Friday, January 22, 2010

Spider Dance Weaves Its Web at Theater For the New City, NYC

Foreground: Alessandra Belloni, Fran Sperling, Joe Deninzon and Antonio Fini.

Antonio Fini as Dionysius, Francesca Silvano, Greta Campo and Katerina Ogar.

Alessandra Belloni and the performance troupe, I Giullari di Piazza, have proven once again that creativity and passion is the best form of entertainment. This new production of Spider Dance is full of energy, song, history, pathos, movement and color.

Spider Dance tells the story of Arachne, the skilled weaver who challenges the goddess Athena to a weaving contest and wins. In the ensuing chaos, Athena transforms Arachne into a spider to weave her web forever. This myth found its way into the Southern Italian psyche as the mythical bite of the tarantula that inflicts women and can only be cured by the rhythm and dancing of the frantic 12/8 beat of the Pizzica. The god Dionysus, the plague of the Dark Ages, the Christianization of Pagan rites and the Black Madonna all figure significantly in the development of this production. The musicians are shamans, frame drums hold mystical healing power, fire purifies and dancers whirl and writhe to the madness of the tarantula’s bite.

For those who have seen the show before, changes to this production are noteworthy.
For example, when Belloni first strides onto the stage as Athena, her robe is now deeply slit up both sides, revealing the full length of her legs when certain poses are struck. This change is palpable, as it silently and emphatically communicates Athena’s sexual strength and fierce pride.

The narrator is now a woman, Cynthia Enfield, who further emphasizes the simmering feminine energy that is central to the story. Enfield not only educates the audience and clarifies the story, but often joins in the dancing and action on the stage, blurring the boundary between Greek chorus and the actors. As she moves in and out from the periphery of the stage, her presence is welcome and anticipated as a key player and facilitator.

One of the show’s highlights, Antonio Fini’s dance of fire to the haunting Requiem, has also evolved. This time, one of the female dancers is on stage with Fini at the beginning of the scene, dancing around him as he kneels with his back to the audience before the portrait of the Black Madonna. When the woman leaves the stage, Fini turns toward us with the bowls of fire in each hand on the end of chains and the Dance of Fire begins. The audience is spellbound throughout. To watch a video of the Fire Dance, click here.

The bridge between these ancient stories and modern times is achieved through the addition of hip-hop dancer Michael Garrett. At the close of the show, Garrett springs onto the stage from the audience in sweats and sneakers and performs a mesmerizing combination of hip-hop, break and street dancing to the wild Pizzica rhythms. Garrett’s addition to the cast underscores Belloni’s lifelong paen to the healing power of this form of dance therapy. Her own words say it best: “Young people can have fun and achieve ecstasy without taking Ecstasy… I think women today, and men sometimes, still have (this) syndrome and need to cut free from the web of society. So I think (this) show will always be part of my mission. How can we help, as artists, the people of today identify their web? How can they cut it thru music and dance?”

This production has been extended to Saturday, January 23, 2010:

Date: January 23, 2010
Time: 8:00 pm
Location: Theater for the New City
155 First Ave, near 10 East 10th Street
Tickets: $20 or $15 for seniors, students and children

Alessandra Belloni and Joe Deninzon on electric violin.

Francesca Silvana, Alessandra Belloni and Joe Deninzon.

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