“My job is to find a suitable energy in order to create a precise composition . The philosophy of yoga comes across my project of creation as a philosophy that deals with the creation of time.” These are Francesca Proia‘s paths, a young choreographer and dancer in Ravenna that has made the yoga a philosophy of life, making its mark in the theatrical solos danced in detail, where the subtle body imprisons and ponders a unique balance of energy and empathy contemporary dance.

After studying dance for years, Francesca graduated at the European Federation of Oriental Arts becoming a teacher of yoga, then she started in 2003 an artistic collaboration with the director and actor Danilo Conti, focusing the work on the body in relation to objects, space and perception. She danced in three episodes of Tragedy Endogonidia under the direction of Romeo Castellucci who said the following words about Francis’s art: “… what strikes you in her work is a striking discipline and the search for a form purified of any attempt at illustration. His choreography is first of all a movement of mind that goes through the design of time and gestures through a dynamic made of detained and suspended lines … ”

Her early work, Dark Light Dark and Something for the Hall received both a special mention at the Iceberg Festival and the Scenery Prize and a number of selections abroad. Then came her Il non fare e Uno of 2007 submitted, among others, the Festival of Santarcangelo and the Fabbrica Europa and Nothing female is alien to me of 2008. The latest work is The Cat Inside, the first study, produced with Homunculus Festival and which was finalist for the Rome Prize Balance Dance.

In her dance generated by time, the protagonist is the white space, a prerequisite for the genesis of figures perceived as meditation and as masks, where the rhythm and the solos are investigating the inner forces, releasing perfect fragments, vital and aesthetically harmonious. Her work is a layer of the essential being, based on individual and worldly issues, as an energetic preparation for life events of each being, as a vital and intuitive energy. It is a dance of the being and giving more than a matter of art, it is an inner figure crystallized in the outside; the everyday without seduction, the embodiment of functional thinking in absolute simplicity. Performing actions sensitive to the least variations where the viewer is led by the hand through the empathy that the scene is giving, where he changes and rises from time to time even if it has a minimal rigor.

A succession of slow mental structures, of layered philosophical buildings to make possible Frances’s miracle. The movement that starts from the mind is not to determine our responsibilities, not to be understood and thought out, but noted, and “expanded” as we go through a risky context, knowing that sooner or later, this danger will be swallowed and detonated; it’s a question of perception, a question of “ontological sensibility for man’s soul.” We return to rethink or explore the idea of the body in the theatre, a body in space that is silent but not silent, absent / present, a gesture cut down to the bone because it has already exploded inside.

Here is the body as real power in spite of a twilight Heiddegger and a psycho-hybridism, here’s the space-inner body cosmetics, the face of blood and flesh, the body that has a thousand daily tentacles whose length goes from a few millimetres to the other hemisphere, anf which unites the microcosm to the global level, as in Morin’s words. Therefore, no hyperbody, handled or commodified, eroticized, or glorious, iconified or slain, but the mental body, the one of representation and the possibility that the artist proposes and seeks, as well as he investigates and faces. The scene and the body of Francesca, at last, match with (but they also are) those of her Landscape with a capital L, of her existence, those of her huts and her everyday concerns, nostalgia and openness to the new, even though unknown. The scene and the body of thought come from afar but embrace and permeate all of her life as well as her art.

In it, there is all her is life and her individuality, her philosophy coming from far, but that is one and only from Beijing to Los Angeles from Tokyo to Ravenna. And her creativity is nothing but simplicity and ethics, beauty and soul happy for a physical and psychological state. And I thank Francesca Proia again for the long interview she allowed me recently, and who has shown herself as a normal girl but confident, eager and willing to show her art and her self, who she is and what she can do.

Massimo Schiavoni: Who was Francesca Proia? Who is she now?

Francesca Proia: I think that Frances has not been completed yet, but she is a work in progress, of whom you can see feet, legs, no more … or I am still a study: there are all the parts of her body but they are sketchy, ill-defined, coarse. The whole idea of the work (that is, once it is complete) might be a living feminine expression, living breathing through her legs…

Massimo Schiavoni: Where did you train from the cultural and artistic points of view? 

