Giorgia Nardin

Giorgia Nardin: ‘I Felt A Really Powerful Connection with the Country’


By Artsvi Bakhchinyan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

YEREVAN — More than a quarter century ago, a young American-Armenian woman from Los Angeles visited Venice for the first time. The very first day she arrived in this romantic city, while on a motor boat, a gondolier greeted her from his gondola inviting the beautiful tourist to ride. By the end of the day the handsome Venetian already offered his heart and soul to her. Thus, Marie Ohanesian and Roberto Nardin formed a family, having two daughters — Giоrgia and Rebecca.

I spoke with Giorgia Ohanesian Nardin — a young charming artist, an independent choreographer and performer. She trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds (UK), and graduated in 2010. Her first project as a choreographer took place in collaboration with artists Francesca Foscarini and Marco D’Agostin. The trio met at the Accademia Mobile by Emio Greco|PC, held during the OperaEstate Festival Veneto in 2010, and together they created Spic & Span, a piece which won Special Mention in Premio Scenario 2011. Since 2012, Giorgia has been collaborating as a performer with Barokthegreat in the works Indigenous and Attacco del Clone. Her first solo, “Dolly,” was a finalist at the GD’A Prize 2012, received Special Mention from the DNA|Romaeuropa Festival, was selected by the national Rete Anticorpi XL, presented at the Vetrina della Giovane Danza d’Autore and invited to the Italian Showcase as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013.

Nardin has been selected to take part in numerous European projects, some of which are ChoreoRoam Europe 2012, developed by CSC/Centro per la Scena Contemporanea Bassano del Grappa (Vicenza), The Place (London), Dansateliers (Rotterdam), Paso a 2/Certamen Coreografico (Madrid), Dance Week Festival (Zagreb), B Project 2013, developed by Jheronimus Bosch 500 Foundation (‘s-Hertogenbosch), CSC/Centro per la Scena Contemporanea, Dance Umbrella (London), D.ID Dance Identity (Pinkafeld), La Briqueterie-Centre de développement chorégraphique du Val de Marne (Paris), Dansateliers (Rotterdam) Performing Gender, developed by Comitato Provinciale Arcigay Il Cassero/Gender Bender Festival (Bologna), Nederlandsedansdagen/Dutch Dance Festival (Maastricht), Domino Association (Zagreb) and Paso a 2 Certamen Coreográfico (Madrid) and Communicating Dance, developed by CSC/Centro per la Scena Contemporanea, Le Pacifique Centre de Développement Choréographique (Grenoble), Dance Ireland (Dublin), Dansateliers, Hrvatski Institut Za Pokret I Ples (Zagreb) and K3 Tanzplan (Hamburg). All Dressed up with Nowhere to Go, her first piece for two performers, is the winner of Premio Prospettiva Danza 2013, selected to be presented as part of NID Platform 2014 and has been touring both nationally and internationally.


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Artsvi Bakhchinyan: Dear Giorgia, I saw your choreographies, they are quite impressive. I detect a firm base of dance education, combined with a strong sense of different styles and methods of the performing arts. Who and what are your main inspirations?


Giorgia Nardin: I find that I receive the majority of my inspiration from my colleagues, from artists that I know, some of whom are my close friends, and are working in the field now. I think the most inspirational thing for me is to feel part of something, and to share this with my peers. Then of course I have artists I look up to and that inspire me because of their work, their method or what they stand for, like Marina Abramovic, Jerome Bel, Vanessa Beecroft or even David Foster Wallace (even though he was a writer I feel his work has a lot to do with the body and performance), but obviously I have not met any of them personally! Also, sadly Foster Wallace died, so there will never be a chance of meeting him. He would have been the one for whom I would have had the most questions.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: Now many choreographers use nudity as tool in their performances, often abusing it. It was impressive to see nudity in your performances without any sexuality.

Giorgia Nardin: Working with nudity was something that came quite naturally and that was important to me, for different reasons, both in “All dressed up with nowhere to go” and “Celebration.” In the second one Olivia Jacquet, the performer, is fully tattooed, and we were working specifically on her modified body, so it was quite apparent that it was necessary for her to be naked. In “All dressed up…” we used it as a tool at first, the performers did an extraordinary job in embodying nudity as a state, without commenting on it, by not adding anything but actually subtracting, their habits, their attitudes, their egos, they exposed themselves to fragility and vulnerability without escaping it and I think this is why it never becomes sexual or provocative.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: Can we call your choreographic works as gender-oriented?

Topics: Dance

Giorgia Nardin: I do not know if I would mark them as gender-oriented, because even though I am busy with this topic humanly and artistically I do not think my work specifically deals only with it. “Celebration” is a commission for a beautiful EU project called Performing Gender, in which I (along with other 15 artists) was asked to create a durational performance on the theme of gender, sexuality, sexual orientation and identity. So of course gender was a very big part of my research for this piece, but I believe that the work ended up being about many other things as well. At the same time, if I look at the work I have done up until this point I do recognize that I seem to be dealing with gender quite a lot; from “Dolly” to “All dressed up” to “Celebration,” it is there, in different ways, more or less evidently, I guess. So, I would not refuse this but at the same I am not yet completely comfortable with it, for some reason.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: I know the romantic story of your parents’ meeting, told by your mom in her novel Beneath the Lion’s Wings, published this year by Waterline Publishing. Do not you think this is might be nice material for choreography?

