We arrived at the Fiumicino Airport, the Aeroporti di Roma and start to make our way the Leonardo da Vinci express train to The Rome and its train station. We had time for a cup of coffee and to get our train tickets. First we would go Florence and then change trains for Lucca. The reason that we are going to Luccs st sll is because this year Al Italia flew their Boston Rome route every day except the day we wanted and the day after that.
Rome was a direct flight and we would be returning there to spend Christmas week be flying back to Boston. At Lucca the train station is outside the old city walls so we had to roll our bags through the town, We had a map, so we found the place easily, but had some difficulty in finding the host because the instruction on the wall were in Italian. We did make contact and found our room, cute little thing that came with breakfast for the price of forty euros a night.
Dawn Waving From Hotel Window
We found out why we were getting the good price. She was adding another room to her place. Now she would have six, her limit before she would have many more regulations. The main thing that we noticed were the guys walking through the breakfast room with fifty pound bags of cement on their shoulders. We got to practice our morning greeting in Italian. We don't do it every time we stay in a hotel or BandB but often. The first time was from Dawn's second floor window at La Napoule in 1987.
We found a place to have a drink and an early dinner after doing a tour on the wall that surrounds the town. There is something so satisfying in sitting in a square in a small town in Italy and let life just flow around you and through you.
Dawn and Stephen
Leaf Shadows on Canvas
I could not resist taking a photos of the quiet leaf shadow on the canvas umbrella over our heads. Tomorrow we would be off to Dawn's residency. Three trains, missing the last connection so Dawn had to call to let them know we would be a train late. Alessandra was waiting for us when we arrived.
On Our Balcony
She took us to our lodging at the Villa Orbiana. Stephen and I share it with only one other person, the
composer, whom we like very much. In our villa, there are two living
rooms, a library, a dining room with a great Italian coffee-maker. Our
bedroom and an extra room with a sun-terrace overlooked the sea,
We had a
private bath and maid service every day (I keep telling her we don't need
the bedroom and bath cleaned every single day, but she does it). There was a wonderful breakfast and lunch served each day. Tea and snacks were always
available. Beautiful artwork is on all the walls. There are oil
paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, and furniture; presumably all
made by former fellows.
Greetings from Bogliasco
Here's a little video tour that we made to send to our families to
show them what is was like where we were.
It is just such an unbelievable honor and treat to have everything taken
care of and to be given a studio which is ours, full-time. We don't have
to set up the projection equipment, camera, computers every time, then
take them down a few hours later like we must at MassArt. I can leave
warmup clothes and costumes in the studio and notes tacked on the
bulletin board. We even have a tea kettle and little bathroom in the
studio, along with this computer on which I'm writing while Stephen uses
Once we've been offered and accepted a stay at the
Bogliasco Foundation, we are known as "fellows." In our group (only
eight at a time plus spouses or spouse-equivalents if so desired), there
are five Americans, one Italian philosopher, one Belgian non-fiction
writer, and one German playwright (who now lives and works in Paris). Therefore, we speak mostly English which is too bad because I was hoping
to work harder on Italian. However, I can always make my Italian efforts
with the staff, as well as with the "neighbors" mentioned above. In the
American group, we have an English literature scholar, a documentary
filmmaker, a photographer/mixed media artist, a composer, and me.
Although there was another spouse here for a week, Stephen is currently
the only one in that "category." Lucky for me that he is here because
there is no way I could realize my current choreographic ideas without
his dedicated hard work on video and software manipulation of images.
In fact, so far, he has put in more studio time than I have because it
takes so long to figure out how to create the effects we want; and I've
also been fighting a chest cold, I guess, and get tired more easily. Each evening, we dress for cocktails and dinner at the main villa, the Villa dei Pini, located at the edge of the sea in
a pine grove. We gather in the front hall, before we go into the dining room. Stephen gets to show off his one sportcoat which he wore six nights a week for four weeks. The coat and tie is mandatory for these dinners.
Stephen thought of bring 24 ties so that He could wear a different one each night, but decided not to based on the weight. They weigh a lot!
Dawn and Stephen
We had pasta with pesto the first night, as pesto is a Ligurian specialty...and profiterolles!