Francesca Proia: I had a professional training in classical ballet and yoga. I have a degree in history of the movie ( “surreal elements in the films of Jan Svankmajer”). Three realities had greater importance for me, experientially: the first is the Japanese culture, one that is also expressed daily in poetry. It is expressed in specific art forms, literature, film and, as regards the philosophy of body, dance and butoh Seitai therapy. The first is an understanding of dance as combustion, a way to “extract the pure life that sleeps in the body” (Masaki Iwana). Seitai therapy instead uses a kind of ‘involuntary exercise, it helps the body to train the system of natural reactions, just like cough, fever, yawning and so on, through the induction of a movement that starts as a natural vibration, the farthest away from a performed act. The second reality is the puppet theatre and the theatre and cinema for children. The third one
is yoga.

Massimo Schiavoni: What do you mean by discipline and yoga therapy, and what is its role in your life? 

Francesca Proia: By involving the whole being into a stream that constantly regenerates, yoga helps to leave, every day, all that is not really necessary. Negative experiences therefore remain as a process of growth, but no longer exist as suffering. So every day begins with a new energy, dedicated. In fact, the feeling is just that you are connected to an inexhaustible source of strength. Beyond this, it makes sense for me to practice yoga primarily as a form of research. It is true that it has come into our culture, but it is also true that yoga belongs to India, where it is an orthodoxy, and therefore has a connection, and some rituals, a truth that cannot be worn as a dress, as well as we have Western roots.

On the other hand, a really interesting thing, on account of the many questions it raises, is literally entering into the body of yoga, not just observing and studying it. It’s a really hard uncertain undertaking. So, is it possible for a Westerner to be completely yogi? Well, it is attractive to think we can find a way to harmonize magically the two aspects. Meanwhile it is interesting to consider that the yogic path is an extremely practical solution: it is based on an immense corpus of techniques, which reflect a great master in micro- and macro-cosmic interpenetration.

They range from more technical materials, such as cutting the sublingual frenulum to insert the language better in the cavities of the skull, so as to stimulate certain physiological and energetic points, up to the finer techniques of integration of individual thought with the flow of cosmic consciousness. These techniques are very necessary in the West, where there is a philosophy proposing, in a systematic way, capillary action of specific physical and subtle techniques, to investigate their deep nature. Yoga takes the body and makes it the subject of a search at 360 degrees.

Then it does the same thing with the breath. Then with the thought. So create subtle connections between body, breath, thought, opening the reality to unusual spaces. The thing to understand though, and which makes things even more complicated, is the fact that if these techniques exist it does not mean that yoga is an instrument of comfort, tranquillity, relaxation and so on. Yoga is like a mountain or an ocean: they are there, no one knows how, and it is fantastic that we are, but cannot be, assessed solely in terms of practical value. Yoga involves a logic of abandonment, re-creation by symbols.

Massimo Schiavoni: After having studied dance Francesca, what made you closer to Japanese culture and puppetry? Explain then the initial connection and the meeting between the yogic path and your artistic work. 

Francesca Proia: There is a link between all these aspects, and it is the breath. For the Japanese the spirit of nature is something with which to create relations and connections. Itsuo Tsuda Japanese philosopher writes: “When I use the word breathing, not talking about a simple combination of biochemical oxygen-hemoglobin. Breathing is all vitality, action, love, spirit of communion, intuition, premonition, movement. The East still preserves these aspects under the name of prana or ki. Although the West seems to have met them: they are witnesses to the word psyche, soul-breath, or soul, from which words like soul, animation, animals, animus, or spirit, derive; and from which we took words like spirit, inspiration, aspiration, breathing. The importance given in the West to the philosophy of knowledge, making rationalism triumph, puts an end to the fluid and invisible aspects of pre-rational data. It establishes an opposition between man, the subject of knowledge, and the world, the object of knowledge. The world exists independently from man. The latter stops to look through its breath … ”

