Massimiliano Balduzzi

Appears in: Performing Artists

I was born in a small village of 650 souls in the Italian Alps. When I was 15, I attended a school matinee in the capital of my district. It was Pirandello’s Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore. I only remember the actors dressed in black and the unbearable scream of the actress who played the Mother in the central scene when she came to understand that her little son was drowned. In my village, people still remembered the scream of Aunt Marta, when she found out her son Cornelio had been struck by lighting at the electric plant. My village and my childhood: a collection of stories, legends, real images and facts, screams that haunt my visions of what theatre and performance must be. I grew up with Oedipus, Antigone, Lear, and other characters. I lived my youth with them and from my mother’s milk I received an innate sense of tragedy. The first time I read Aeschylus, I discovered that I already knew the meaning of archetype.

I left my village when I was 19 and moved to Bologna, where I soon became unsatisfied with the academic work offered in college courses. In 1995 I attended my first physical performance workshop, led by a man and a woman who in different ways became central figures in my life and my apprenticeship in art.

Stefano Vercelli was doing with his body something I had never seen: like a cat he was able to stop still in the center of the space and then all of a sudden fall into a rhythmical action. I decided that I wanted to move that way. I followed him for the next few years, learning about basic acrobatics and about the “special movement” he had learned through his work with Eugenio Barba and Jerzy Grotowski in the eighties.

Meanwhile, I began to spend my holidays (sometimes a week, sometimes several weeks) working with Anne Zenour, the director and teacher I also had met in that first workshop. We were working around Agamemnon, by Aeschylus. In working on that project, all the things I had learned so far came together. I felt a performer was born within me. My body came to know something.

I learned with Stefano how to resist and sweat and sleep wonderful nights of tiredness. When I began to work with Anne, I was ready to go deep into the details. The work became even stronger and more demanding in a different way.

We founded Teatro della Pioggia together in order to find a space where it would be possible to work every day for many hours without rest. Anne and I and four other actors moved to Siena in 2003 and started to work in a room at a center called Corte dei Miracoli. We worked on physical and vocal training six days a week, for hours and hours every day. Over five years I developed the foundation of what today I consider my own physical and vocal practice.

Teaching has been part of my work since then.

In 2006 I spent six months in Bali, training in traditional dance and voice. It was an incredible time, completely devoted to work and practice in a natural environment. Practice in Bali means more than training as we normal use that word. My two masters in Bali (I Made Bukel for dance and I Nyoman Tchandri for voice) didn’t speak to me about this directly. Instead, they showed me the way concretely. I Made Bukel literally moved my body using his hands while singing the rhythm of the song I was learning to dance. Hours of practice and silence every day. In Bali, my body and soul acquired a new rhythmic sense.

In 2008, I moved to New York City. First I met and began working with Ben Spatz and Urban Research Theater. We shared our practice and experience and we learned the beauty and the fatigue of a true collaboration. Together we were selected as Movement Research AIR (2010/11), we shared the Black Studio artistic residency at CAVE (2010/13) and over more than three years we worked on a research project, entitled Playwar. During this time I have learned what is still essential in my work and life and what can be left out. And I had the opportunity to learn NYC and its peculiar way of “messing around” with people.

Since my first day in town things have changed. They are still changing and it is not easy to have perspective. This is my present. I can say I am in a very expansive moment, I am continuing to investigate the concrete notion of a physical and vocal practice in my solo research entitled REQUIEM and in collaboration with different wonderful artists (Helga Davis, Daria Fain, Samita Sinha, Arturo Vidich). Finally I am teaching workshops to performers and non-performers around the idea of “restless presence”.

Most recently I’ve been selected as one of the artists of the Fresh Tracks Performance and Residency Program at New York Live Arts. The Fall in NYC is always a sweet season.