Justice and Grace: The Enigmatic Dance of Chiara Bersani

Bersani's L'Animale*, performed in the Old Bailey's Grand Hall, offered a mesmerizing reimagining of the classic ballet *The Dying Swan*, part of the LIFT festival, invited audiences to contemplate the boundaries between human and animal existence.


A Diminutive Dynamo

Bersani, an Italian artist standing at 98 cm tall and living with osteogenesis imperfecta, brought a unique and powerful presence to the stage. Her performance was a masterclass in precision and control, with every movement meticulously calculated and executed. The juxtaposition of her small stature against the imposing architecture of the Old Bailey created a striking visual contrast, amplifying the themes of vulnerability and strength.

Breaking the Swan Mold

Inspired by Michel Fokine's 1905 choreography for Anna Pavlova, *L'Animale* pushed the boundaries of contemporary dance. Bersani's interpretation went beyond mere movement, incorporating elements of stillness and vocalization. This performance challenged traditional notions of dance, compelling the audience to pay attention to every tiny detail.

Courtroom Drama Reimagined

The choice of the Old Bailey as the venue added profound layers of meaning to the piece. This historic criminal court, with its associations of judgment and justice, provided a thought-provoking backdrop for a performance exploring the essence of human and animal existence. The grand hall's acoustics enhanced the impact of Bersani's vocalizations, described as a "poignant cry" culminating in a "profoundly moving crescendo."

 A Feast for the Senses

*L'Animale* was not just a dance performance; it was a multisensory experience that engaged the audience on multiple levels. Bersani's exploration of animality and humanity invited viewers to reflect on their own existence and relationship with the natural world. Themes of life, death, and transformation were heightened by the solemnity of the Old Bailey setting.

Star ratings and star power

While the performance received a modest 3 out of 5 stars from *The Guardian*, this rating did not fully capture the unique and thought-provoking nature of the experience. *L'Animale*'s strength lay in its ability to challenge preconceptions and push the boundaries of what dance can be. It might not appeal to everyone, but for those willing to engage with its unconventional approach, it offered a rich and rewarding experience.

An Artist on the Ascent

Bersani's return to London, following her performance at Dance Umbrella in 2022, cemented her status as an artist to watch. Her ability to transform a historic space like the Old Bailey into a canvas for contemporary art spoke to her innovative approach and artistic vision.

A Dance to Ponder

*L'Animale* was a testament to the power of site-specific performance and the ongoing evolution of contemporary dance. It challenged audiences to see beyond traditional notions of beauty and movement, inviting them into a world where the lines between human and animal, performer and environment, were beautifully blurred. While it might not have been for everyone, those who approached it with an open mind found a deeply moving and thought-provoking experience.

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