After completing his training in Italy and moving to the UK in 2002, Gianluca Vincentini has an extensive amount of professional credits to his name. He currently works as the Artistic Director of his own company, Möbius Dance, a Leeds based company that supports and nurtures talented, up-and-coming dance artists and choreographers both creatively and practically. Möbius Dance helps early career dance artists grow artistically and break down the barriers faced at the beginning of their careers by offering quality employment prospects.
In this interview, he talks of his professional experience, aims for his company and gives advice to emerging dance artists.
What made you choose dance as a career?
So first of all, I feel like, dance chose me a little bit. At the age of six I got into ballroom because my dad and mum were big fans, especially my dad and one of my school mates needed a partner, so my dad was like ‘here you go, go do some dancing!’ At the time it was a hobby to me to move and express myself. At the age of 13 I went to see my cousin’s final year show in ballet and I thought ‘oh my gosh, this might be what I really want to do in the future’.
So I started in September in a private school in Italy to do a beginners course, mainly in jazz and contemporary. Quickly enough I started doing ballet. I guess they saw potential and I was there everyday Monday to Saturday every afternoon. I was about to graduate from school and I said to my mum and dad ‘what if I audition for the national company?’ and my mum was like ‘oh we saw this coming!’ I guess they just realised I had found a path for me to express what I wanted to physically. I’ve always been artistic and I’ve always wanted to draw and paint. I realised in dance the nonverbal way to communicate, which at the time really fascinated me because I’m not a great public speaker.
How did you find your time in training?
It was tough. While I was at ballet school especially. I was in a boys only class and we all had very specific skills. Sometimes though, I just couldn’t quite recognise myself in those shapes and forms. I had a brilliant teacher who recognised that and really helped me find my way in. I had a brilliant time while I was at Laban (Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance) and at Accademia Isola Danza La Biennale of Venice. With every training there is always a challenge but I guess that is also life. What was giving me the motivation to overcome the difficulties of the dull moments was shifting the idea of seeing challenge as an obstacle to seeing challenge as a place of growth. I looked at it from the other side and though what are the other skills I am developing right now. It helped me find the motivation to perform the same show 20 times, not only three times. Patience, understanding and spacial awareness, whilst being on tour for six months with the same people and sharing a room.
What made you move to the UK?
Mainly, I wanted to have a different view of what dance was abroad. The dance scene in Italy was very, very specific at the time, which was very commercial or very balletic and I couldn’t find my space in-between the two. One of my former teachers was working in London at the time and asked: “why don’t you come to Laban and see how it is?” So I auditioned for Transitions and I got in. It was the beginning of my career in a way. At the beginning I thought it would’ve been just one year of training but instead I stayed working and teaching. I came to Leeds as I got a job working at Northern School of Contemporary Dance to be Artistic Director of Verve. It was a great experience to come back into education after freelancing and working for a national company. I felt it was the right time, at the time, to go back into education and share my professional experience with young people.
What made you decide to start your own company instead of performance?
The first time I realised I wanted to be behind the scenes was during my time at Transitions. While I was training I realised that I really like to have a sense of the bigger picture. I wanted to collaborate with artists, wanted to bring in new artists in terms of costume designers and lighting designers. The first thought was ‘oh one day I might want to be a rehearsal director because I want to see the ensemble really working together. Make it happen’. Then I moved to Iceland to start working for a school there and to dance with the national company.
As I arrived the rehearsal director left and they offered me the position. I said yes, I was very young, 24, it was a brilliant moment in my life. I learnt so much from a national company and from so many international artists going there. The experience really formed what I wanted to do at a later stage, which is to help the younger generation transition into professional. Also focus on emerging artists to help them find their own voice.
In a way, I started creating Möbius Dance a long time ago... it has been a journey. While I was at Northern, I noticed there was a gap in the market. Often now to audition for bigger companies you need a minimum of three years professional experience, sometimes five. I thought to myself: the system is broken, we are training professional dancers and they can’t progress. That was the turning point where I thought, I’m going to embrace that and give it a shot.
What did you find hard about starting your own company?
To find a concept which was unique and adding value to the current climate. To me, one of the most important things is to, whatever we do, as much as possible, have an impact on future generations and the community. What is sometimes really difficult is to find partners that not only support you for one project, but they are willing to collaborate and keep the partnership ongoing. Understanding how and what a company needs to do to be sustainable and resilient in the future.
What is your role with Möbius Dance?
I decided I didn’t want to become the resident choreographer. I take on the aspect of the curator. I create the films and photographic exhibitions but when it comes to stage work, I invite other artists to create it for us. The main reason is for me to carry on developing and retaining choreographers that are brilliant and develop their voice. The company is small, therefore, I need to have the overview of so many other aspects, the logistics, communication. I get very excited to see other people work and facilitate their work.
What is the artistic style of Möbius Dance?
