He happened to be born in an Italian provincial town, he learned to understand from an early age to love an art which is considered “minor” by the society and with few job opportunities. He moved on to study dance and also to meet people and have opportunities that could change his life.
This happened but this was not enough if he did not want to accept the existing system, if you had to compromise and wait for years to be able to express himself completely. It was not enough to want to create, experiment, challenge and also make mistakes; it was not enough as his name is Morgan Nardi. He left Ascoli Piceno without any fear or false modesty, he grew up “alone” and with the courage only those who have everything to lose have, with the belief that every success you are able to obtain will only be the result of your tenacity and professionalism. These are some indisputable qualities of this choreographer-performer whose name and past are Italian. He now lives in the north-west of Germany. Germany offered him much more than a contract; in Germany meritocracy and values count more.
Morgan has no remorse, he looks ahead and his view from outside Italy is that of a true professional gaze; he has the maturity and wisdom of those who know they are innovators and respected and well-known artists In Germany. In Düsseldorf he found himself between ups and downs, including compliments and also inexplicably closed doors. 15 long years have passed since he started the school with Pina Bausch at Neuer Tanz (working, among others, with Wanda Golonka and Va Wölfl) and then created the collective group called Ludica where he met and experimented together with professionals such as Tanaka, Loginov and Micheletti. Later on he felt the need to question himself again and to experience his many qualities. He became the star of a show which broke the rules of traditional choreography and typical theater-dance: A one M(org)an show is his latest event, whose dramaturgy is by Oskar Genovese.
In this show he is , in the end, able to understand and be understood. He used to sign the choreographies of his works in the past productions he realised; its role on stage was “bound” to his sudden appearances, to inputs and outputs, he was the technical director of those shows and, of course, a performing dancer always characterized by his peculiar presence on stage. Morgan is a multifaceted artist, his potential is in his body, his voice and his mind. His creative and constructive process have led him today to evolve into a person with a powerful balance and a strong confidence, despite his insecurities coming from the past.
The flawless “Morgantian style” comes from some very personal movements of abstract dance made by a delicate body, a delightful voice and a mastery of language. His heritage ranges from Balanchine and Brown to “total” director “Wilson Wagner”, from the expressionism of Tanztheater to the act of Robert Wilson with the peculiarities of expression of Thierry de Mey and Virgilio Sieni and the contemporary performing urban dance. In this dance he focuses on and develops everything with originality, with devotion and respect towards a sensitive minimal scene which is strippedbare in a way. He uses white. The reason why is that white is a colour that stands out in the eyes of the audience as a smart and elegant element of the visual scene which is also typical of a certain Socìetas from Cesena.
He has an oratorical ability which reminds us of Gualtieri, he has vocal and specific skills which are able to keep the attention of the audience brilliantly; moreover, he has the capability to create an unusual choreography which is always distinct, particular, extraordinary. Even if he chooses to use technology he never exceeds in producing amazing effects; everything is always essential, perfectly in line with the dramatic context and essential to the success of the global context.
His New Choreography comes from Northrhein-Westphalia, and it will come to Italy eventually. I would like to thank Morgan for the interview reported here below and for our daily conversations about his art, life and everything about the entertainment world and not only that. He is a great man and a great artist.
Massimo Schiavoni: Morgan, what did you study here in Italy that led you to become a dancer in the first place and then a choreographer-director. Did you have any other professional experiences here in Italy before leaving? In Germany later on – at Neuer Tanz in Düsseldorf what did you do at the beginning? Can you please explain how Ludica came to life and why did you choose this particular name?
Morgan Nardi: I began studying classical ballet at the age of 9 at the Istituto Musicale G. Spontini in Ascoli Piceno; after having completed high school I graduated in the RAD (Royal Academy of Dancing in London) method in Florence. At the same time I was attending University (Philosophy) but, unfortunately, I had to stop that for financial reasons. I attended some vocal and gestural courses by Gabriella Bartolomei, whose method remains a fundamental tool of research for my current work. I had some experiences of dance and theater in several Italian Lyric organizations (in theaters in Florence, Bologna, La Scala Theather in Milan …)
I also took part in some television broadcasts for RAI which were choreographed by Franco Miseria! Before leaving for Germany I worked with choreographers such as Fabrizio Monteverde, and Torao Suzuki. But I do not forget all those who contributed to my creative growth: Rosella Bechi, Deda Colonna, Fernando Hiram, Antonella Agati, Angelo Corti, Flavia Sparapani, the Krypton theatre company and so on … I hope I did not forget anybody! At the Neuer Tanz, it is not possible to talk about a single role: the dancers here are part of the language on stage; they live the stage together with all the other elements involved in a play (lighting, sound , media etc.)