The puppet theatre because because the objects are mainly made of the breath of who gives birth to them, almost in a shamanistic sense. Similarly, yoga breathing is a major access route to the thin dimension of man. Compared to the second question, I can say that my artistic production, assuming in each case specific concepts and sometimes marginally to Yoga philosophy, has gone to focus on the nature of the subtle body in relation to objects, space and perception. They are also a number of concepts that have formed a research centre: Kundalini, the lotus posture, the subtle body, kechari mudra, Prakriti. As regards the process of work, in a first stage, dance, which usually develops insights through a mode of everyday research, is each time a core of raw material, extracted from an original language history of the body. This language until now has naturally placed and highlighted some issues about yoga, that the subsequent phase of choreographic montage was literally swallowed, so it that could be a spectator trying to find some crack in which to penetrate in a purely Western surface. I say until now because I’m slowly turning into a different approach, of course, planning the long time period, which for now is still pure research, without form or deadline. I do not rule and are open to a change in the world of reference, project structure … Yoga has never, however, a matter to be exposed as such, sometimes it was necessary to take a longer distance than the iconographic identifier, so that the data do not prove conceptual abstract representation, but rather hyperreal, so as to become unrecognizable, but intact in its nature.

Massimo Schiavoni: Tell me about your meeting with Romeo Castellucci. How do you define your work in those years? And what have you taken from the experience with the Societas.

Francesca Proia: While seeking a way to adhere sincerely to their planning, I chose to try to make myself a flexible power, that could be sensitive to the overall vision that lay on me, growing consciously, without saving, an energy end unto itself, so strong that they can literally have to change the perception of the density of the body. This was the most interesting aspect of the job.After experience with the Raffaello Sanzio I retained absolutely nothing, in line with my application choices, to privilege the waste rather than the accumulation. I say this not in the negative, so often thought of having to enrich, to acquire qualifications, perceive themselves as different images each time based on the experiences we live, but everything is in fact already acquired, there’s nothing else to do but stay in their own nature.

Massimo Schiavoni: Your first personal artistic creation was the staging of the show “Dark Light Dark. Tell me about the happy union with Danilo Conti and the solo you danced where you’ve scoured consciousness and physicality of an adolescence increasingly dark and intimate.

Francesca Proia: All my projects, starting from their Buio luce buio, were realised as a performance together with Danilo Conti, writer and director, especially related to the field of puppetry, theatre of objects and theatre for children. Continuous work with Danilo gave me the opportunity to understand his idea of creation as the assembly of a gradual adjustment of a breathing surreal being that just begins to exist, while respecting its profound nature. Danilo’s vast experience in the puppet theatre and in the theatre for children has revealed over time, a native sensibility to the memories contained in everyday objects, which results in the ability to make them live all at once. In this way objects are freed from their utilitarian function and return to their original sense: magic. The result is a relationship full of meaning, because based on dialogue rather than on consumption.At the beginning of 2004, Danilo and I started working on this first solo, based on the tale Valeria e una settimana di meraviglie. This is a story written in 1935 by one of the major theoretical and surrealist poets in Prague, Viteszlav Nezval. It deals with the the protagonist’s passage from adolescence to adulthood, through the onset of first menstruation, and with a week of dreams and visions, related to the body of the protagonist and her feelings and people that are around her. This was the suggestion that initially led to the creation of what was and is just fundamentally a work of pure dance, pure presence in space. Parallel to the work a survey is running, theoretical and especially physics, the concept of Kundalini. Kundalini is, through the image of the female snake which goes up in the vertebral axis form the inside, a climb to the world of the unconscious. To the west you go unconscious, just as you descend into a cave, and here you climb. In the world of Kundalini Yoga, then, everything is upside down. So what starts up, physically and consciously, with the ascent of Kundalini, is not a personal development, but rather has to do with a process of gradual drift from its conception of the sense of identity as opposed to all which is non-self. At the end of the week, Valeria is not necessarily an adult, but someone who has been touched, perhaps accidentally, by a contact with its deep part. This was no longer possible to walk backwards, back to seeing the reality as before. Something along these lines has been burned. The manifestation of her unconscious means for her a path to a detachment from her emotions, in a progressive sense of the body as a cosmic space in miniature.

