Italian prima ballerina turned choreographer Francesca Selva is bringing her small self-named company to Taiwan next week for performances in Taipei and Changhua.
In her long and distinguished career as a dancer, Selva worked with some European greats, including choreographers Roland Petit and Boris Tonin Nikisch, and dancers Rudolph Nureyev, Mikahil Baryshnikov and Sylvie Guillem.
She began her ballet training in Italy at the National Dance Academy in Rome and at the Ballet School of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan before moving to France for more study before starting her career with Petit's Ballet de Marseille in the late 1970s. She eventually danced with companies all over Europe as well as the US and Mexico and began choreographing when she was a dancer with the Compagnia Balletto Europeo from 1986 to 1990.
Selva returned to Italy to work and live in 1992 and in 1995 she founded her company, along with the Centro Danza in Siena. The company made its debut in 1995 at the Spalato Summer Arts Festival and gained immediate notice. Selva has never looked back.
While Selva is unmistakably Italian, her years in France has left a distinctly Gallic flavor to her work. So it is fitting that the piece she is bringing to Taiwan, Les Bancs Publics or Public Benches, was created in 2005 to commemorate the centenary of the birth of French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.
For Public Benches, a work for three women, a man, a park bench and some oranges, Selva took her inspiration from some lines in Satre's first novel, Nausea:
"I was in the park just now. The roots of the chestnut tree were sunk in the ground just under my bench. I couldn't remember it was a root any more. The words had vanished and with them the significance of things ... the root, the park gates, the bench, the sparse grass, all that had vanished ... . All is free, this park, this city and myself."
What: Francesca Selva Dance Company’s Public Benches
Where: Taipei Metropolitan Hall (城市舞台), 25 Bade Rd Sec 3, Taipei (台北市八德路三段25號)
When: Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm; Saturday, July 21 at Yuanlin Hall (員林演藝廳) at 7:30pm
Tickets: From NT$400 to NT$1,200 (Taipei) available at www.artstickets.com.tw From NT$200 to NT$800 (Changhua), call (04) 832-3410
Set to a score that ranges from French romantic composer Georges Bizet to French poet and cabaret singer Georges Brassens, the choreography gently flows from intense, lyrical moments to lighter, more ironic ones. The choreography is contemporary, but the grounding is pure classical ballet. The park bench is at once both a prop for and a spectator or witness to the dancers' exploration of life and love.
And - probably because Selva's European - there is a black and white video, this one produced by Arte-V Milan. It doesn't seem possible for any choreographer working in Europe these days to do a piece without including one or more video projection.
The company will perform twice at Taipei's Metropolitan Hall - on Wednesday and Thursday, and then at the Yuanlin Hall in Changhua on Saturday, July 21.