Our performing function was not reduced to movement only: in addition to the ballet and modern dance lessons, we took lessons in singing, percussion, electric guitar, and even drawing. And we used to interchange daily all these disciplines in which we trained every day. It was a unique experience but unfortunately not a human enrichment for me. I felt the need to find my own area of research, and it came up shortly afterwards. After having left the company I met Naoko Tanaka, a visual artist from Tokyo.
The peculiarity of her installations really interested me, I immediately felt I wanted to interact with them. After one year, after trials and after having experimented with various methods of expression, we were invited to organize the opening vernissage of an exhibition in an art gallery in D üsseldorf. I took this opportunity to create a true performance based on the interaction between different materials and languages which were present in that space. Von Rosen was born. It was a “tanzinstallation” which, the following year, won the first prize at the International Choreographic Competition called “Tendaces” in Luxemburg. It was 2001. In that work we established the foundations of what became the collective group Ludica within a couple of years.
The choice of the name originates from the need to neutralize the value which could heavily customize the direction of our work; for me the idea was and still is the base of our research. It is more important than our personality. Ludica is a neutral plural adjective in Latin. It meant for us to get involved. It meant for us to visibly get involved especially on stage. We wanted to play with the trans-versatility signs; we wanted to undermine the sense of representation in its usual meaning and we wanted to become innovative in the interchange of the languages we used. We wanted to get lost in the labyrinths of perception and find ourselves in the pure simplicity of the message.
We wanted to act with “fun” (this is the meaning of ludica) This means first of all cooperation, it means we want to feel moved by others and to give and receive help, it means we want to accept others and be accepted. But also competition is involved: in particular the competitive game between body and the media that characterizes our times is involved. Competition is involved in connection with the audience: the audience itself becomes a playmate because they elaborate and summarize everything they see and hear.
Massimo Schiavoni: Morgan, please explain how you work in Ludica; please also explain the creative and organizational process of the performance and the hierarchies and relations with your “comrades” in this artistic journey in Nordrhein Westfalen. Tell me about one of the first productions by Ludica, the “danced” installation das Orchideenzimmer realised in 2002; please tell me how its dramatic and spatial structure, the visual and choreographic devices, the sound structure and its message to the audience, if there is one, came to life.
Morgan Nardi: We always starts from an idea, a word or a vision, a space, then a long and intense period of research follows, it’s always like that. This period of research can last for months, even years and during this period of time we usually select the key issues that dictate working conditions, choices, characters, structures, timing and so on. Then in the following phase we choose the subject through any means which is necessary to give life to the idea we started from; we decide who takes care of what, we make agreements with manufacturers and organizations, we also do some rehearsals in this phase. When we do rehearsals we try to be as prepared as possible, but, at the same time, the most open as possible to the unexpected because only through an unstable equilibrium and the balance between control and loss of control can we be able to really present the idea as it is.
I have always been the coordinator of the various languages and in a sense, the bodyguard of the initial idea. The idea of das Orchideenzimmer came from Jacques Derrida’s reflections on the theme of hospitality and the opportunity to use an art gallery as a place for performances. The location was very particular, it was an L-shaped room. For this reason we decided to play with binary dynamics and to place the viewer in one of the corners.
We occupied the place for some time and used all the elements we found there – furniture, objects etc. they all helped us to find a dramatic thread. At the time I was obsessed with the cultivation of orchids and according to Chinese tradition the scent of orchids itself can strengthen the power of host.
The site involved in hospitality is a place that does not belong either to the host nor to his guest. It belongs to the gesture with which one calls the other: for me this is the place of theater or performing arts. We created an artificial world where the normal distance between the audience and the stage (between host and guest) is dissolved and where the installation (with the help of videos, models and choreographic elements) formed a new area which inspired the intimate atmosphere of a closed room at one time, a performance space at another. For us the appearance of each painting was intended to suspend the senses in an almost hallucinatory way which in the end, finally, because of compassion, could turn what the viewer felt into a harmonious utopia. The sound structure ranged from silences, to whispers and recorded bases whose main instrument was the piano, a quite important object in space.
Massimo Schiavoni: Koko Doko – co-produced with the company of Frank Micheletti is another of your works based on the effects of shadows and projections, on elegant and stylized choreographies which are simple but eye-catching. In this work the dancers perform a semi-urban dance made of “jacks” and slips, of unstable balances and “childish” positions. In it everything is minimsed by the use of white in the scenography, by the use of fans and animated walls, by the use of chamber music everybody sees and hears, by “lights” dancers, by you who follow everything on stage from the direction room with a lighthouse and then go out on stage again later on becoming one of the leading players . A beautiful ending. Can you please tell me a bit more about the design process of this wonderful show and about your role in particular?
