Final Day. Solid structures

European Performing Arts, Performing Arts Residency

Yesterday was the last day of CLASTIC Residency of Artistic Exchange. We just said goodbye to most of the artists who had to catch early flights from Turin. I’m feeling exhausted from the whole week’s hard work (and a bit hungover from last night’s party) but, above all, I am feeling extremely grateful.

Yesterday we started early with a restorative yoga session that Nicole led for the group and which sustained our energy throughout a very long day of work. We were performing at 9 pm at the ZAC (Zone Attive di Cittadinanza) and had the whole day to finish the performance.

It was a very long, difficult process but it was a necessary process. There were loads and loads of talking which is what happens when you put a group of 15 artists from 5 different countries and disciplines in the same room to create something together. We experienced working as a collective, with no director, which is not easy. Every decision was a struggle that we had to fight for; but we were all fighting on the same side and this, they tell me, doesn’t happen often. We also had the chance to really see how each artist works: there were those who went for the most practical solutions and those who liked to discuss things in depth; those who needed to have everything fixed and those who liked leaving space for improvisation… Somehow, despite all the differences, we managed to make it work.


It was also a beautiful example of skillsharing. We used the music designed by Hyenaz from the sounds we had registered during their workshop; the guys from T a n z t h e a t r e created a couple of coreographies and taught them to the group; we sang the Occitanian song that I Patom Theatre had taught us and built up the energy of the end with the flocks exercise we had done with the Biloura. The guiding thread for the performance was flowing water, which we had connected with so well in Iva’s workshop, first swimming in the river and then while standing on the bridge.


In the afternoon we got to the ZAC, which was far from anything like a conventional theatre setting. It’s a massive space all in glass, with big, concrete columns in the centre. There’s a bar in a corner, an old shop in the middle of the space and, since it’s next to the train station, ticket counters and screens announcing departing trains. The acoustics aren’t great and it was pouring down, which made it worse. The first question, then, was how to move our performance from the training room we were used to into this massive space. It was a real challenge, but it summed up perfectly the discussions we’d had during the week. Throughout the performance we experienced the true meaning of what Iva called “the co-creation with space”:  the lights going off, the sound of the rain, the lighting through the windowpanes, the coughs and conversation of the audience… The space was alive and present throughout the whole evening.

At the end of the performance we invited the audience to dance with us, recalling the experience we’d had with the local band a few days ago. I got again that feeling of deep gratefulness that has come up in several moments during the week. Gratefulness for having been able to share a space and a time with all these wonderful artists. For their openness to trying new things, their enthusiasm to share their knowledge, their willingness to research deeper into our time and ourselves, their care for their work and for others, their patience and resilience and, above all, for having agreed to jump with me in this crazy adventure.

Today I feel like there are only bits and pieces left of what happened here in Valchiusella this week. But yesterday, something was created out of all those fragments that had a unique, solid structure. That shape will never be reproduced again but we leave this valley cracked and re-assembled, and we keep flowing, like the river, to form new structures that will resist well into the future.

Day 5. Water, bodies, spaces

Performing Arts Residency

Yesterday was the last day of workshop because today we’re dedicating all our forces to the performance which we’re staging tonight!

It was the turn of Iva from Theatre of Inconceivable, our only one-woman company. Iva decided to led most of the workshop outdoors which we all really appreciated. We started in the space with training to gather energy in our energy centres (liver, kidneys, collar bone) taken from Mexican shamanic tradition. We also activated our palms through contact with the palms of others in connection with our hearts. Finally, we aligned our “hara” line, going from the sky to the ground through our spine and perpendicular to our time line, the line of civilisation, transversing through our breastbone. This whole process of activating ourselves was meant to open our perception and awareness of ourselves and the space.


For the second part of the workshop we went outdoors. Iva took us to a centre of energy, a beautiful little street with an abandoned stone house next to a well. As she pointed out,  heritage is also a space. A house were people used to live, constructed in a traditional way with the rocks of the area. Every second, we are co-creating with the space around us. She asked us to connect with the space in whichever way we felt, through vision, sound, touch…

I chose to sit down on the well, on its cold stone in the shade, the smooth surface full of imperfections, cut and polished a long time ago by different hands from mine, the geometrical metal bar now rusted going up, with its rough surface that cracks under the touch. 

