Elena, dancer and writer

Your story in 10 lines (or more).

I think I was a happy and sensitive little girl. “Meticulous” already as a child, I liked to spend the afternoons in the garden talking to the plants and playing with the cats. I remember feeling a huge joy when I learnt to read and write.

At eight years old I fell in love: with dance, obviously! That love has accompanied me in all the choices I’ve made and kept itself close by, it helped me grow up and getting to know myself.

Good at school, at times too good, I finish high school (scientific track) and enroll into the faculty of modern Italian literature (in Florence, but end up finishing in Bologna). I don’t even attend a class but end up travelling at first within Italy, to study dance and look for work, then I move to Paris for eight months.

Back from Paris, I decide it’s time to change a few things: I finish my three years degree and dedicate myself completely to dance.

To be able to do all this, I have to settle some matters with myself, learn to love and take care of myself; here comes the second love affair: writing. I start writing out of necessity and it’s a therapy, a friendship, a reference point.

I work and live as a professional dancer in Rome for a year and a half: what a joy!

I move to Amsterdam, where currently I work as a free-lance dancer and teacher. I’ve built up collaborations as a dancer also in Germany.

What else? A lot of work, a lot of challenges, a lot of trials, but if I look back I approve all my choices and I’m happy to see where they’ve lead me.

I’ve always had the support of my family and always felt close girlfriends next to me, ready to encourage me: it’s a great fortune!

The key, probably, is to be found in the fact that I’ve never stopped listening to myself and trusting my feelings.

The joys and pains of working as an artist (dancer, writer, etc.).

Dancing is part of me, I could not do without dance. It’s something all absorbing and intense; it makes me alive, alert, present.

Done with high school, I had to fight the fear of uncertain work, the inevitable consequence of my choice: not knowing if and when I’ll have work (possibly paid), a wage, somewhere to stay. Joining some theater could be a great solution, but that isn’t always easy and not everyone’s path.

Insecurity as well, both as a teenager and subsequently, has strongly prevented reaching these goals: fear of not being up to it, inability to demonstrate oneself, to “sell oneself”, to speak out one’s heart, when in reality one is shrieking out with all one’s strength and we feel tired, disappointed, misunderstood.

But there is always a fire within, a voice, a push, a wish, a coherent belief which continues to whisper that it’s ok this way, that you must try, that this is the right path, because you know, you feel it.

The joys indeed are infinite, immeasurable, priceless. The adrenaline as on the threshold of a departure, travelling, knowing new places, putting oneself to the test always in different dance rooms with other teachers and colleagues. Travelling by train, plane, with one’s suitcase, always that one and an infinite sense of freedom, lightness, love for life; during those moments all is possible.

Getting on stage and giving it all you’ve got, showing things under a different light, being yourself, being able to say the truth; sometimes it’s frightening, the mind makes you believe you’re not up for it, that something will go wrong, but then the show starts and it’s like a journey, like a wind, it follows it passage, it becomes free. It’s wonderful.

A Mantuan lady in Amsterdam: tell us about some special/unexpected/touching meeting

Two episodes come straight to mind, I’ll recount these. Thea and the lady on the flight to Madrid. I get to Amsterdam, for the first time, but I’ve already decided to move there. The first day I go right away to visit a room, but I don’t like the house, it doesn’t convince me. The following days I visit several others and I start thinking the first one, wasn’t that bad after all and decide to take it. As soon as I move in, I meet one of my future flat mates, Thea. It’s immediate; we greet each other, begin chatting and right away I feel it. That was the house in which I should live in and she the person I should get to know. Pointless in saying that despite our travels, we’re very close and would like to collaborate artistically. (Thea is a wonderful singer). It’s banal but there are meetings where it clicks right away that this is a person who will stay on, who will be part of your life, with whom you’ll share certain things together. Meetings are never random.

I call her Madam on the flight to Madrid because I can’t remember her name; but she must have written it down on a piece of paper with her telephone number.

