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From Marni to Off-White, the importance of the performance in the fashion show

The clubbing experience is conceived as intimate and shared with other people as a social activity, a way to learn more about oneself and the individuals around, away from the ordinary life

In his choreographic research, Michele Rizzo has always been intrigued by the pedestrian  quality of walking, the most simple and fundamental motion of the human being. Such interest expanded when he was offered to explore it within the fashion world, where (cat)walking is the most traditional and iconic code of movement. He was proposed  a sort of visionary and parallel world – as the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland – by Francesco Risso, creative director of Marni for the F/W 20-2. Covid-19 reshaped the  runway events as in Off-White Imaginary TV, where Rizzo choreographed the Parallel performance, allowing the fashion world to have a wider audience. The aim was to bypass  the old boundaries and the exclusivity remarked by invitation only. Rizzo had his first approach with the world of art and choreography in Lecce, where he was born, watching the Romeo and Juliet ballet at the local theatre. He was hit by a desire to get in touch with the dancing sphere, considering that he comes from a family embedded with art and dance. Rizzo found in dance and acting the opportunity to discover his body and to be more conscious of it, and decided to go to Rome to explore a new life. The movement and dance helped him understand that his objective was to invest into the quest of the self, making him quit architecture studies to give space to choreography and visual arts, before in Rome and then in Amsterdam.

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HIGHER xtn. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 2018 Ph Marteen Nauw

Rizzo’s first project ever is M., and consisted in the first step of the creation of some self-portraits, later performed by Rizzo trying to highlight the lively expressions of these images even outside the physical body. The reflection about the body was developed giving birth to a real size 3D copy of the artist, a kind of mannequin made of foam, with the actual face of Rizzo created thanks to a silicone mold. From that reflection was born the performance. The singer, central character of the performance, is a symbol of the confrontation between the work and the artist who produced it and of the work’s power itself. The main focus of this project is the fascination of the idea of the body as something both physical and non-physical, where the movement is intended as a non-physical aspect while the body is conceived as an object that has to be recreated as a perfect copy of the self to perform with. The transcendence of the artist in the manufacturing process that confers all the power to the image. It is important to underline the influence of the club culture for the artist’s next projects, from his teen age times to the adulthood phase; «I realized that in the club I was rediscovering dance in a way that was teaching me more than I have ever learned in  dance school». Higher (2015) is the first expression of this consideration based on the experience of club dancing. This form of dance cannot be catalogued easily into a dance category, but it has social and cultural meanings manifested through different influences and styles. Speaking of his project Rizzo continued «Higher is a dialogue between dance as it happens in the club and dance as an art form, the development of my poetic approach». This type of dance has been interpreted as a form of celebration with a cathartic aim, distant from the basic symbol of a recreative moment. Spacewalk (2017) can be considered as the Higher second chapter where dancers express an energy comparable to the rave experience, entering into a trance-space through the repetition of the movements. In Spacewalk «space is treated as a three dimensional canvas in which dancers enter in this imagination space and begin to explore».

Deposition is the last project of this trilogy: described through the choreography, performed by Rizzo himself, and refers to the returning concreteness of the following phase, after the ephemeral quality of the trance phase is over, crystallising again towards a solid state. The heaviness of the physical body returns from an imaginary experience to the consciousness  of reality; the apathy of the slow gestures unfolds towards a completely quiescent state in  order to close the circle of the whole happening. At Marni, the performance creation for the collection began with the creative director Francesco Risso’s desire to explore the walking medium of the fashion shows through an innovative approach. Rizzo defined Risso’s ideas as visionary and courageous in a way of exploring shapes and patterns in a kind of distortion. The collection expressed his perspective through the sartorial hybrids, assembled together as leftovers of the archived clothes marked by the passage of time. The idea of ‘fantastic world’ by Francesco Risso perfectly reflects Michele Rizzo’s vision, and aims at enlightening the desire to escape the routine to deal with creativity, a concept that is far away from reality. The idea of the fashion show was unconventional from the beginning, bringing the audience into a not existing place, with the idea of not only presenting clothes but having the whole floor covered by different models, clearly visible by the public. The conviction of the possibility of a moderate world was the starting point that led to a new definition of walking into the catwalk where a combination of slow mood with a fast one was presented, the possibility to focus on every detail of the apparel with the impactful contrast of speed. 

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Rest, 2020. Ph Cristian Cocurullo, Courtesy Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo and Quadriennale di Roma

The latest work of Michele Rizzo is Rest conceived as a sculptural and performative project. The live part of the exhibition at the Quadriennale di Roma, did not take place due to the pandemic restrictions, the choreographer refers now to the project as «both the consequence and the non-consequence of this period» because it happened partially compared to how it was intended. Rest was conceptually conceived before the Covid-19 advent as a following step of the work Higher xtn. (the exhibition version of the  original piece Higher, initially created for the theatre) exploring the resting side of raving, a necessary phase for a new beginning, but after the pandemic outbreak the work gained a series of different meanings, from the reflection people were forced to have during the lockdown, obliged to rest, to the question of the meaning of this word considering that the medical sector could not stop for a second. On the contrary the other side of the world was encouraged to move and to stand up through the Black lives matter movement.

This year Rizzo strengthened his relationship with the fashion world choreographing the performance Parallel for the Off-White ‘Imaginary-TV’ collection. The concept of this  presentation was to create a TV platform, 90s inspired and conceived to reunite different  artistic pieces and artists from dance, music, theatre, visual arts fields, on the diverse channels, including the SS 2021 collection show. The audience has the occasion to shift  from a performance to another choosing which artistic field to approach. Rizzo explains how his work often deals with the recognition and the analysis of some  very intimate and personal feelings, and how it could be defined as an ‘introverted work: dancers are encouraged to look inside themselves during the performance. This way of interpreting is uncommon in theatre, where, normally, actors convey towards the  outside, and, vice versa, the audience focuses on the performers. In Rizzo’s choreographies  the performer directs attention towards himself/herself in order to make the audience look  inside themselves. That is the reason why, at times, his work has been seen as a provocation, when actually it is just a different way of looking and approaching this bilateral relationship. It is difficult to discuss future plans at this time even if the situation is slowly going towards a resolution. What Michele Rizzo sees is a new way of conceiving and dealing with live arts, «Despite the difficulties, we (artists) keep on working and we are trying to adapt to what is possible, but also we always should try to do what is impossible  or at least try to reveal  what is invisible. We cannot prevent ourselves from doing our job, we need to find a way  to do it, it is hard to define right know how, but for sure we will. do it in the safest way  possible».  

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Michele Rizzo is an Italian choreographer and performer; he was born in Lecce and started his dance studies in Rome. In 2011 he graduated at the SNDO, School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam, where he is occasionally  a guest teacher in choreography and movement research. In 2015 he attended a Visual Arts master program at the Sandberg Institute of Amsterdam. His multidisciplinary approach of the produced performances led him to the release of HIGHER (2015), a project inspired by club culture with music by Lorenzo Senni, SPACEWALK (2017), also based on the club culture but with a focus on the space analysis, DEPOSITION (2019) represents the third episode of the trilogy. REST (2020), his last work, is also connected with the clubbing side of reflection. His experience has been filled with some collaborations in the fashion field, dealing with the performative aspects of the collection presentations for Marni and Off-White.

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