Enzo Celli believes in the group – the swooping form of a flock of birds as they navigate through thick air. He also believes in the individual; a dancer should be recognized as a person first, a part of the company second. In this, Celli is complicated. In his deep love for dance, Celli is clear.
During my interview with dancer and choreographer for the Italy-based company, Celli Contemporary Ballet, Enzo Celli found constant reprieve from a list of questions in the encouraging smile of his wife, Elisabetta Minutoli. Minutoli is one of 13 dancers in Celli’s company. When Celli teaches class, she is at the front performing the movement (it never could be marking on her endlessly languid form). Below is an interview with Enzo Celli, with a few remarks from Minutoli.
This interview has been edited, with permission, to reflect Celli’s meaning. Editing was done to a minimal extent, and in some instances I have kept his wording because it is simply more poetic than what is grammatically correct.
Peridance Capezio Center We can start off with meme….
Enzo Celli Meme arrived from the concept of a man who studied social science, Richard Dawkins. He said that meme is for the social science like the gene is for the biologic science. For instance, how Italian people have white skin and everybody is not so high, how Italians talk and move with their hands and have a talent for music. Dawkins calls this meme.
(Read a full description here)
So I use this name, meme, because one of the most important issues for me is to translate the dancer as an artist onto the stage. For me, every dancer is a soloist onstage. And my mission is to show this to the audience. It is important that you recognize everyone as an individual, and after that, you recognize them as a dancer. In this way it is important that I don’t change their personality for the stage.
In this way I also put meme into my class. When I say in the class “I don’t like that everything is so clean,” it is because I believe details in the movement are up to the dancers to decide. I give you the gene of the choreography. I give you the dynamic. But I like detail that is born from each individual dancer.
P.C.C. Is it different to dance with your wife? Easier to create a relationship onstage with someone that you know so well?
E.C. Dancing with my wife totally changed my career. I’m very lucky because my wife is probably the artist that I respect most in the world. I have a good respect for her personality, her story, her capacities. Working with her… it is the greatest stimulus that I have in my life. And this stimulus totally changed my career.
P.C.C. What was your career like before meeting (your wife) Elisabetta?
E.C. I didn’t believe in myself like she believes in me. Meeting her, four years ago, improved my vision of dance. Because she knows me, she probably knows me better than I do, so I can’t bluff with her. In this way, I have to improve myself as a teacher and as a choreographer every day.
By the way, that’s very difficult too, because we live together. It’s not so easy…
Elisabetta Minutoli: No, it’s not so easy
(don’t worry, they’re smiling, a connection and mutual understanding passing between the coupe)
E.C. She’s my wife in the studio and out of the studio. When we’re in the studio I have to remember that she is an artist and I have to respect this.
P.C.C. Do you work together or is it ‘Enzo: the Choreographer”?
E.C. I am the choreographer, she is the dancer.
P.C.C. (To Minutoli) Do you want to choreograph?
E.M. I’m trying to do something, but I try in another situation, not with him. I try to create something that is all mine. Of course I am influenced by him, but that’s okay because he is a master (of his craft).
P.C.C. (To Enzo) How do you choreograph?
E.C. It depends. When I perform, it is total improvisation. I put myself in very difficult situations to improvise. But the dancers don’t improvise.
P.C.C. Why not?
E.C. It’s an issue of meme. When we are creating the movement we are improvising and after, we translate this improvisation into choreography.
We have another process, too. When we are in the studio we create the choreography, film it, and we have an archive of movement. I tell the dancers to choose from that archive what they think is best for them.
It starts out as an experiment. I think that it is the greatest strength of the company. The dancer is an artist. I like when I see that they create another movement from my movement. It is amazing. It is a constant growth.
E.C. Nathan Trice. Absolutely. He is a poet. I believe the most important thing for the new generation (of contemporary choreographers) is to create work for the same people that go to the cinema to watch a movie. I believe it’s important for contemporary dancers to open our vision of dance and try to work for the common people. I believe that Nathan trice does this work.
P.C.C. When I interviewed Nathan Trice for the Periblog last week, I asked him if it was enough for the choreographer to like a dance that they make, even if the audience dislikes it. He said that this was selfish. How do you feel?
I believe that when you go on stage you have the responsibility of that stage. An artist has to be honest. This is the most important thing. Last week, my wife and I performed a duet and I started to cry during this duet, because it was (an) honest (reaction). So in that situation, it seems (as though) I make the work for me. But it’s not true, because I’m living in that moment and the audience is living in that moment with me.
P.C.C. If you had 1 million dollars, what would you do with it?
E.C. I would love to give students the opportunity to learn dance for free. I would love to give job opportunities. Economic opportunities. A lot of young dancers stop dancing because they have to work. I believe that it is not good for New York, for the world, if a dancer has to lose their talent because they have to do another job.
P.C.C. What are three things that you think are beautiful.
The Holy Spirit.