MASSIMILIANO RASO has a notable legacy of bringing attention to important artists before others discover them. To be among the first to recognize and articulate an artist’s significance leaves an indelible mark not only on a talent scout career, but on many people’s lives - from the individual artist and their larger community, to everyone who will ever discover and be moved by that work, even after its creator is gone.

Massimiliano Raso holds a degree in Modern History from University of Naples “Federico II”, with studies in digital journalism and marketing, master of dance in Caribbean and Latin, a historian and dance critic, who collaborates with various TV programs and printed media, co-founder of “Pablo Neruda” Cultural Association, Artistic Director for KIBATEK 39 – The Global Poetry and Art Festival, Artistic Director for ”Pablo Neruda Award”.

ANCA M. BRUMA: You were the Artistic Director for KIBATEK 39, a Global Poetry and ART Festival in Italy, February 2016, as well for Pablo Neruda Awards, June 2016, some of your latest achievements. Part of your responsibility was to provide artistic talents to sustain the core values of the events. Please tell us, what you have ususally in your mind when you make such choices? How can you make sure your choices support and sustain the goals and values of a festival / event?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: The Kibatek 39, the World Festival of Poetry, was the most beautiful and important experience of my life. I can never be grateful enough to Maria Miraglia, the Literary Director and Saverio Sinopoli, the President of the Cultural Association Pablo Neruda who asked me to be involved in this literary project, a great “journey” at an international level. The festival took place in a climate of general euphoria, we have partnered with local and national companies in Puglia bringing to the world the power of poetry, thanks to the quality of the poets from all corners of the planet. Among other cultural activities, the cultural association organized as well in June 2016, Pablo Neruda Award, event at which also I was responsible for the artistic part, selecting singers, dancers and musicians who could best express their potential within the individual moments of celebration.  I select young talents, artists who know how to convey to the public strong emotions through high class performances, artists who value artistic and human qualities.

ANCA M. BRUMA: According to the mimetic theory, ART is an imitation of nature, of humans’ actions and passions (according to Aristotle in “Poetics”). Or that dance is a way for self-expression, according to Croce’s “Aesthetics” modern theory about the art of dance? What is your opinion?

MASSIMILIANO RASO:  According to “mimesis” (an Ancient Greek word) art shall: imitate, replicate, reflect and resemble the reality. Does it happen nowadays? By all means! So, I believe dance is about both, imitation of human passions and day to day life, as well a powerful source of self-expression. For example ballet is mimetic in its own narratives. During modern times, the idea of dance moved from the cult of imitation placing a more valued function that it can reproduce and communicate.

In terms of dance becoming a self-expression form of art, it is very true. I am a strong believer that through dance you become one with your own self, as well with the others. Through the empiricism of the dance and its exuberance, you get more in touch with your own inner, therefore it becomes normal that dance became a form of self-expression, as well a connection with higher level of consciousness.

ANCA M. BRUMA: Dance, although it has a visual component, is fundamentally a kinesthetic art whose apperception is grounded not just in the eye but in the entire body” (Daly 2002). Do you think that the spectators of the dance experience a kind of kinesthetic empathy, an “inner mimesis” as if they are “participants” themselves in the show? What levels of kinesthetic empathy do spectators experience when watching dance?

MASSIMILIANO RASO:  It is true that a “kinesthetic empathy” is created with the spectators of the dance as they feel as participators of the dance movements, trying to decode and assign a meaning to these movements and of course to relate to the emotions created by these movements. It is like an internal simulation, an “inner mimesis” for the audience itself. It is a shared dynamism between the subject (the dancer) and the object (the audience). The observer (the audience) gets “involved” because it starts experiencing the subject’s display of the movements and to a certain degree even identifying with the dancers themselves. Dance creates a ”context” in which a relationship is developed between the performer and the audience inevitably, therefore a new “language” is developed. A kinesthetic awareness is created due to the emotion-movement process, conveying various meanings for each observer.