It's a good thing we have a steep uphill walk every day from dinner to our Villa (after a hill,
another eighty steps up) and another forty or so steps up to the
studio. In spite of yoga, rehearsing, and walking, I can feel fat
After dinner, as if we haven't had enough calories, the liquor closet is opened until about 11 PM and is quite tempting.
A Video from Italian TV
I took a Promo Video about our residency and cut the interviews in Italian, their music and narration and added music captions so you would know who the fellows are. You will miss Dawn speaking Italian. The Bach cello music feels deep somber and beautiful which describes our feelings when we are trying to dig our dance/projection out of our souls. We had a lot of fun too. I just couldn't resist the Bach.
Last night we went into the center of Genoa to hear a Beethoven concert
conducted by Zubin Mehta. It was a benefit to try to save the opera
house there which has lost huge amounts of government support. The
Fourth Piano Concerto (my fave) and the Seventh Symphony were fabulous.
At the end of the evening, Mehta made an impassioned speech (all in
Italian; and we think he's of Indian background??) about how individuals
support symphonies in the States, and that we can't imagine a world
without this place and this symphony, and everyone must pitch in.
Facade at Night
Hill above Bogliasco
Today i did my most favorite thing to do when in another country. I
walked and walked up little "vias" above our studio amidst the olive
harvest, the vegetable gardens, the steep, crumbling retaining walls and
brick and stone paths, through mud and puddles, all with steep views of
the Mare Ligure. As I rounded the corner of yet another steep scale
(stairway), I met a guardian gato, and then a very old gentleman and a
bunch of little kittens.
I did the polite Italian greetings and remarked on what a beautiful place
this is to live in...but asked how he
got to his house. He indicated a hidden road somewhere where he could
park and then walk on a path that is piu piano (more flat.) He asked if
I was from Bogliasco. When I asked his advice on which path to take,
he indicated the one that was piu piano. I took it for awhile but really
wanted to climb higher, so I took the next stairway up to the right;
more gardens, more olives, more back entrances to little houses, very
few signs of anything that looked like a street that could handle cars.
There were, however, lots of signs on closed gates that said, "ATTENTI
AL CANE!" (BEWARE OF DOG.)
So when I saw a German Shepard heading
towards me a bit later on, I decided it was time to calmly turn around
and go the other way. When I got back to the quasi-level path, I started heading the other way, for new vistas. The old gentleman had walked in my direction, so we greeted each other again. I think he was concerned that I didn't know how to get back to Bogliasco. It's really impossible to get lost up there because you can see the coast from everywhere, and the Villa, as well as the little church spire, are good landmarks.
On the Hill
Lots of plants are
still blooming: roses, hibiscus, lantana, cactus, citrus trees of
abundant fruit, and palms of all kinds. I saw some tomatoes still ripe
on the vine and plenty of veggies yet to be harvested. Although It's
been cold here, it never goes below freezing at this time of year, and
the copious (too copious) rain has kept everything lush and verdant.
My last treat of the afternoon was taking a fork away from the homeward
direction to catch yet another view, looking towards the Portofino
peninsula. I heard a dog barking and started to hesitate, saying "Sono
amiciavole" (I'm friendly.) Then a very old lady with a cane told the
dog to be quiet, and we struck up a chat.
Looking Down on a Garden
I said what a beautiful day it was (out of eight days in Italy so far, this is only the third that we've had any sun; the rest rain.) Of course I commented on the beautiful views, and she said something like, yes, but that's all they are; it's awful for my old legs, getting up and down here. This senora was probably in her eighties; then a younger woman appeared, probably her daughter, and asked where I was from. When she heard the USA, she expressed some surprise and asked if I was on vacation. I explained that I was at the Centro Studii in Bogliasco...to work in my studio, but on a day like this I had to get out.
The Grandma looked up at the gathering
clouds and commented that it looked like we'd have more rain and she was
tired of it. I said that well, at least the rain got me to go into the
studio and get some work done, to which the daughter chimed in, "and on
nice days, you take a walk." They gave me a "Bravo" as I was leaving,
to which I said "Provo parlare italiano (I try to speak Italian"), and
the daughter said..."much better than my English." As I try to warm up
my aching body each day to choreograph, I sometimes wonder why I didn't
pursue a career in Romance languages!
