Here are pictures and music from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Dante Festival, where Urbanity Dance and I collaborated on a performance inspired by the Middle Ages poet.
The inspirations for the music and improvisations were drawn from Cantos V (The Lustful) and XXV (The Thieves) from “Inferno”, and Cantos X (Sphere of the Sun) from “Paradiso”. While the text has proved timeless by its influence on both high and pop culture (Dante’s intent all along – Divine Comedy intends to mix the divine with the “vulgar;” it was also one of the first serious pieces written in the “low” Tuscan, helping to elevate it to the official Italian language), so has the courtyard where the dance took place, living meticulously circa 1919 as stipulated by Mrs. Gardner’s estate. Both are also ancient, with the Gardner courtyard containing architectural elements that date from before year 0, more than a millennium before Divine Comedy was written. I tried to reflect these qualities in the conception of the piece. One of my favorite moments, from “Lovers,” is the reference to Lancelot, as relevant here and now as it was there and then, already more than a century after it’s introduction into the literary canon.