Morgan Nardi: In the summer of 2005, the European Union financed a project called COLINA – Collaboration in Arts, an interfacial artistic laboratory for 24 artists selected in 6 European countries. On this occasion a structure in which artists were free to perform was provided. They could perform for a period of 2 weeks, they could do something, undo it , try to approach something or move away, they could exchange experiences, do whatever they liked for a certain period of time. Above all they were absolutely free to do whatever they liked without any commitment. In this context, Naoko and I met Frank Micheletti (F), Ikue Nakagawa (J / F), Sven Kuntu (EST) and Annika B. Lewis (DK) Two projects of ours took life from this experience: Koko Doko (2006) and The Corner (2007-2009). Everything took life from a lack of ideas. These 2 works were born from the opposite process we used to use in our previous works. It was like putting four infants (Ikue, Naoko, Frank and I) together and let them play around in a room full of instruments, objects and surfaces to be explored for 5 days.
It was a game of pure isolation. The result of this experience was a so magically perfect structure that we were convinced we would make a real project out of it. In a few months time we were able to rebuild that space in a theatrical setting, reconstructing the glass roof of the room as well as its white curtains; we found the ideal compositional modulations, we used Audiopixe ones – alias Miguel Constantine – and above all we created a thematic and conceptual complex architecture. Koko Doko plays simultaneously on two parallel levels: the performing one and the one linked to the direction of the play which is visible and performing as well. We did that in order to emphasize the artisan and childish do-it-yourself part of it. I co-produced the direction and the choreographies of it and together with Naoko we composed the prismatic illusion of reflections and projections.
Massimo Schiavoni: Please tell me about the show Anmerkung 134. It is a tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini isn’t it? How did this work come to your mind and why? What did you want to narrate, represent and, why not, experiment in Germany with this work of yours in which words and choreographies are combined so nicely and slowly?
Morgan Nardi: I think there are more fans of Pasolini in Germany than in Italy! Anmerkung 134 was conceived as a proposal by the German composer Alex Goretzki. It was a time when I was questioning myself a lot about my status as a migrant, about the historical Italian situation, about my artistic identity and about the role of our generation towards the contemporary society. Even if in the end we are invited to perform this show only on the occasions of some memorial festival honoring this person we did not conceive the work because of him. The project is a journey that evokes our biographic reality to Pasolini’s poetic thoughts, a journey which joins movement, words and silences in a dramatic fragmented atmosphere.
I wanted our identities as artists, both Italian and foreign and our placement to be reflected in the caustic glance of Pier Paolo Pasolini, a two-way glance able to forecast the future while dealing with the past. I would say this is a very Buddhist vision. In this regard, Naoko created an area of projections and anamorphic reflections where the audience itself is a real character as, due to his shadow a suburb is defined.
In this play, as in other productions, everything happens on stage and I interact with the performers, who are Italians and also immigrants. We all wear the clothes our parents wore in the late Sixties. There are no particular specific references to his work in this particular play. The message of his work is perfectly explained by the author himself who says: “the sign that has always dominated all my work is this kind of nostalgia for life, this sense of exclusion which does not alter my love for life, it increases it. This is the constant element of my entire production”.
Massimo Schiavoni: What were you aware of during the preparation and production of your latest work “a one stage M(org)an show” dated 2010? This work is slightly different from all the other works you realized. In this show the acting (and vocalisation) is mixed with your choreographic elegant and graceful choreographic style which is never too heavy and in which white, your current leitmotiv, is predominant in the scenography. I particularly appreciated the way you fill the stage, your innate expression and your protagonism which never becomes presumption. Your modesty and humility, some qualities which come from your past experiences, prevail. What made you come out with this work in which you use all your skills?
Morgan Nardi: We all remain naked in front of the irritating question about the meaning of life and death. Facing this question all we can do is “build” a sense, a belief, a certainty, a story to make life more bearable in this period of time that belongs only to us. A one M(org)an show should have been a perfect autobiography of a “Mr. Nobody”. Exactly as God would have done it when creating himself. I let the spectator decide if this biography is something true or a mere lie. What prompted me to undertake this challenge was the natural instinct of survival and the irresistible need to love and be loved that unites all humanity. After The Corner I collapsed into a deep sense of distrust in the people and the institutions to which I was strongly linked. Thus, I left Ludica for a bit and I decided to retrace my steps addressing a solo performance relying only on my strength and my qualities. It was like a reset.
But it did not cancel my relationship with Naoko and my previous works. A one M(org)an show is my first project in the form of solos and I realized it with the support of an exceptional team formed by the visual artist Erich Pick from Hamburg, Oscar Genovese from the Marche and the vocal coach Christian Wolz from Berlin. I was inspired by some American performance artists like Andrea Fraser, who focuses her performances on the institutional critique and on the whole tradition of “one man shows” and artistic autobiographies. I developed a complex network in which I defend the right to lie while ironically breaking the duty to tell the truth. I grow thanks to the grey areas between truth and lies which I link to the artistic and political realities of the contemporary world of today.