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!
Ready for more?
- 1-9-14 From Evolution to Revolution, A Review of “Dark Side of the Crown”
Jillina’s character is mean and abusive which makes us think that she may be the killer!
- 7-18-13 Photos from Zulu Lounge, May 3rd 2013 at the famous El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, California
Below are a few highlight photos by Rawtography.com from the Zulu Lounge show held May 3, 2013 in Los Angles, California. The show was produced by dancer Khani Zulu and her husband, tattoo artist Zulu, at the swanky El Rey theater. The show’s theme was “La Nuit d’Absinthe” which inspired artists to be creative with their pieces.
- 1-31-13 The Evolution of Jillina, An Interview Regarding Change, Flexibility and Lessons Learned
Working with Jillina for the last six years or so, I’ve been a fly on the wall for a lot of this transition. I’ve been there for marathon rehearsal weeks, brainstorming sessions, the stress of taking a show on the road, the flops, and the standing ovations. Español!
- 9-8-11 Roma Tribal Forum, More of Helm’s Musical Adventures
The growing interest for both styles of Tribal Dance inspired them to hold a Tribal Meeting in this ancient city.
- 11-12-11 Simona Minisini of Italy Video Interview
In June, 2011, Gilded Serpent was present at the Mediterranean Delight Festival in Marrakech, Morocco (produced by Simona Guzman). There we were able to get some time with Simona Minisini of Palmanova, Italy. She told us about her school, the coming World Dance Tropy Competition and her own history in Oriental dance. She and her husband Igor have a studio called Club Sunshine with mutiple dance rooms, 2 pools and a “Bed and Breakfast”. This video also included a sample of her performance at the festival in Morocco.
- 10-1-05 Interview with Maya Gaorry of Italy, Talks about Size, Fat, and American dancers,
Before there was no rule on how big dancers should be, and now it’s changing. Changing everywhere.
- 9-30-99 I was driving home early Monday morning.
I had had an arrangement to meet my man, my beloved whom, for a number of reasons, I cannot see often.
- 5-31-15 Helene’s Seminar in Berlin, Traditional Dance Theater Project ANAR DANA 2013/14
Together we studied seven traditional dances in a total of 10 weekends with the worldwide renowned dance ethnologist and choreographer Helene Eriksen and organized two final recitals of our program which included solo dances from Helene. It began with a very tight training schedule but later it actually turned out to be much more – together we embarked on an imagined voyage to the Orient, which finally was a travel to find ourselves. But we understood that only much later.
The early-bird price of $750 was much friendlier to my wallet than international airfare to the Maghreb would have been!
- 4-26-15 Attending My First Belly Dance Convention (But Not My Last)
Austin Belly Dance Convention 2015 by
Austin, in addition to being the “Live Music Capital of the World,” also has quite an impressive number of talented and committed belly dancers. Every week performances, showcases, and meet-ups can be found around town, and accomplished instructors are available nearly every night of the week for classes.
The only way the audience knows there was a deviation from the plan is if I hesitate or break character. They are none the wiser if I continue dancing purposefully.
Encore: Verb – To add to or repeat a performance, an extra or repeated performance. I was privileged to have the opportunity of an encore, a reprise that provided a look back at how very much I loved to dance – I still do! – and to teach and share my knowledge after nearly 15 years away from the art I spent most of my adult life practicing.