Then we all held hands in two concentric circles and tried to communicate with the space through which ever sounds came to us, creating an almost eerie melody that connected us all with our surrounding space. We then did an exercise of walking three steps forward and two back to become aware of what stood behind our backs, which in Western culture is left out of perception.


Finally we went to the river for a little swimming break which was much needed in such a hot day. It was beautiful to see how everyone found their little spot among the rocks, in the middle of the unending current, like little water fairies under the sun. To finish off we did another exercise in the bridge leading to the river, in which we connected our time line with the course of the river with the past behind our backs flowing in front of us towards our future. It was a very healing workshop which made us aware of all the levels in which we can perceive the space that we are not only but that we are part of as material beings.

After lunch we had a very intense creative session since we had to decide what we were putting in the show. We made a long list of all the scenes we had created both in the workshops and creative sessions, and then everyone selected what they would like to have in the show. We had a discussion and then started making proposals and voting on them. It was decided that the guiding thread of the performance would be water, which is connected to the circular movement of the transmission of heritage. It was hard work but we managed to come up with a general structure which we then put loosely into practice. The challenge today will be making the necessary adjustments for it to take a final form.

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For dinner we went to the most beautiful place so far, a circolo arci or association of women who have suffered violence. It was a beautiful bar up the hill from which you could see the valley, Turin and the Bella Dormente. We had an Italian dream dinner with caponata, pesto lasagna and courgette parmigiana on the same plate. Somebody of the place offered wine to the group and we ended up staying late playing, singing and dancing like the day before. It is a particular type of energy that these musical exchanges generate,  an energy that expands from our bodies and our voices into the bodies of others and out into the valley. Like the heritage of times past that flows from each of us and is transformed into the immensity of the future.



Day 4. The sound of silence and the joy of culture

European Performing Arts, Performing Arts Residency

Yesterday was a very full day in Clastic residency which I feel has brought us even closer.

We started the morning with Heynaz workshop on sound. This was amazing because none of us had done anything like it before so we all jumped on board straightaway. First they took us on a tour around the streets of Alice listening through their recorder to the surrounding sounds. As soon as we understood how it worked we started looking for sounds to record: a bicycle passing by, the buzzing of the bees, a stick against a fence, dry leaves breaking beneath our feet… A whole universe was opening before our eyes (or, rather, ears) which we had never before realised was there. The most simple things, like a garage door closing or a ball rolling down the street became extremely exciting. After learning how to do it, we went into couples to find three environments (any small space) to feel, connect with and explore its sounds. We had to come up with a single hit (a clear, short sound), a composition (rythmic or otherwise from the combination of sounds), our own voice and a movement that the place inspired.

For the second part of the workshop we went back to space which we had reconfigured with a projector and a table full of computers in the middle. Kate and Adrian taught as the basics of Audacity and how to modify and layer some of the sounds we had recorded with it. To finish, we warmed up our bodies and started remembering with our bodies the sensations, movements, words and sounds that the environments had inspired in us. At the same time, Adrian composed a sound base from our recordings, mainly a streched out sound of a donkey. At the end of the workshop I had the feeling of having glimpsed the very beginning of a whole universe of sound and I think I speak for everyone when I say it felt too short.

During the lunch break we divided in groups for cooking and going around the valley to put of posters of the performance.

In the afternoon we had our fourth creative session, this time divided into two big groups. The first group, in which I was in, started from the material we already had and tried to find a guiding thread among some of our favourite scenes. We also explored some movement and sound that could work as a transition in the final performance. The second group, on the other hand, created a completely new material that had the public spread out among the performers. There was a lot of talking and discussing. The day of the performance is getting closer and we have to start narrowing down the themes we’re going to work on and the scenes or images we want to present. Managing a group of 15 people coming from completely different artistic backgrounds is a challenge but I’m sure the results will pay out.

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After the creative session we had a very special evening. The local music band of Alice Superiore, who shares the space with Biloura, had offered themselves to come to play and eat with us. They were arriving only at 9pm so we had a lot of free time for aperitivo, ice creams and going back to swim in the river.

The evening was a total success. The band arrived at 9 pm and we introduced each other, with a bit of help of those of us bilingual who acted as interpreters. The band played well into the night all sorts of traditional piemontese songs and we all improvised our dances inside a circle. Our own musicians, Angie and Aude, also made their own contribution with the violin and the accordion. Then others started to contribute their own traditional songs, sung a cappella. There was plenty of wine and later pasta al forno that the band had ordered for us.