My vision has always been to create works that are physical, entertaining, they can embrace a theatrical aspect of the theatre world and that are, at the same time, can be thought provoking in a way that resonates with people emotionally. People that have come to see our shows always leave thinking this was very high physical. Often people say that they went on an emotional journey. That is really important to me as I want dance to be accessible. I don’t want people to not understand it. I always say remember, if the heart moves, you will understand it. I don’t want to just curate dance for the dance community.
What are your current projects?
Right now, we are preparing for our first international tour. We are heading to Spain to perform in an outdoor festival. I partially co-direct the festival, and I curate a lot of the workshop series there. We received a formal invitation from the director inviting us to go which is nice. The Möbius dancers will have the chance to take classes during the week so it’s a way for them to develop and to learn from other artists. From there, we will head to Malaysia for four weeks. We will be in a residency and we have five performances. We will be teaching workshops and creating a short piece with other dancers there to be performed parallel to our programme.
Möbius Dance - Dramatis Personae
Photography: Danilo Moroni
In September we have another performance in Italy and then we have a little pause. We are currently applying for arts council funding to create other strands for our company. We will create a new show, a new piece of 45 minutes so for the first time we are going to go on a bigger scale. We will look into creating a new artist development programme, to try and give the opportunity to students, graduates and other performance artists so it could be teachers, performers, anyone who is interested in movement, to have a professional development opportunity in Leeds. We will look at three different weekends. One will be more about musicality and technique aspects of dance, one which is inclusive dance so we will work with people from with Candoco (Dance Company) and other artists based in the North. Another weekend we will be looking at creativity and resilience in dance. Then a week of R&D, working with new choreographers. Fingers crossed! If all goes well, we will start this at the end of October.
What are your long term goals for Möbius?
I would like for the company to be more stable. When I say that I don’t mean necessarily work all year round, but to have a good 6-9 months of activity that is happening. That will create stability of what we can offer to the wider community, and employment of other artists. When I say artists I mean not only choreographers but lighting designers, costume designers, videographer, photographer, that kind of thing. To be recognised as a company to go for professional development and high quality dance and art in general. To have that recognised not just nationally but internationally that would be really, really amazing.
You mentioned the photographic exhibitions that you do, can you tell me a bit more about that?
We have created two photographic exhibitions. I am not a photographer, but the aspect I was interested in is what other art form can we create with so we can expand our audience, what else can I do to expand the visibility of dance to people who may not see it. That first idea happened here actually (in Opposite Café, Chapel Allerton)! I was sitting and talking to the guys and I said, would you be happy if I shoot a film in here and create a photographic exhibition. That was our first Möbius project, Encounter 1, video and film.
The way we are approaching the photos is to either take snap captures from the film and we overlap them with colours or take photos while we were shooting the film. When I looked at the different images, I would get a sense of what the overall image would be, so we would start overlapping them and creating the new image. The second exhibition is black and white so we played really with focus and out of focus and how much you can see things. In both occasions I have worked with digital and graphic designers (Ben Lewis) and photographers (Danilo Moroni and Stefania Pinato, also a company member) to create an original idea and play with images. Once they were there, we looked at the emotional aspect of it and what was resonating with us. It has brought to us a bigger audience. The first exhibition was at Sadler’s Wells, ‘Wildcard’. It was liked so much that instead of being up for a week, it was up for three months. We had one here (Opposite Café) up for three months also. It’s nice to hear from people that they can see the dance from behind the pictures, so it doesn’t feel static.
What advice would you give to aspiring dancers and artistic directors?
To Performers: Sometimes it’s going to be really challenging to keep up with both the physical aspects and emotional aspects of the job. I would really encourage them to find strategies to be resilient. Also to find their ‘back bodies’. Find time to lie down and don’t be afraid to sometimes actually just pause and find time to reflect. As a young performer, I remember myself, constantly pushing and of course at a young age there is so much energy, but the body needs time to rest and recover so don’t be afraid to do that. I also would say to just say yes to different opportunities. Something that can be perceived as scary, isn't and is just a little bit out of your comfort zone and that can be brilliant. It can help develop new skills and you can find something out there that you really enjoy and you didn’t know yet about it.
To Artistic Directors: I was inspired by so many choreographers, colleagues and artistic directors that I worked with, so keep and open mind towards the collaborators and people that you might be working with at the time. Have a clear vision as a starting point and a flexibility goals. Everything is changeable, it is possible to expand or reduce or develop new interests that might give a fresh, new perspective. Trust the audience feedback. Sometimes, as an Artistic Director, I feel that our show might be challenging the audience too much but instead I quickly realise that the audience is so ready for it. So we should have more courage to actually trust our guts and the audience. I keep reminding myself of these things!
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To find out more about Möbius Dance, view their projects and to stay up to date with Gianluca Vincentini’s work, you can follow the links below.