Masterclass Program 2017

a syncretism between Commedia dell’Arte and the dance of the Orixàs

With Luca Gatta and Ana Auxiliadora Estrela

We propose a study on body and voice based on a personal training born from the synthesis of different techniques that the director, actor and trainer Luca Gatta assimilated in the course of his research. The reference points are: the Asian traditions, African dances, pantomime, contemporary music and voice physiognomy.
The masterclass aims to re-read the Commedia dell’Arte in a cross-cultural dimension through the interaction with the traditions of other countries. The objective is to build cultural relations between different theater traditions, in order to create a new product that will be the summary of the different cultures.

Physical training
1. Presentation of the masks
2. Study on neutral
3. Preheating of the deformations, physical and grotesque, of Commedia dell’Arte
4. The mask blows
5. Breakdown of the movement
• hinges
• whips
• stairs
6. Strengthening bodily bands
• African dance
• Elements of Kathakali
7. The bodily bands and fixed types of Comnedia dell’Arte
• the servant
• the old men
• the lovers
• the captains
8. Elements of preacrobatica
9. Callot’s dance (rhythmic and spatial techniques for improvisation)

Vocal training
1. Breathing
2. The body as a total resonator
3. Voice
4. The consonants
5. The vocal gesture as a spokesperson

In anthropology the term ‘animism’ is used in order to classify the religions and the worship practices in which objects, places and material beings are considered to have divine qualities. According to the vision of these religions Gods are not trascendent, but material. The term is linked to the idea that there’s a certain degree of identification between the divine spiritual principle and the material beings in reality.
The candomblè is a religion carried from Africa to Brazil by the slaves during three and a half centuries. Among the people captured and sent to Barzil there were, in fact, ministers of worship. When they arrived in Brazil they received the catholic baptism, but in Bahia, the slaves managed to preserve their religion. They were able to practice it secretly by using the stratagem of homologating every god to a catholic saint (for example Oxalà became baby Jesus with the name of Senior do Bonfirm and so on) till to develop a religious syncretism between catholicism and african animism.
Pierre Verger, after studying the afro-bahian religions for decades and after travelling in the conuntries where the slaves came from, wrote important essays on the connection between the animism worships as they’re still practiced in Nigeria, Togo, Benin and the Candomblè’s one. The “terreiros” ( every kind of open spaces, such as the courtyards and the backyards) are the places where the ceremonies usually are done.
The masterclass of Canbomlè is divided in four working phases:
1. Presentation and short excursus on the afro-brazilian culture, Orixàs and samba de roda.
2. stretching, training on african and afro-brazilian postures and mouvements
3. Developing chants and dances of the Orixàs into a samba structure.
4. Return to the natural rythm, breathing and sharing impressions.

We will study these Orixas:
AIR – YANSAN Goddes of the wind and the tempest, mistress of the lightnings and of the souls of the dead. She can unleash storms for sweeping away from earth the human wickedness. Yansà is usually evoked as a protection from negative entities, and she’s, in a certain sense, very similar to an exorcist. She’s able to throw flames out of her mouth so she’s the patroness of those who use words in order both to defend and to attack other people. The Orixàs are, in fact, ambivalent forces and they can act on different plans of reality, but their mission is always good.

FIRE – XANGO God of the fire, of the thunders and of justice. He expresses through dance the posture, the majesty and the dignity of a King (Xangô was the king of Oyó). He wields the oxé (a two-blade axe) and he makes the gesture of throwing lightning on the earth. He’s proud and authoritarian, but also very generous. Being strong and valorous, he’s the symbol of the istitutions, the state and the government. He’s an authoritarian and irremovable father, the man of honour for excellence.

WATER – OXUMARE According to the myth, it’s androgynous: for six months it’s a man and for the other six it’s a woman. In reality its male part is inseparable form its female counterpart, Ewà. It comes to earth in form of a snake (It is often represented as a snake biting its tail) in order to ensure the union between the two halves of the world (the hemispheres) and between the two parts of the human being (the right and the left). Even the colours of its dresses, light blue and red, represent the union between male and female. Oxumaré ensures the life on earth by being responsible of the cycle of the water, which rains on earth and evaporates from it.

EARTH – OMOLU He’s the orixà the people are more afraid of and the one they respect more, because he’s responsible of illnesses and misfortunes. He’s the lord of the hell, the doctor of the poors and the guide of the dead. He’s connected to the earth, the sun, the smallpox and the skin deseases. Son of Nanà, the Mother of the depth of the earth, he’s dressed in straw for hiding his skin tortured by illnesses.