Massimo Schiavoni: In 2005 you received the alert and the Scenario Mention Prize at the Iceberg Prize with the second solo danced Something for the , inter alia invited to Tokyo at the Session House in the project Italo-Japanese Bodies / Others. Here, where the body has no face, what communicates the music of composer Oskar Sala and sensitive issues and relationships that begin to emerge in this next study?

Francesca Proia: In a body which can not hold tension, the breath is free to propagate freely to the tip of the hair. Similarly in “Something for the Hall” is a substance the body sensitive to vibrations of Oskar Sala’s trautonium. What struck me about his music is that it seems designed to create concentration on an empty place, which ends up identifying with the body itself, which becomes nothing but a shell. Another image that the music inspired me was that of the public in meditation in front of the navel of a huge black space. How to make the body a navel? Some yoga positions suggested the idea of the node, so that the body, in a tight posture, let out for themselves the vital prana. Or positions that make the body like a clenched fist. So it was a process of the body as a hole to access the music. The body on stage has no face, or rather it has different faces because they are immersed in a pre-conceived space.

Massimo Schiavoni: Then comes the work Il non fare e uno, where in the first one the body comes alive with the space slowly assuming its characteristics and the second involves with empathy the viewer attracting the eye. In these latest solos which were the yogic techniques you took and which cosmos did you search for with Danilo Conti? Don’t you think your work should be increasingly emerging as a sort of “non-dance” choreography drawn from philosophical and anthropological dimensions? 

Francesca Proia: Through the breath, the body can change its basic energy patterns. Can thus become an entity ductile, malleable, capable, lowering his voice, to slip in each hole, to pass under the door or, conversely, to become more noticeable, larger?. It is true, I speak of the subtle body and not a physical body, but in the end the difference is minimal. It simply has to move the perception and self-consciousness between them. So “doing nothing” as you said, trying to identify with the space, defined as air in one place. “One” tries his suspension from the perception of time, through the kechari mudra, the mudra that brings language press in the inner cavities within the skull. And in this process, it seeks to bring the audience, calling for empathy, through a continuous movement of rotation, the perceptual awareness of a circuit in the form of an eight that is in the bust, complementary to the same mudra. If you try to suspend the breath for a moment, without tension, you realize that at that moment you cannot have desires. You are in another world. I am interested in philosophies that can have immediate repercussions on the physical and real things.

Massimo Schiavoni: And what role did spectators have in all this? Do they perceive or are they estranged even including the state of things, do they identify or do they have to feel and have a philosophical and psychological baggage not indifferent to your artistic career?

Francesca Proia: In my work, the media remains the main body, which is a reality that we all experience, of which all have a perception, a history and a vision. Empathy, even if it is subtle, through the body is therefore the first point of contact with the viewer, an elementary process that can trigger a process of vision as a physical act of appropriation. So my job requires absolutely no knowledge, but just curiosity to contact a path that goes in the direction of an exploration of the subtle body. Even when I teach yoga, the thing that worries me most is the possibility of having a clear technical language to convey as accurately as possible, even to those who have no previous knowledge of yoga, even to a child. However there is always an effort to cater to those who come to you, even in the shows it is like that: my attitude (and slim body, not emotional) changes, imperceptibly, according to the perception I have of the public.

Massimo Schiavoni: In the circuit Francesca Proia contemporary theatrical dance of the being- ie, the interior figure, the survival choreography – where is set in the critical, semiotic and phenomenological universe of a more virtuous generation, technology, drama and especially in these recent years multiplying up beyond belief? 

