Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I Giulliari Di Piazza Celebrates of 30 Years Together
Pictured: John T. La Barbera, Alessandra Belloni, Antonio Fini, Joe Denizon.
On Friday, October 30, 2009, Symphony Space in New York City rang with selections from 30 years of shows performed all over the world by I Giulliari Di Piazza. The show was sponsored by the World Music Institute and was nearly sold out. Founded by Alessandra Belloni and John T. La Barbera, I Giulliari performs the ancient musical folklore of Southern Italy. Dedicated to preserving and performing authentic Southern Italian music, dance and theater dating from the 13th century, the troupe also creates contemporary works based on these rich traditions.
Friday night’s performance was a whirl of drumming, color, stilt dancing, guitars, mandolins, flutes and voices. The troupe performed selections from their many shows throughout the years, including Dance of the Ancient Spider, Voyage of the Black Madonna and Techno Tarantella.
Alessandra Belloni proved once again why she is considered by many to be one of the world’s premier percussionists. Her hand was often just a blur as she played her tambourines and frame drums, usually while simultaneously singing, dancing and directing the action on stage.
John La Barbera, the group’s musical director, played several instruments throughout the performance, including guitar and mandolin. A veteran arranger and composer, one of the evening’s highlights was his own MamboTangoTella, played with a decidedly gypsy edge.
One of the evening’s special guests was percussionist and tenor, Nando Citarella. Citarella is a virtuoso of the tammorriata dance and drumming style. Citarella became one of Belloni’s percussion teachers after meeting on the beach in Calabria many years ago. Citarella had been taught by his aunt when he was 6 years old and has been perfecting the technique ever since. His clear, haunting tenor voice mesmerized the audience.
Gordon Gottlieb was the other special guest, a percussionist with a varied career. He has performed with the New York Philharmonic, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, and recorded with Michael Jackson, Sting and Steely Dan.
Joe Denizon, a Russian with and Italian soul, played his famous electric violin. Known as the Jimmy Hendrix of the electric violin, Denizon managed to play complex pieces while rolling around on his back during the performance of the Pizzica.
Vincent Scialla drummed the foundation for the complicated rhythms going in all directions, while Steve Gorn and Susan Eberenz added flute, piccolo and recorder to round out the arrangements.
One of the elements that set this night apart was the easy banter among the musicians, usually Belloni, La Barbera and Citarella. Their reminiscing drew the audience into a very personal space, and we forgot for a moment that we were sitting in a theater. It felt more like sitting around a table with our friends telling us their favorite stories about how they met and started out.
Dancing and theater has always been an essential part of the troupe’s identity, and Friday night was no exception. The athleticism and acrobatics of this demanding style were on full display. Antonio Fini dances with the Martha Graham Ensemble and the Whitney Hunter Dance Company. As a featured player with I Giulliari, Fini celebrates his Calabrian origins as Dionysus, the Devil and a Tarantato. Fran Sperling brought the Spider Woman to life with a fierce compassion. Mark Mindek defied gravity dancing on stilts, personifying in turn the Plague of the Dark Ages and the unfettered reveling of present-day Brazilian celebration.