We ate, talked, drank, sung and above all danced, danced and danced until exhaustion. It was a beautiful artistic and human exchange between the people of the village that hosts us and their musical heritage on the one hand; and on the other hand the heritage of all of our artists from around Europe. A perfect lesson for all of us about sharing, heritage and the joy of culture.



Day 3. Poetic landscapes and Heritage survival

European Performing Arts, Performing Arts Residency

Everybody is starting to get used to going early to bed and waking up very early in the morning. I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s a nice change from our unhealthy sleeping habits.

The day began with Biloura Collective who stepped out from their role in the organisation to lead their workshop. They started by stating the importance in their creative process of staying with oneself for the whole process to then open up to the others and the space. The workshop began in the floor, paying attention to our breathing, as if we were lying down in a beach. From there we suffered a series of transformations, all of them linking into each other, that allowed us to warm up our bodies and voices and connect with the others and the space. Once this finished we had to look for the music within ourselves and start dancing to it, until we found someone else who was dancing to the same rythm. Groups started to form and became bigger and bigger until we were just one big group in a ritual with singing, shouting and dancing. This finally led into a song.


We finished the first part of the workshop with very high levels of energy.  In the second part of the workshop we were asked to think about a moment were we had realised that something we thought was personal was actually cultural. We started by looking at each other in the eyes and touching to create a closer intimacy. Then we went onto work on what Biloura call “poetic landscapes” which consist in improvisations that start from each person and their relationship to space. It was beautiful to see how interactions were created in each group leading into stories, often quite comic. The key was to really find one’s own action before interacting with the others and to be aware of the focus of the scene.

The lunch break went by as usual in the courtyard with some sunbathing, others writing and others doing acrobatics or trying to learn them.


The creative session of the afternoon was at a completely other level than the previous day. We worked in different, bigger groups to keep creating material and all three scenes that were presented were much more organic and had a a lot of depth. All of them somehow turned around the themes of play and the grotesque. The first was a beautiful scene full of symbolism in which the feminine burden of tradition was passed on through generation. The narration used storytelling and objects, which created a rich visual and sound landscape. The second scene used children games to talk about violence, in the style of the Lord of the Flies. The turns and timings were perfect and it ended as it began, giving the sensation of an infinite circle of violence.


The third scene worked on the idea of “I have something that you don’t have” linked to culture. It finished with a powerful scene in which Vita tried to teach us the Eastern beauty of sorrow and the desperate cry of mourners, in which you weren’t sure whether the crying was real or a joke.

As one of the artists, Iva from Theatre of Inconceivable said, after all we saw yesterday the question that remains is how do we survive this heritage that is ours as much as our audiences.


Day 2. Improvise, improvise, improvise

European Performing Arts, Performing Arts Residency

Day 2 has started with the workshop of Tanztheatre A d r i a n L o o k. The session started with some games to get warmed up which quickly got the group very excited. Then we started with improvisation techniques. First we explored movement qualities improvising on levels of movement, from floor to jumping; on sizes; on heaviness or lightness; on types of movement (swing, throw, drop, collapse)… and then put them together in a phrase. Then we watched a scene of Adrian’s last performance, The Art of Failure, which was a duet around the theme of someone asking for help and someone giving help. We then had to improvise on this same theme in duets. Two or three duets were performed for the class contemporaneously, following Adrian’s technique. It was great to see the amazing diversity of interpretations of the subject, sometimes even turning it around.Finally we used Pina Bausch creative technique in which she gives tasks to the dancers. We had to choose from a list of tasks such as “Fall out of love. Literally” or “Three pigeons sitting in a bench thinking about life” or “Create the most beautiful movement on earth and give it to someone else” or “If a fridge could speak” (referencing our kitchen fridge, Friga Kahlo, which is never silent). Again, it was very interesting to see the phrases of each person and how they worked onstage together, creating a narration even if you didn’t know what they were about.

We had lunch again provided by the cooking group of the day, in which I was included. It was very chaotic with people from different countries each having their own way of doing things and wanting to make their contribution. Still, I think we had a good result.

The creative session of the evening was very productive. Each of the groups that we had decided the day before presented some material to the others at the end of the 2 hours. The most interesting for me was seeing how each group had gone from nothing to having a piece to present, what the creative processes had been.

