Profile — 23 Nov 2018
Trained in visual arts as well as dance, choreographer and multidisciplinary artist Michele Rizzo makes performance works that explore processes of transformation and transcendence. HIGHER xtn., an adaptation of the artist’s 2015 performance HIGHER, explores the power of dance by focusing on the nightclub as a site of community building and radical self-expression. The artist draws inspiration from theorist Julia Kristeva’s writings on dance, and particularly her belief in its ability to accelerate the process of transhumanization—the technologically-aided enhancement of human beings beyond their current physical and intellectual limitations.
In HIGHER xtn., Rizzo reflects on Kristeva’s observation that dance has historically been closely tied to religious rituals, and is seen by diverse cultures as a way of achieving transcendence. The artist calls attention to the fact that clubgoers often refer to the club as church, and consider it a safe haven where they can fully express themselves without fear of judgment. He is particularly interested in the cathartic and transformative power of techno music, whose repetitive rhythms can temporarily detach the dancers from their sense of self by inducing a state of trance. Rizzo believes this allows them to experience their identity as a “moldable sculpture.”
HIGHER xtn. also references the important role nightclubs play as gathering spaces for marginalized groups. Rizzo’s own search for a queer community in Rome and Amsterdam led him to explore the techno scenes in both cities. He points out that raids on nightclubs have often catalyzed political movements, citing recent events in Tbilisi where the phrase “dance for freedom” became a slogan among protesters. The artist believes that club culture fosters public intimacy by encouraging collectivity, while also allowing individuals of different backgrounds the space to explore their own identities. In the nightclub, dancers express themselves on an individual level while also becoming part of a multitude of people in motion. Each dancer is both object and subject, simultaneously seeing and being seen by others.
In HIGHER xtn., dancers continuously negotiate the boundaries between the self and the collective. Individual dancers begin by entering the museum from different access points. Performing minimal, repetitive movements, they gradually make their way through the galleries, ultimately convening in the Stedelijk’s Audizaal. Pairs of dancers begin to perform in sync until the entire group is eventually dancing in unison, becoming a single body. The hypnotic electronic soundtrack, composed by Lorenzo Senni, intensifies in tandem with the dancers’ movements.
During its run at the Stedelijk Museum, HIGHER xtn. will accumulate more dancers with each performance, beginning with two and ending with fifteen, including students from the School for New Dance Development of Amsterdam (SNDO). When it is not being performed live, a video of the original 2015 performance of HIGHER will be screened in the exhibition space. Rizzo will also present the ideas and research behind HIGHER in two workshops, the first of which will be aimed at professional dancers, while the second will be open to members of the public.
Production performances: DANSCO / Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
With thanks to: SNDO / ICK / Mondriaan Fonds / Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds
About the artist
Michele Rizzo (1984, Italy) studied at the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam and at the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam, where he is often a guest tutor in choreography and movement research. He has participated in residencies at the International Choreographic Arts Centre in Amsterdam, Q21 Museum Quarter in Vienna, and Live Works Centrale Fies in Trento. His work has been presented and performed at venues and festivals including URB Festival, Helsinki; Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis; La Briqueterie, Paris; Santarcangelo Festival, Rimini; Short Theater, Rome; Festival DDD, Porto; CAMPO, Ghent; Triennale Teatro dell’Arte, Milan; and Actoral, Montreal.