Enzo Cosimi

Beat ’72 And Teatro Ateneo

The stage, grazed by the beam of the floodlights that divide it into zones of shadow and golden light, is empty. There is a single, bulky presence—a large egg—this too is golden. Fetish, totem, primordial mineral amulet, it seems to allude threateningly to a monstrous, imminent birth. But it also refers to the self-sufficiency of that which, not being procreated, doesn’t know how to procreate. The movement of this disturbing body, pushed diagonally across the stage, seems, through some paradoxical cloning, to bring into being the surreal shape of a creature, both horrible and enchanting. Similar to the “exquisite corpses” so loved by André Breton and by the Surrealists, the creature has no recognizable sexual features; it is both man and woman, but also bird, tree, machine of the unconscious. Constructed as if through successive assemblages, it moves about uncertainly on vertiginously heeled shoes. At its wrists are metal prostheses in the shape of hands/claws/branches. It wears a fleshlike body stocking that shows both its fragility and nudity, which appear even more explicit under the weight of the plumed costume that recalls a mythical griffon. The head is obliterated by a covering in the shape of an eye; the being moves hesitantly about, blindly exploring simultaneously the space that surrounds it and its own body.

This is the first act of Una frenetica ispezione del mondo (A frenetic inspection of the world, 1991), a “poem for dance theater,” choreographed and performed by Enzo Cosimi. At the end of the first act, in a transformation of searing intensity, the fabulously plumed creature condemned to the confines of its autistic body is stripped of its sheathed costume-mask and restored to a relationship with the world. The dance movement—until this point reined in and reduced to hints, minimal frictions, quivers—breaks loose. The dancer’s body is now emphasized by a costume endowed with a sort of crest/mane that marks the boundaries between interior and exterior, between body and space, and by a vocabulary of hard, angular, almost martial movements. In a tragic, violent journey of conquest and of control over itself and over the world, the creature has ceded its place to man, to the male, to the warrior. The stage space, dominated by rapid diagonal choreographic trajectories, has become a battle zone. In full possession of its movements, the new creature’s freedom is impeded by none other than itself and its incapacity to merge with the external world or to let itself be penetrated by it. The barrier falls, reducing the dancer to a sort of temporary paralysis in a second, withering transformation. Stripped of its costumed boundary, he remains exposed, a pathetic and comical caricature of amorous abandon and desire, in scanty, red-spangled shorts equipped with a hyperbolic phallic prosthesis: an obvious and disarmed virility, poised between self-irony and exhibition. The epilogue designed by Cosimi concentrates on a few instances of pathos: taking off the shorts and removing the phallus with which he has provoked the public, the dancer, restored to the innocence of nudity, slowly moves offstage. His path is traced by a narrow strip of light, a clear directional indicator in space and in time.

Maria Nadotti

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.