What levels of kinesthetic empathy do spectators experience when watching dance? During dance it is created an intimate partnership between the dancer and the audience itself. How strong this relationship is? It depends on the level of engagement of each individual as well his level of internalization during the dance experience. It is a collaborative process affected by external as well internal factors, in which both the performer and the “receiver” of the dance experience, impact on each other, at tangible and intangible level.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  To what extent the spectators internally can simulate the dance movements? What conditions favor these empathetic responses?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: There are highly specialized studies “to measure” the audience response towards the performers. It depends on what they “measure” in terms of the audience involvement. What conditions can influence these empathetic responses? The context and content. By context I mean the set of circumstances during the event (where, why, what etc.); and context comprises the emotional/intellectual messages of an artwork, the expressions, the connotations conveyed, the sensory and psychological parameters.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  Dance is not “a representation of the moving world, rather a part of it” where “space, time and movement are not taken for granted. The dancing experience does not happen so much in a physical space as it does in the phenomenological experiential environment. Can you explain to us more about this phenomenology of dance?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: Phenomenology is the interpretative study of the human experience. In case of dance phenomenology, the symbolism of interactionism is studied, between the performers and the environment, between the performers and the audience and how intimately they get involved or intertwined and what is their relationship with the given context. This intimate connectedness is expressed through the phenomenology of the dance, the involvement and the meanings acquired.

ANCA M. BRUMA: “The imaginative space of dance is its created space” (Phenomenology of Dance by Matjaz Potrč). Can you explain more to us about this “imaginative space” as well “imaginative time” which the dancer creates during his/her performance?

MASSIMILIANO RASO:  Dance is motion through Space and Time, a creation of a “metaphor” in motion. A powerful way to know and experience the world, a bridge between our own inner world and the outer world. Dance can suggest a specific time (past, present or future), a specific space (natural or fabricated). “The imaginative space and time” of a dancer is the space and time lived through his own imagination and express it through dynamic creativity. The audience experiences the dancer “imaginative space and time” through the performer’s dance, “moving” the spectators beyond the space and time and the presence of the dance itself. The “inner space” of a dancer becomes real through the dance process. Indeed dance is like “poetry” through space and time, embodying them through movement, it becomes a moving time-space in aesthetic form of art. When the dancer moves, the times and space “move” with him, when he is still, time and space become still and when he reverses, time and space reverse. We are witnessing the time and space in the same time with the performer. So dance becomes a lived experience metaphorically and imagistically, a lived motion and a lived Time/Space.

ANCA M. BRUMA: Do you think during the dance experience the dancer can apprehend himself / herself as a temporal totality and a way to increase his / her own consciousness? Which cultures do you think do that through the means of dance?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: Dance is like “existential becoming” (Søren Kierkegaard), the NOW movement which can be forever moment – living the Eternity of the moment. I think the celebration of existence through dance creates that “temporal totality” for the dancer. But also for the observer. Dance brings forth the unsayable nature of our own world, transcending act, and “wholeness” is experienced. Dance makes us to experience the metaphysics of the human movements. It is created a kind of consonance between body movements and the external, therefore the feeling of “totality” and identification with all that is.

If dance is a form to increase consciousness? Without doubt! I consider dance as a flowing meditation as well, a journey full of stories expressed through motions. For example free-style dance increases the intuitive abilities. Building “trust” with our own body movements, we also build trust in other parts of life, enhancing confidence and increasing our sense of self. The connection with “something” beyond ourselves is seen in all cultures, from the beginning of time, when tribal societies practiced this form of “communication” via dance. Sufi or dervish dance is eloquent in this sense, to become ONE with the Divine and experience Universal Love.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  Would you consider that dance can be described as the delicate “tension” between weight and weightless (example ballet)?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: In ballet there are movements which encompass both body’s weighted earth movements as well flying heaven graceful gestures. It creates a tension between up and down, between weight and weightless. It is like a dance against gravity, which loses its value in the given context. The soft and ethereal movements of a ballerina reminds us of heavens and weightless is expressed through her graceful movements. The tension between weight and weightless is the phenomenon of grace in ballet dance. This “anti-gravity” type of dance is a beautiful expression of freedom and release from patterns (emotional, societal etc.)