The first group started from a series of questions related to heritage like “How do you adapt?” which led them to the theme of Communication and from the circle position in which they were sitting and their feelings at the time which then resulted in a scene in which trust was reached through play. The second group started from the idea of “culture-cringe”, those things that had led the artists to abandon their home countries and cultures. The resulting scene was a sort of freakshow with a lot of historical weight, musical instruments and the use of many languages. The third group started from a pop-song, Michele by the Beatles, the heritage of the future, but sung in Croatian. The scene deformed this song in the passing of the burden of tradition through generations of women. In the fourth group, of which I was part, we started with some key words such as ritual, geology and oral tradition and created an improvised scene with different elements (storytelling, clapping, singing, moving) and a series of rules that guided the improvisation.


Every piece was completely different from the others and showed only a fragment of the whole creative process and the artistic heritage of each participant. This is what made them powerful. We got caught in the discussion of the impressions and the intentions behind each scene and the session went on long after 18:00.

We still had some time to get ready before dinner in the bar next to the space. We’re still getting used to Italian quantities of food so some of us took a walk after dinner around Alice Superiore. Second day of the residency has flown by!



Day 1. The workshops begin

European Performing Arts, Performing Arts Residency

The groups have woken up from their first night in the hostel together. Despite the light coming in through the windows, the bells of the church next door tolling every hour and the beds creaking at the lightest movement I think we have all woken up rested and ready for the first day of workshops.

I Patom Theatre conducted the workshop in the morning. We started with a yoga session and you could already hear the heavy breathing of those less used to the practice. The tiredness turned into an animal improvisation on all fours and then into a vocal improvisation full of life which finally led into a traditional song from Occitania. All of it like one long flow of breath.


The second part of the workshop started with recalling a memory of a time when we had felt ashamed of our identity. We sat in a circle and started telling each other our memories, all of them completely different and told in completely different ways.The key was to think about the detail of the moment (the space, clothes, gestures) so you could make the others see the memory themselves.


The final part consisted in which the girls led around a group improvisation in which we played around with these memories. Some made gestures of those present in their memories, some became props of the memories of others, others sang or moved as if they were competing memories that filtered and transformed the telling of the memories. It was a beautiful representation of memory.

Then we had a fantastic lunch all together cooked by a group of the participants.

In the afternoon we had our first creative session. We started with a brainstorm around the meaning cultural heritage, the topic of the residency, which very quickly moved on to tradition and the role of tradition today. Everyone then presented their own artistic heritage and creative method that they are bringing to the residency. It was a very productive conversation with everyone bringing their own, unique view, which will be a pool of stimulus for the rest of the creative process of the performance.


After work some of us had the chance to go swim in the river, the Chiusella, a 15 minute walk from the space. It was a fantastic revitalization much needed after the whole day of work.

Those of us who went to the river were then late for dinner, which was in a restaurant next to a beautiful lake which you reached walking through the forest. It was great to come back to the hostel after a lot of food and good wine listening to the croaking of the frogs under a starry sky.

DAY 0. The Groups Are Here!

European Performing Arts, Performing Arts Residency

The groups are finally here and CLASTIC is ready to take off!

It has been a long day of arrivals but finally we are all here. It has been a very long day for all of us. Our artists have arrived in early flights all the way from London, Berlin, Belgrade and by car from France. We have shown them around the space and the hostel and they are all very tired but very happy to be here!


The organisation team has spent the afternoon around Ivrea and the villages in the Valchiusella valley hanging the posters to promote the final performance taking place on Friday at the ZAC in Ivrea. It was hard work and we lost temporarily one of our members but we managed to make it back safe and sound for dinner.


We cooked a fantastic Italian welcome dinner in the courtyard for the groups to get some strength for the workshops which start tomorrow with I Patom Theatre.

Finally we begin!

DAY -1. Everything’s (almost) ready

European Performing Arts, Performing Arts Residency

This morning I woke up to this view from my room in the hostal we’re going to be staying for the rest of week.  On clear days you can see on the right the “Bella Dormente”, a mountain in the shape of a sleeping woman. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some pictures of that too.


Today has been even more intense than yesterday as we have spent the whole day wiping windows, cleaning floors, moving tables and giving a fresh hand of paint to the barrister to get everything ready before tomorrow.