Giorgia Nardin: Yes, theirs is the ultimate romantic story, and I think my mom has done a beautiful job in loosely basing her novel, which she is working on getting traditionally published, on it. I think my parent’s relationship and love for each other is very much part of my and my sister’s upbringing and experience. It is in me so, somehow, it must be in my work…But yes, it could be a nice source for material.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: In 2014 you came to Armenia. How did that happened?

Giorgia Nardin: I was invited to come to Yerevan thanks to my manager Valeria Castellaneta, who is also a member of PlanTS, a cultural association based in Trieste. She began collaboration with the Institute for Contemporary Art in Yerevan and the first part of the project consisted in bringing an Italian artist to Yerevan. I was interested in working with a group of young people that do not necessarily have experience in the field of performance, I wanted to challenge myself by working in a context that I do not know and that is very different from the European one.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: From time to time contemporary dance instructors come to Yerevan and run trainings with professionals and amateurs. You spent two weeks in Armenia and worked with a special focused group. What did they learn specially from you?

Giorgia Nardin: I think the best thing would be to ask them! What I can say is that I did not come here wanting to train a group of people. I was interested in developing my research. What I did was share some elements of my practice with them, both physically and conceptually, in a very simple way. We talked about the importance of duration, of allowing things to happen over a length of time; we looked at what “state” and “presence” mean, and how to deal with these elements in a performative context. For me it was very important to go back to these principles, slow everything down and focus on fewer things. The group helped me a lot in this, so hopefully it was a mutual experience.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: Did you have any chance to get acquainted with the contemporary dance scene in Armenia?

Giorgia Nardin: I had the chance to meet a few members of the dance scene but I did not see any work live, which is a shame. But we did have several conversations about the dance scene in Armenia, in which people expressed their viewpoints and explained to me how they feel the scene is, or is not, developing.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: How do you see the development of contemporary dance in Armenia? Do we need to “import” various types of dance techniques?

Giorgia Nardin: Honestly, I do not have the answer to this question. I do not know if there is a “preferable” direction to improve the development of contemporary dance in Armenia. I think there are some elements that will always define a country artistically, and I do not know enough about Armenian art to say which ones they are. I also have no idea if importing is a good term. Of course, I come from a context in which geographically it is much easier for countries to contaminate each other artistically, and I believe that contamination is generally important for the development of the arts. But it is different from importing or becoming a surrogate of another experience.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: How do you describe your experience in Armenia — as a professional, as a human being and as a person with Armenian roots?

Giorgia Nardin: On the occasion of my traveling to Armenia my mother wrote on her Facebook page: “Just put my daughter Giorgia Nardin on a plane to Yerevan to bring a bit of Contemporary Dance to Armenia. It makes my heart feel good to think what my dear grandparents would have thought about their great-granddaughter making a cultural contribution to their homeland close to 100 years after war and genocide forced them to leave.” Again, I feel close to Armenia in many ways, whilst not feeling part of it at the same time. What I was impressed by was people’s will to do things, to learn and to make the most of an experience. This was very refreshing for me. I needed to be part of this sensation. It was important to work here because (beside the fact that I really enjoyed the group) it did not make me feel like a tourist. I think I got a clear insight into the culture and the life people lead here, even though I am sure I have only scratched the surface. This is also thanks to all the people that were so welcoming and actively participated in helping us create something small, but important.

Artsvi Bakhchinyan: Do you have some family memories from your maternal ancestors?

Giorgia Nardin: More than family memories I can say that I have a beautiful feeling about being here. Even though it is my first time in this country I feel there is an attachment, something special I cannot name, I am sure it has to do with my family’s origins. I feel it very strongly. It sounds a bit New Age, but it is true. I never met my great grandparents, who were the first generation of Armenians of the diaspora. What I know about them comes partly from the stories my mom and my grandmother used to tell me and partly is the result of my imagination, or a collage of parts of these family stories that staid with me. I imagine my great-grandfather, Rouben Kashishian, to have been an elegant, quiet man, maybe intimidating sometimes, but this must have all been part of his charm, somehow. And my great-grandmother, Marie, I imagine her being petite, very simple and also very elegant, her beauty residing in her shyness. Again, I never met them, I do not speak Armenian and I live in Italy, far away from the Armenian side of my family (they are all living in the States). Nonetheless, while being in Armenia, I felt a really powerful connection with the country. Not in a “New Age” or spiritual way — it is very simple but also it is something I cannot really explain. It came as a surprise to me, a strong sensation of belonging somewhere but also being completely removed from it, almost like being part of something you do not really know.

This sensation became really clear to me when I went to visit the Genocide memorial, which is a very emotional site in itself, but for me it was even stronger as I had the luck to witness something extremely beautiful: there was a woman, I imagine she was the caretaker of the memorial (she carried with her brooms and things to gather leaves and dust) that had a bunch of flowers in her arms. She had been placing them one by one all around the central brazier of the memorial. She was doing this extremely slowly, putting all of the flowers facing the brazier and dividing them by color, so accurately. I watched her do it for I do not even know how long. I know it might sound simple or even banal, but for me it was a very moving image. There was so much heaviness and care in what she was doing, and I felt so lucky to have witnessed it, but most of all, what she was doing made me experience the feeling I had been having since I arrived in a much stronger way. I felt part of her ritual and what it stands for, in that moment.

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