In this interview with Oliva Contemporary Dance Project’s Michele Oliva and Francesca Dario, you can read Michele’s answers as Francesca’s thoughts, Francesca’s words as Michele’s sentiments. The two dancers and co-founders of OCDP have found a cadence of speech that jumps from one person to the next while never losing the flow of a sentence. Together for 10 years, since meeting and falling in love while dancing for an Italian version of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ the pair buoy one another emotionally and artistically. There is a care evident between them that starts with translating for one another (throughout this interview, throughout their hectic and almost always English-language interactions) and ends in the dance studio, when they dance a phrase together to show the class how their movement should be done. Always, the class is stunned into wondering smiles, wondering how they can physically do what Michele and Francesca do (and with Francesca’s Complexions-influenced leg extensions and Michele’s super-fast isolations, students might not be able to do what they do). But the movement is transcended by the synchronicity and meshing of the two dancers, whose relationship extends beyond the verbal, beyond the mental, and becomes a blending of bodies, a deep understanding that only the two share.
Both from Italy, Michele and Francesca are passionate artists eager to bring their teaching practice and company OCDP, founded in 2004, to audiences' attention here in New York. Michele started dancing on the streets of Italy as a break-dancer; he was initially on a path to a career in soccer, and later had a successful stint as a DJ clubs. Francesca was classically trained from the age of 6. And yet. A fusion. Their newest work, @MozArt, will be performed in the APAP Conference at Peridance Capezio Center January 12 and 13. You can see the two weekly, when they teach their highly technical contemporary movement at Peridance.
The founders of OCDP sat down with me right before the holidays to talk about their upcoming APAP debut, their company, why they dance.
Peridance Capezio Center: How do you describe yourself?
Michele Oliva: As a dancer, dynamic, expressive with a lot of energy and a hard worker. As a choreographer, I try to experience, to grow. To give space to my dreams and work with my sensation, with the music and my heart.
Francesca Dario: I work hard everyday. I push my body and my mind 100%. I’m not lazy. I love this art and I have all of my life to it, but for me the important thing is that dance must make me feel happy and alive. It is not only a good technique or gymnastics. It is love, passion, art. This is how I feel like a dancer.
P.C.C. Describe your signature move
M.O. My movement is a fusion of technique and dynamics. I love to experience something different every day, and give space to my fantasies. I let the music give me a boost and start to create in space.
F.D. My movement is just my feelings. I grew up with a strong discipline and technique, and when I dance I try to push myself with all of these elements. But one of the most important things is what I feel. Not doing just steps to feel the freedom inside of me when I dance or when I create.
Peridance Capezio Center: The 3 songs at the top of your playlist
Uoon I by Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto
Vector Lovers by Piano Dust
Apparat by Silizium
November Skies by Tomas Barfod
Cello -Suite 6 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Laura by Bat for Lashes
P.C.C. Your company was founded 2004?
F.D. Yes, we started in Italy in 2004 under the name ‘Pantarie’, but it was just for small projects. Now, we are using the new name, Oliva Contemporary Dance Project.
P.C.C. What do you expect APAP to do for OCDP?
M.O. Show my work. I want the people to see my work.
P.C.C. Have they seen this new piece, @MozArt, before?
F.D. No. It’s a new piece for APAP, and it is co-choreographed.
P.C.C. What’s your choreographic process like?
F.D. Sometimes when we have a lot of work to do, we talk before, “O.K. you do this, I do this,” we say. But sometimes, like for APAP, I prefer that he starts and then we work together.
M.O. When I choreograph, I listen to the music before. I have the fantasy of the dance in my mind.
P.C.C. You wrote on your website that you ‘merge music and dreams’…
M.O. Yes, and once I see it in my mind, then I ask the dancer (to do it.)
P.C.C. And Francesca can do it all, so anything you dream of is possible...
M.O. It’s true, it’s true. She is my inspiration.
P.C.C. How did you two meet?
F.D. We met ten years ago, on a TV show in Italy like ‘So You Think You Can Dance.” I was a student and he was an assistant choreographer. And then…
M.O. Then love.
P.C.C. Did you start working together artistically right away?
F.D. Yes. From then on, we stay always together.
P.C.C. How has your relationship changed?
F.D. I was always a student. Now, I am almost 50 percent when we work together.
M.O. She worked hard, because in the beginning, it was really hard for her.
F.D. In the beginning, I was a ballet dancer, with a total different style (than Michele). 10 years ago Michele’s work was very hard for me. It felt very fast. The musicality was beautiful. For one month after every class I was crying. But if I love something, I can’t stop.
P.C.C. Where is ‘home’ for you?
M.O. Home is Italy. Home is New York.
F.D. Home is where my love is, and where I can dance, but I miss Italy sometimes.
P.C.C. What is something that you hope to do someday?
M.O. I hope that one day I can do a season at the Joyce Theatre with my company, Oliva Contemporary Dance Project. And I hope that my company grows to be able to work 100%, eight hours each day and with shows around the world!
F.D. I hope that I have the chance to work with great choreographers. I hope that our company grows. I hope that we can work with what we have—passion and respect for this beautiful art.
This interview has been slightly modified (with consent) for continuity and clarity.