This afternoon's venture reminded me of my rambles in Le Lot when we
were staying in Cezac, in southern France. I have such a strong memory
of meeting that lady in Pechpeyroux as I was walking my bike up a steep
hill and her telling me she was going to the little graveyard to
remember her husband.
At the Mid-way Point
Doubts Set In
I can't believe we';ve been here over two weeks already. Our group configuration has changed a bit. Unfortunately, we lost the young Italian philosopher to some fabulous job offer that he could not refuse. There may be another scholar coming from Rome tomorrow to use up the last two weeks of his residency. The foundation goes to a good deal of trouble and expense to take care of us, the "fellows," so they certainly prefer having a full house.
The work situation is interesting. You would think that being taken care of in such a beautiful setting would automatically make the creativity flow; yet I've been in a quandary about where my piece is going, what it really is, and what form(s) it should take.
In the Studio
We've started many different ideas, boh in choreography and video, abandoned some, saved some, put some on hold, juggled the order of events, considered various installation possibilities (like should it really exist in a gallery kind of setting, or is it truly a theatrical piece as most of my former work has been??)
Because I feel so lucky to be here, I feel pressured to accomplish something good, something engaging, something that gets people to feel and think in useful ways. Yet I need the time and space to try things that Stephen and I have not tried before. I always tell my students that there is no failure, only opportunities for learning and growth. I really need to remind myself of that right now.
Interestingly enough, when all the fellows meet for dinner, we hear variations on the same story! One has looked at all the work she's made here and declared that it all "sucks!" Another is totally frustrated with her writing, and so on. Yet I know that at the end of the residency, Stephen and I will have gone through a process that will inform and enrich whatever our final piece is. I suspect that all the other fellows will have had the same experience, each in his/her unique way...and we all have "good days" too!
I also imagine that a program such as this selects for perfectionist types. So I am really trying to put that part of my own personality to sleep for awhile and just explore. We showed some of the video parts of what we've done so far to the young German playwright here; he had very interesting things to say about the work. Fresh eyes are always helpful!
Yesterday was a brilliant, sunny, though still cool day. We took the day to take a train to Camogli, the town we see from our bedroom window, to the east. It is on this side of the same peninsula where the famed Portofino is on the other side. It was great to walk along the Passagiata del Mare, have lunch outdoors in the sunshine, and explore the medieval castle area. The rocky beach and stone "boardwalk" were covered with couples, families, kids playing soccer, people picnicking, others at cafes. I think everyone knew that the next few days would revert to cold and rain. How lucky it was to have a Saturday that was sunny so that at least some folks who don't work on weekends could enjoy it. Camogli is a seaport that combines serious fishing with pleasure boats and tour boats to San Fruttuoso and Portofino. The old arcade has fishing nets drying on one side, and art galleries on the other side. You might think of it as kind of cross between Gloucester and Rockport.
You may wonder why Stephen hasn't written so far. He has been so generous with the other fellows here, as well as with me. He's helping the composer transfer a piece that includes music, speech, titles, and visual art from a Power Point presentation to a Final Cut edited piece so that the composer can send the piece out to groups who might want to present his work. He helped another artist with monitor and printer problems, and yet another with his computer.
A week ago I went with several of the fellows to a concert at the local church. It was a group of mostly mandolins, a couple of guitars and violas. It was kind of charming, but not great musically. Last night was a concert of "four ladies playing clarinets." I'm afraid we were too tired to get to that one.
It's cold and rainy again today. Being Sunday, we have a self-serve dinner down at the Villa dei Pini. It is "casual" night, so we don't have to dress up. The people who regularly serve us dinner get the night off, and well-deserved, I'd say.
Fabio, on the other six nights, will without fail come out at the end of dinner and ask: Quanto Caffe? Quanto Camomile?" (How many want coffee, how many teas?) We exit the dinner room so they can start cleaning up and we get our coffe or tea in the front hall.
The folks who work here are lovely, from the administrators to the cooks, servers, maintainers, gardeners, and housekeepers I'm gradually getting to know some of them, although our conversations are sometimes limited by my elementary Italian skills.