Francesca Proia: The most important thing is the strength and inspiration to pursue a line of research that has internal motivations and roots, and that there are therefore no restrictions on time or space. But also the ability to detach themselves from time to time. It is always Tsuda who writes: “We know that there are times when everything works perfectly, and others in which everything goes wrong. And because in humans there are alternative periodic moments where the tendency to contraction is accelerating, and times when, instead, it is an increased tendency to linger. Call the first cycles high and low cycles the second ones. A failure happening during a low cycle is discouraging us, while the same failure can be overcome, if suffered during a high cycle. During high cycles, the process of compression and discharge of energy takes place easily. If, in a high sky one wants to do something but he hesitates and looks when it comes down cycle even the wish disappears. There are broadly three types of cycles, depending on the length of their duration: the great cycle lasts three and a half years or seven years, the average cycle lasts eighty weeks, the small cycle lasts four to eight weeks. There are cycles that are shorter during the day or during the week. Ovulation in women also suffer the influence of cycles, so that it accentuates or weakens, lengthens or shortens every two or three times. The classification (of mankind) in 12 basic types then shows the direction (body) to which you walk along the energy compressed in order to download, but not enough to understand the individual. We also see the duration of individual cycles, the way in which it is discharged, the degree of individual tolerance to resist compression etc.. At first, we must work actively during the up cycles and rest during low cycles. Efforts during the cycles are not profitable and low tend to commit excesses during high cycles. The image of man, according to this view, is quite different from that imposed on us by society that man (and therefore also the artist) is a machine. (…) The yield of man is neither uniform nor controllable. I’m developing the philosophy that holds that man is a man before anything else, and should not be a slave of his creation. ”

Massimo Schiavoni: Nothing female is alien to me” is 2008. How did the show and how you show here the body and unconscious effects, regenerating or energy? 

Francesca Proia: The show is inspired by the novel Jeskyně Baradla (cave Baradla), author and painter Eva Svankmajerova. Baradla is a living organism, both a woman and a place. Yoga philosophy called Prakriti possible by the infinite, to manifest as the body due to an energy imbalance. Immense body, which contains the elements of nature, its quality is female. Nothing from a female combination, hazardous, between these two figures, belonging to two very different contexts, geographical and historical. Prakriti is a process that takes on, through the figure of Baradla, a personality, a heart, a vulnerability through which knowing, loving, and loving as that which surrounds us and what we in our turn we are. Prakriti can then become a kind of rare hermit female, yogini, a dark body, slowly crossing the Eastern world and Western world. In structure, female Nothing is alien to me is developed around the idea of progressive construction of a den animal, composed of different objects, whose inhabitants, and the rite itself, imagination, preparation of the site capable of receiving the darkness, and a singing. Baradla-Prakriti, therefore, elusive, is built like a sculpture made of waste stored objects and scraps, but whose spirit may be felt, for lightning, only during the dynamic structure. At the end of the process, when all is ready, what remains is a pile of crumpled remnants. Than the space of narrative, the stage is designed as a place of biological transformation, in which a body-mouth created by exhalation, and destroys through cycles of greed.

Massimo Schiavoni: This year the studio The cat Inside was a finalist for the Rome Prize Balance Dance. Where to put this solo and especially Francesca Proia as an artist and as a woman toward that direction is going? What would you like to see happen or who change to the world of contemporary dance and performing art and shelters where you find yourself in the dreams and disappointments that you made and you still want to achieve?

Francesca Proia: The cat inside is certainly a new beginning than all previous work, but I can not even place it, limit it in my idea, and give, with the words, a form that I would rather take on course. So I can say the same thing for me, because one thing that I find very important to me right now is not inadvertently put myself in the words of the limits defined in some way or another. Instead I want to be protean, leaving room to not know what they are. Compared to the dance in Italy, I would just bring back, in fact, the recent experience of Balance Award for making a general observation: I think it’s a good thing to have the opportunity to showcase their work simply, at a stage still embryonic, to have the opportunity to obtain cooperation and resources also important assets, continuing in their projects. It is not so obvious that certain “institutions” is at stake for the dance of independent research, especially as the large structures can provide an important place of vision (here was the Auditorium of Rome), a good number of professionals and enough for a prize winner (here 20.000) to lay the foundations for their work.

Another company has received good cooperation with a foreign structure. Without mythologizing the initiative, for me it was an occasion of very fruitful meeting with organizers and directors of theaters abroad. Furthermore, not only the evening, but the festival has seen a tremendous number of public, a sign that at times are the same programming to ghettoise the dance of the Italian research, even in preference, for economic reasons or for lack of desire to deepening of the subject, the “packets” ready, rather than opt for a genuine policy of cooperation and support in reality for what it feels real interest. Where I hide? Rather, where I can regenerate …. In myself and in my affections.