ANCA M. BRUMA: Dance is a series of pictures connected with each other and the stage is the canvas on which the choreographer expresses his / her ideas. The dance becomes a live “painting” in front of us. Do you think is hard to translate Picasso piece of art into movements?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: To re-contextualize a form of art into another one and keep the same meanings, or similar ones it not always easy. Of course it depends on the vision of the choreographer, how he/she is able to translate a Picasso form of art into the poetics of dance. Dances are usually compositions based on narratives and to convert a painting into dance movements basically it requires the artistry of the choreographer to create that narrative behind the painting and communicate the intention of the painter successfully. To “translate” an abstract Picassonian art into narrative dance saga is not easy, if not impossible, as usually abstract artwork is very subjective and the intention may not always correspond with the meaning understood by the audience.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  Do you agree that a dancer is not simply a dancer? But more kind of “metaphor”, symbolizing an earthy form, writing with his / her body great abbreviations and lunges, suggesting a written piece of art?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: Yes, I agree. A dancer is not a simply “machine” which dances, rather he/she is the representation of grace and beauty through the body movement. A dancer can symbolize anything, take any form, identity or mood. This “metaphor” created through dance must be “perfect” in comparison with other forms of art, precise movements, specific performance, emotions displayed to maximum. Because when it is danced, all things will never be the same again, and that is what makes dance so very special.

ANCA M. BRUMA: Nowadays the dance movement is also used as a manifestation of the intellect, as well as of the body itself. Dance is not just a physical exercise but a language, a way of speaking to the audience, a fusion of cognitive and somatic communication. For the early Greeks, dance and writing were not seen as separate form of arts, but a synergy of them. Indeed the word “choreography” (Greek) means “dance writing”. Tell us how dancers become like “physical metaphors” and the dance itself is transformed into a highly rhetoric poetry for example?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: Fertiault Francois in his book “Histoire anecdotique et pittoresque de la dance chez les peoples anciens et modernes” wrote that “dance is as old as the world”. The Ancient Greeks held the belief that dance is a gift from divine and a way to forget their sorrows and concerns. The dance was taken very seriously in Ancient Greece and it was studied from early age. Plato in his book “The Republic” stated that dance "originated from the spontaneous desire of the young body to move”. The dance has changed over the millennia, it is no longer a ritual event or an exercise as in Antiquity. The dance came to us through a long process that looks very different from Antiquity. No longer it is just an exercise or ritual event, but more an intellectual and cultural type of movement, a multi-aspect approach, changeable and artistically innovative and creative.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  Mathematics and movement might, at first glance, have little in common. Math can be rhythm, the use of grouping, or use of space. Math is found in all aspects of dance. How can we dance Math?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: Through dance you can experience spatial exploration, rhythm and structure. Every part of the body is able to trace out a circle and feel its center and the plane in which it lies. Various representations of structure (permutations, combinations, graphs) are exploited in many traditional dances (example Celtic dance). Dance itself has a great potential for fully-embodied representations of Mathematics, experiencing its patterns. Nowadays, there are dances designed to develop Mathematics and Geometry through the art of movements.

ANCA M. BRUMA: “Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.” (Rumi) “Quantum mysticism is a set of metaphysical beliefs and associated practices that seek to relate consciousness, intelligence, spirituality, or mystical world-views to the ideas of quantum mechanics and its interpretations.” (Source: Wikipedia) Please tell us, how dervish dancers (the Sufis) can attain that state of enlightenment through the twirling dance movements? And what is the connection between dance and the consciousness evolution over the years?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: In an age where the harmony between human beings seems impossible to achieve, the dance can suggest solutions, more than you can imagine: "... in modesty and humility be like the Earth… in tolerance be like the sea… and either appear as you are, or be as you appear!” (Mevlana Rumi), the Sufi mystic, the founder of Mevlevi Order in 13th century AD and of the so called “dervish dance”. The twirling dervishes consider that through their dance can attain an altered state of consciousness, the term “dervish” means “doorway”, a bridge between worlds, the materialistic and heavenly one. The symbolism of this is as well expressed through the hands movement, one hand always “connected” with the earth, the other one holding up, connected with higher realms; as well the symbolism of the dervish dress: white floating dress, creating a circle during the twirling movements and the black cap. White and black also are symbols of these two worlds. The dervish dancers enter in a hyperconscious state of mind while keeping their physical balance intact and their twirling rotations coincide with theta brainwave (a state of mind believed to create anything you want and change the reality instantly), while chanting the name of God 99 times. The dervish dance is considered kind of meditation, where dancer’s consciousness can penetrate the metaphysical world, creating a relationship between the human and the divine. The posture of the dervish’s hands while twirling also suggests that he is with the world but also away from this world.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  Dance goes beyond aesthetics, is also considered as a powerful tool in therapy providing a comforting environment for those who suffer of various mental disorders and other forms of illness. Dance, as a healing form, can set people free, physically, also psychologically as it is a means of expressing oneself without imposed of self-imposed boundaries. Explain to us more about this “role” of dance and how it is used for this purpose.

