About Michele Abbondanza and Antonella Bertoni
Michele Abbondanza (1960-) and Antonella Bertoni (1964-) are Italian dancers and choreographers. Michele has a background in dance theatre, while Antonella used to be an Olympic gymnast on the Italian national team. Michele trained in New York with Alwin Nikolais and Merce Cunningham until the early 1980s, when he returned to Italy and started working in the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. In 1984, he created his first company, “Sosta Palmizi”, with other dancers. Three years later, in order to develop his artistic career independently, he left the company and started teaching in Bologna. After that he moved to Paris to join Carolyn Carlson’s Company – where he met Antonella Bertoni.
Antonella started her dance training in Rome in 1982 under the direction of famous maestri in different companies. In 1987-88 she moved to Paris to study with Peter Goss and her mentor, Dominique Dupuy. There she met choreographer Carolyn Carlson and joined her company. She got to know Michele, who was the assistant choreographer at that time.
Michele and Antonella worked together for seven years in several dance productions and films, such as Bernardo Bertolucci’s Io Ballo Da Sola. In 1995, they decided to found their own company, Compagnia Abbondanza/Bertoni – a creative and novel endeavor that merges dance and theatre.
The company’s first production was Romanzo d’infanzia, an award-winning collaboration with directors Letizia Quintavalla and Bruno Stori in 1997. In the years to follow, Michele and Antonella choreographed and led many different productions. A few particular instances show how open they were to partnerships across different artistic practices. For example, they produced a piece inspired by the painter Wainer Vaccari, demonstrating their openness towards other art forms and creative expressions. They also led a dance theatre workshop for disabled people at the Arena del Sole in Bologna. In the early 2000s, they created a three-part project inspired by tragic characters from Greek mythology, titled Alcesti, Medea, and Polis.
Michele and Antonella take on different roles within the company. For instance, in their 2006 production, Try, Antonella performed a solo herself, while Michele stayed behind the scenes to direct the production. Outside of Italy, they have also been invited to partner with other music and dance companies, such as the Danish company Corona La Balance.
Throughout their work together, they pursue an artistic vision shaped by an ambition to connect culture to its specific locality, and use dance/theatre to foster a community identity. As embodied by their project, I B A M B I N I, their primary objective lies not so much in the final product and its public presentation, but in its process of construction.
Compagnia Abbondanza/Bertoni is now funded by the Italian Ministry of Culture.
Antonella dancing with a person with disabilities
Overlapping Roles of Artist, Manager, and Leade
In this case study, we can see that Michele and Antonella work simultaneously as artists, managers, and leaders. Such labels are not clearly distinguished when the very nature of their work requires them to teach and lead by example. The company is their own private space to create, invent, and experiment – it is the culmination of their artistic vision.
Outside of the company, Michele is a dance teacher at the theatre school of the Piccolo Teatro di Milano. For him and Antonella, Abbondanza/Bertoni is a way to further their personal artistic ambitions beyond their professions as dancers or teachers. Because many of the company’s productions are partnerships, Michele and Antonella need to have a very clear and strong vision in order to inspire others to collaborate with them and share in their innovations. In that process, they also need to have the openness and flexibility to include their partners’ opinions and experiences. In the end, Compagnia Abbondanza/Bertoni is a practical representation of a synchronized dance itself – to create and synchronise with partners, Michele and Antonella must be artists, managers, and leaders all at the same time.
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