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It’s been a lot of work but the space is looking great and are ready to receive the European performing art groups that have been selected for the residency.

I Patom Theatre (France), A d r i a n L o o k Tanztheatre (England), Heynaz (Germany) and Theatre of Inconceivable (Croatia).

Tomorrow will be very busy between spreading leaflets of the final performance in the nearby villages, picking everyone up and getting everything ready for the welcome dinner.

CLASTIC begins tomorrow and we can’t wait to meet all of our participants!


DAY -2. We have finally arrived in Valchiusella!

European Performing Arts, Performing Arts Residency

Biloura and me have already arrived to the headquarters of Biloura Collective that will host CLASTIC to make the last preparations before the groups start arriving on Saturday.

The headquarters of Biloura are located in Alice Superiore, a rural village in the valley of Valchiusella in the Italian region of Piedmont, next to the border of Aosta Valley.

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The valley, which is surrounded by the Alps and trasversed by the Chiusella river was formed thousands of years ago by the accumulation of great masses of ice. A half an hour ride from Turin, the village is a beautiful natural site inhabited by a mixture of traditional villagers, young people looking to get away from the city and spiritual communities, which keeps the village a lively and dynamic place.

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Biloura and me have been working the whole day to get everything ready before the start of the residency on Saturday. This morning we went Cuorgnè, one of the biggest villages in the area, to get all the supplies for the week. We have bought all our fresh products in the local market as we believe is important to support local commerce. I thought it would be impossible to fit the food for 15 people for a week into Biloura’s old Panda but I must say that their loyal car has surprised me.

We got to Biloura’s space just in time for lunch in the outside courtyard. The rest of the day has gone buy very quickly cleaning and organizing the space to make sure is ready for the arrival of our artists.

It’s going to be a very intense week and we can’t wait to welcome all the groups!

DAY -3. And so it begins

European Performing Arts, Performing Arts Residency

I have just landed in Milan from Madrid and the CLASTIC residency journey begins! During the following week I will be writing updates on the fantastic project that I have been able to bring to life thanks to the co-organisation of Biloura Collective and the funding of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities of University College London.

CLASTIC is an intercultural, interdisciplinary residency of artistic exchange that brings together five performing art groups from five different countries to live, share and create together for a week in the glacial valley of Valchiusella, in the Italian region of Piedmont. Since this year has been designated by the European Commission “2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage” the residency will explore what cultural heritage means in the current historical context when Europe is living through a process of social, political and cultural fragmentation.

I had the idea of CLASTIC last April while taking part in a series of workshops among theatre companies brilliantly organised by Teatro dei Servi Disobbedienti in Poverarte Festival in Bologna, where I did my Erasmus a year ago. I have just graduated in European Social and Political Studies from UCL, a degree with a very international base of students, and I have taken part in performing art workshops in the UK, Italy and Spain so my first thought was to extend this approach to artistic exchange to the European level. Having lived through Brexit and seeing the general rise of nationalism in Europe I thought that an initiative that worked across borders would be a political statement about the future of Europe that I wanted to make.

I found Biloura Collective, who I had met during the Festival, to be the perfect partner for the project. An intercultural, transdisciplinary group which has worked for years in international networks of performing arts, they shared my idea of a European residency of artistic exchange and had the experience and the space to help me organise it.

The 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage gave us the idea of working around the theme of European heritage in the performing arts. I liked how the initiative presents cultural heritage as a meeting between the past and the future. I therefore wanted to see how the past traditions of the participating groups were re-configured when coming into contact with traditions from different countries, in the present time, out of their birthplace.

This is where the idea of the name “CLASTIC” came about, while having a conversation with my friend Giudi Green, a performer herself, who has also been an immense help to the project.

 Clastic rocks are composed of fragments, or clasts, of pre-existing minerals and rock. A clast is a fragment of geological detritus, chunks and smaller grains of rock broken off other rocks by physical weathering. Clastic rocks are formed over time through a process of sedimentation in which the fragments in suspension solidify due to the external forces acting on the fluid in which they move.

The idea is to make CLASTIC Residency (which incidentally takes place in the Moraine Amphitheatre of Ivrea) just one of these external forces. A force that brings together a diversity of fragments of past European heritages and identities and binds them into new, solid communities of artistic creation that can persist through time.