MASSIMILIANO RASO: Indeed dance can be used as a psychotherapeutic tool for the emotional, physical, psychological integration of an individual. It has a deep purpose, used as a powerful form of communicative expression, expressing and understanding someone’s own feelings. The focus of using therapeutic movements is to connect the mind and body, releasing stuck patterns, enhances self-expression.

Therapeutic dance uses the kinesthetic empathy, which is the notion that shared movement provides the neural basis for empathy and compassion between and for people. Neuroscientists explained the idea that certain neurons are reached by each body movement, and the same neurons are activated when we want the other person to do the same body movement. Performing the act of dance with another human being, builds connections, relationships. In this manner dance can become like a “biography” of an individual expressed spatially, choreographing a “life journey”. Dance used as therapeutic tool can help to move from sympathy for another, to empathy with another, using the body movements to create literally those changes within an individual. Dance therapies help the person to understand that there are people there to empathize, connect and support him/her. It is much beyond the aesthetic movements of our bodies but the intention and the focus put in these movements, to get in tune with our own physical bodies, memory, knowledge and the potential inside our bodies.

ANCA M. BRUMA: At what point is a movement considered dance, pantomime, aerobic gymnastics?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: The dance began to be thought of as a sport since the early years of the twentieth century. In certain contexts it is also used as a kind of gymnastics for the immediate relief and wellbeing. In the beginning, especially in the world of Ancient Rome, it was the pantomime drama, which drew inspiration from mythological stories, to be the protagonist in theaters. Aerobic gymnastics requires a complex level and intense movements on music, where physical coordination, flexibility and strength shall be perfectly executed. “Pantomimus” (Greek) literally means “imitating all” was seen as a solo dance mostly incorporated into other forms of dance performance.

ANCA M. BRUMA: The power of dance was originally divined, as a worship, as ritual, as a true art, not an artificial exhibition of bodies moving in space. What does it feel to be LOST inside the dance?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: When I dance, I feel music becomes part of my body, of my own existence, and the music itself becomes part of me! My body, mind and spirit are affected during this process. The movements together with music can create trance like disposition.

There is a lot of “space” created in dance, between movement and stillness. That “space” is very dynamic, and I get “lost” in that “space”. The same within music, when the last musical note has got to absorb the energy of its own sound and to move in nanosecond to the second musical note. During that nanosecond it is like death and re-birth, a “space” which in fact creates the music we hear. The same with dance, it is a very vibrant “place” to be, it is creative magic and sacred. A “place and space” where you are within yourself and with yourself.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  Would you see the dance as an expression of the soul, something which you can expand your consciousness?

MASSIMILIANO RASO:  “Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in is the dance of the creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye but the dance lives on. On many an occasion when I am dancing, I have felt touched by something sacred.In those moments, I felt my spirit soar and become one with everything that exists. I become the stars and the moon. I become the lover and the beloved. I become thevictor and the vanquished. I become the master and the slave. I become the singer and the song. I become the knower and the known. I keep on dancing then it is the eternal dance or creation. The creator and creation merge into one wholeness of joy. I keep on dancing and dancing and dancing. Until there is only the dance.” (Michael Jackson)

To be in harmony with your body and mind you need to dance with soul! Every movement expresses your own inner and the emotions are regulated by those very movements. The body is like a sacred space, we can express our longing, emotions, in fact our journey of life.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  Would you consider the dance master like artistic shamans?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: Shamanic dance has its purpose in spiritual transformation. Numerous studies proved that dance has a direct impact on the psyche of a person, therefore dance used for healing purposes, including for degenerative type of diseases. Most of the movements from the modern dance have as basis the shamanic steps, so yes we may consider that modern performers are after all dancing “shamans”.