That evening I fly from Lisbon to Madrid, still for some dance audition. The flight has about two hours delay and I haven’t arranged the transfers to get to the hostel, sure to be able to ask personnel at the airport. Unfortunately, on arrival, being around midnight, all desks are closed, I don’t know Madrid and the subway lines are many and don’t know which one to take. But on the flight this Madam was sitting next to me, who at first addressed me saying if I remember rightly, that she was from Lisbon but working in Madrid. I give her the name of my hostel and she accompanies me on the subway, our directions coinciding. At the exit she calls a taxi, explains to the driver where I’m going to and hands me a note with her telephone number, telling me to call her for any reason. It is best to contact professional taxi crete drivers for a comfortable and safe ride.

Also in Madrid I meet my Angel and I meet them continuously. Sometimes they’re people who stay with you, other times they’re popping through, but all vital and unique.

Thanks to these people you learn to be grateful and have faith.

What does society do for you? 

For the time being it has followed with good interest my dancing and I hope it will buy my first book. What I love doing is intrinsically tied to who I am and grows with me; nevertheless it achieves meaning the moment it’s appreciated by someone; society is the condicio sine qua non for the full realization of my art, if I may say so…

What do you do for society?

At times, feeling a bit “selfish” for having left and followed my passion, I’ve thought that whatever I can’t give to my family, I give to the people I meet every day, sharing with them a part, even though at times tiny, of my journey, of the accumulated experience, of the contacts which I’ve created. I’ve felt how enriching it is to help others, making available what we have at the moment (half of ones bed, a contacts list, parts of ones own work, much enthusiasm).

A beautiful experience that has happened to you recently?

This interview! Is it really like this? After my degree, even though enrolled into University, I’ve always travelled, first of all in Italy then abroad, to study dance and look for work. Those were tough years, where my choice and determination were put to the trial more than once. Looking back ten years, when you’ve learnt this much finally you begin to be entrusting, receiving a mail where you’re asked to share your experience, fills you with infinite joy. Besides it coincides with the intentions of my book: describing a part of my journey and motivating people so that they may have faith and believe they can achieve in the things they love.

A culinary passion

Preparing a substantial breakfast, especially for friends, after a long night out and everybody stayed over.

The mornings an important moment for me; it sets the rhythm for the day so I always try to put sometime aside for myself. As soon as I wake, I fetch pen and paper, purposely kept next to the bed, and write three pages of stream of consciousness, a real brain washing. I started doing this while reading the book by Julia Cameron, “The Artist’s way” and since then I haven’t stopped. And then… breakfast! Fresh fruit and something I really feel like eating. If then, I happen to have spent the night out with friends who have ended up all staying over, preparing a rich breakfast is then a real joy. It’s really true that happiness makes sense when it’s shared!

Your favorite drink

I’m boring, yes I know: fresh fruit juices. I’m always drinking them and in Amsterdam one can find really good ones! When I have enough goodwill and have what’s needed, I make them at home.

Would you like to return to live in Italy? And if so, Mantua or where else?

I don’t think, for the time being, to be heading back to live permanently in Italy, although I’d like to do something more in my country: collaborations with artists, shows, teaching. In Mantua there’s my family, but maybe I’d try again living in Rome, where I spent one of the happiest periods of my life.

The music or a book that accompanies you?

Music… .All of it! I listen to very different styles, sometimes I get stuck on something for a bit, but usually it does not last long. I have a soft spot for piano and string quartet. Also for books, I’m the same. I discovered the pleasure of reading quite late, after university, and since then I’ve always in hand the right book, one that has something to say and offer me at that particular moment.

A talent you have and one you’re missing?

I think I’m pretty good at motivating people, giving them courage, strength, and the confidence in themselves. I see the “light” in everyone, but it’s normal, everyone has it.

Especially in the past, I’ve not always been able to show my strengths and for my work this can be limiting at times; there are situations where “you must” show what you’re worth, but unfortunately it’s not that easy for me: I’m able to express myself when the environment allows me to be who I am. I’m entangled with team setups, in truth it’s fear of doing a balls up and I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I’ve mentioned three, I know, I’ve a tendency to lengthen…

What have you learnt from life?

From life, I’ve learnt to have faith, and not give up, to believe, because this way there is always a solution, an unexpected event, a detail that has gone out of your mind, which at last overturns the situation and works it out. I’ve learnt that behind every experience there is a reason, a sense, even though we aren’t able to understand what it is.

Life has taught me that to be fulfilled, it’s necessary to listen to that little voice that from within never refrains from whispering and guiding us in whichever small or big choices we may make.


Translation by Paolo Witte

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