for the project?
For now I would like to be able to bring my show and workshops to as many other places as possible, particularly around the USA and Europe where I think it would be well appreciated. We are currently looking for sponsors around the globe who are interested in our work, so that we can share this show and its opportunities and philosophy with as many global belly dance communities as possible. This project is not just about the show itself, but about forging lasting connections through collaboratively creating beautiful art.
Divina Commedia show in New York City
Wikipedia listing for Divine Comedy – “The Divine Comedy (Italian: Divina Commedia) is an epic poem by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed 1320, a year before his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem’s imaginative vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century…”
Check the “Letters to the Editor” for other possible viewpoints!
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