ANCA M. BRUMA: How you move and how you direct that movement is called “visceral intelligence” in dance. Can you explain to us more about its importance?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: Intelligence inside dance is about movement and how this movement is understood and directed. This is called “visceral intelligence”, the emotions you assign to these movements and how the “information” is transferred through movements in order to become elegant, qualitative and meaningful for the audience. The movement creation and expression need to express correctly the dancer’s intent, to convey its content through the performative “visceral intelligence”.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  What is the difference between a dancer who implies technique and the dancer who has talent? Can talent be taught?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: The talent, in my opinion, cannot be taught, talent is something innate in people. The difference between the two type of performers is the fact that the one who has talent does it naturally, there is “liquidity” in his/her movements, it simply “flows”, there is no abrupt, unfinished movement in dance process. It is like a well written story, no mechanization, no automatization. The connection between movements is done with more grace and the emotions projected to the audience are really powerful ones. I repeat, I do not consider that talent can be taught but it can be tapped into the potential of an individual.

ANCA M. BRUMA: The art world is based on endless competition, which reduces relations between artists and cultural workers and fights for economical and symbolical profits.  What is your opinion about this?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: This is an interesting question because every form of art needs to be supported economically and financially, The relationship between artists and cultural curators is almost at odds, since the fees are almost never right, depending on the quality and skills of the artists. We are living in a world which is financially oriented, everything is seen as a tool or way to make money. In art it is not always a return on investment, not immediately at least. That put pressure on the artists and of course it creates tension between the performers and the supportive platform, the curators, cultural workers etc. Like in any investment it requires time, devotion and faith in the artist himself. If art is treated as commodity and just a means to an end, of course lots of tension is created.

ANCA M. BRUMA: Dance is practiced in many forms and for many reasons, including social, educative, political and therapeutic reasons. What about dance as a way of knowing yourself?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: Dance is one of the arts where you can experience yourself to the fullest and the “engine” that allows different emotions to be experienced. Indeed dance enables you to know and lose yourself in the same time during the process. Through dance I embrace myself, I embrace the otherness, you dance with your own self, you can dance with other selves too. It creates a “place” of understanding and acceptance and a sense of oneness is created. Dance helps to teach you something about your personal physical signature, abut the emotions you have at the deepest level, and how you express those emotions and ideas about yourself to the world.

ANCA M. BRUMA:  You have a collaborative style and multiple roles, artist, curator, author, and professor; do you feel that you are more one than the other? What are your future plans?

MASSIMILIANO RASO: I am a versatile person, but simply because I love life, all of its existing beauty and artistic expressions. My collaborative style helped me to use my “complementary skills” in most of my projects, mastering myself in the process, each time approaching those projects with a revitalized energy. I do not see myself just being a curator of talents, art journalist, master in dance, but all of them together in the same time and this approach helped me to unlock creative riches within myself. This is a “constructivist” approach which does not ”see” a division between different roles but rather combine them harmoniously and creatively.

Of course it is a building process in everything. To unleash my potential and creativity, my life journey was quite diverse from the beginning; from being a DJ during my teenager time, pursuing higher education, studying dance master classes, be a dance journalist and a talent scout. And the “process” is endless, as I am a “student” of life forever. In Italy I write for the “Journal of Dance”, collaborate with television programs and write news reports. I am as well involved in the artistic part for poetry and dance events, nationally and internationally giving me the opportunity to interact with many interesting talented people. I have never stopped basically.

As per future it is nothing “to change” but be more active in various artistic programs, promote new talents, evolve more artistically. The future we do not know, I hope to have good health, be a good father for my son Mattia, for whom I hope one day he will be able to conquer his own heights and dreams.

ANCA MIHAELA BRUMA Educator, lecturer, performance poet, eclectic thinker, mentor with staunch multi-cultural mindset and entrepreneurial attitude, Anca Mihaela Bruma considers herself a global citizen, having lived in four continents. Her eclecticism can be seen in her intertwined studies, she pursued: a Bachelor of Arts (Romania) and a Master of Business Administration (Australia).

The author labels her own writings as being “mystically sensual”, a tool and path for women to claim their own inner feminine powers. She uses poetics as a form of literary education, self-discovery and social engagement."

****The photo credit goes to IMMA BRIGANTE

We sincerely thank both of you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen

(Editor: Songsoptok)


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