Italian ballet dancer on the art-form La Commedia Dell’ Arte that “bases its magic on the free improvisation on stage”

Francesco Pireddu

Hi fellow dancers!

My name is Francesco. I am Italian (born and raised in Italy). I have been dancing professionally for many years.

Dancing it’s a huge part of my life. It’s within me; it’s in my bones, in my skin. I breathe dance!

I think about dance and I apply all the principles of dancing to anything I do in my life, from standing correctly when I am in line at the store or being focused and paying great attention to anybody who’s talking to me.

It’s all about discipline, as we all know. Attention and laser discipline.

I have been exploring various dance techniques in my career, beginning with ballet (the foundation!), contemporary, modern and improvisation (as a tool to free yourself and approach the unknown).

After many years of intense training and performing both in Europe and in US, I started to explore different styles such as La Commedia Dell’ Arte (art of comedy) which is an Italian theatrical form that flourished throughout Europe from the 16th through the 18th centuries.

La Commedia Dell’ Arte was a form of popular theatre that emphasized acting and dance; its improvisations were set in a firm framework of different situations, and its plots were frequently borrowed from the classical literary tradition of the “Commedia Erudita” (literary drama).

La Commedia Dell’ Arte bases its magic on the free improvisation on stage. Free in the sense it is not codified, but of course it follows very precise rules and it needs good dancers and actors to work.

Despite contemporary depictions of scenarios and descriptions of particular presentations, these days La Commedia Dell’Arte is unfortunately not well known.

The art is a lost one, its mood and style irrecoverable. And this is something that makes me sad because it’s a unique art-form and is part of the history of dance. It needs to be introduced to large audiences.

Years and years ago, I had the privilege to work with Lindsay Kemp, one of the greatest directors and choreographers in the world. Mr. Kemp introduced me to the powerful work of La Commedia Dell’ Arte by giving me the opportunity to perform one of the characters in Le Maschere (the masks), an Italian Opera written by Pietro Mascagni.

Mr. Kemp is also a Mime artist! Mime is the theatrical technique of suggesting action, character, or emotion without words, using only gesture, expression, and movement. Le Maschere was a huge production. We toured in Italy for few months.

I played a beautiful and engaging character and the costume was very colorful and simple in its form: long pants and a large shirt. We danced barefoot. I was wearing make-up on my face and my chest and Mr Kemp in person showed me how to use the right colours to enlarge my presence on stage.

Years later, I performed at the Dance Theater Workshop in NYC with the wonderful BalaSole Dance Company. I was very happy to perform at such important theater and I was truly grateful to be chosen to perform my solo “Silence”, which I personally created.

I developed “Silence” by using the most important principles of La Commedia Dell’ Arte and Mime. I was barefoot, my costume was essential and my gestures were clear, gentle and precise. There was no music: only the movement, the audience and myself.

La Commedia Dell’ Arte certainly gave me a great understanding of how important it is to be free on stage. It taught me that there is no need to have big props to tell a story.

I believe it’s really important for all of us to know the history of dance and acting. We must acquire strong knowledge in our field.

It is our job to enrich the stage and challenge ourselves. It is our responsibility to educate the audience.

Francesco Pireddu