Massimo Monticelli was a guest from August 4August 13, 2023 of the Shanghai International Dance Center as part of the Summer Camp, to work with children aged 8 to 12 and teenagers. During the first part of the period, he was hosted in the Liangzhu Residential Center in Hangzhou and later in their Shanghai headquarters.
What I would like to begin this report on my Chinese experience with is to make it clear that Crossing the Sea has been the cornerstone of an experience that, on balance, has been far greater, more varied and enriching than I could have initially anticipated. As much as it has always been in my nature, over the past year in particular the need to travel, launch myself into new experiences and totally step out of my comfort zone, personally and professionally, has been vigorous and compelling. For this reason, the selection to the project and the invitation that came from SIDC were providential and definitely well received.
In fact, thanks to the contribution of CTS, my trip was divided into three parts: first, a few days of actual travel that allowed me to acclimatize, enter the culture and touch upon how much the socio-cultural diversity of a country so far away geographically and politically can light a beacon in us that allows us to see far, germinate ideas, learn things, rework our thinking, our habitual patterns and paradigms.
Secondly, upon arrival in Shanghai, the project actually agreed upon within the framework of CTS and on which I will elaborate more below, namely a week of classes divided into three parts: two days of intensive workshop (5 hours a day) with a mixed group, three days of two-hour evening class, again with a mixed and variable group, and finally two more days of intensive workshop with a group of professional actors from the – I was told – very prestigious Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre.
Finally, because of my presence in Shanghai already given by CTS and through the help of SIDC, I was extended an invitation by the Xie Xin Dance Theatre company to work as a guest teacher and choreographer at the renowned workshop organized by the company itself, Vanguard Body International Workshop, where I was able to meet, in addition to the director, the choreographer Xie Xin, other highly experienced artists with whom I was able to share two weeks of teaching and research with ninety students from all over China.
The welcome I was given by the SIDC upon my arrival in Shanghai was generous and warm, from arriving at the hotel to the constant attention so that I would not miss anything, from Chinese food lunches to learn about typical dishes to theater tickets. I got to know the whole SIDC team and exchange opinions, impressions and even professional proposals.
While the original proposal was for a Summer School for young students, I realized that they probably had to run for cover because of the lack of enrollment, converting it back to an intensive weekend open to everyone and the three evening classes. My difficulty with this was that the group was particularly heterogeneous, both in terms of age (I had two 10-13 year olds up to a lady in her 50s) and in terms of background (some had never danced before, others had a fairly solid background). As a result, compared to the initial planning, I had to re-adjust the content and mode of delivery to meet the limitations and needs of the group, trying to make it accessible and challenging for each member. The lectures were conducted entirely in English, with the constant help of a person hired specifically to act as an interpreter, which of course caused a rather high but equally necessary expenditure of time. At the end of the two days, however, I was able to achieve the training goals I had set for myself with regard to the group, and from the feedback I received, I felt that the workshop was successful.
As for the two-hour evening classes, the same applies to the heterogeneity of the group (which changed daily). In this case, I solved the difficulty in maintaining a general average level and pace for the classes by giving more options for the students to follow according to their level of preparation. I also decided to build a course that evolved over the course of the three classes, rather than isolating each one as a single element, so that it would be more formative and interesting for those who had taken all three.
Finally, I particularly enjoyed the two-day intensive with SDAC’s group of professional actors, a proposal made when I was already in China and which I found challenging and stimulating, as it was the first time I had worked for a more intensive period with actors only.
Since these are professionals in the field of spoken word theater, I felt that two days of dance workshops with a traditional format was not so relevant to their background – the main reason for challenge for me. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to offer, in addition to warm-up principles, elements of movement analysis from choreological studies and principles of landscape research through the body, certainly far more useful but equally challenging for the group of 15 actors and actresses. I am very happy with the two days I spent with them; I found myself transmitting and teaching in a new way and I think I was able to deliver some tools that may be useful to them in their daily practice.
The next two weeks, the workshop in Vanguard Body, though external to the CTS protocol would nevertheless have been impossible without it, as my presence in Shanghai and contact with SIDC played a key role and were the main reasons why Xie Xin decided to include me in the program. It was an extremely enriching two weeks in every respect, very different from the one I had just experienced and which was able to stimulate and challenge me as a teacher and as an artist, surrounded moreover by other international artists of enormous experience and ability.
Ultimately, CTS gave me an unforgettable and extremely valuable experience that allowed me, in addition to making numerous contacts and encountering a new culture, to challenge myself as an artist, to enrich my background, and to seize a new and important opportunity to bring together some of the practices I had experienced along the way, to deepen them again and to pass them on to others, consequently making them accessible differently to myself as well.
I am extremely grateful to CTS, I firmly believe that experiences of this kind are fundamental in building not only an artist professionally, but also personally as human beings. The knowledge, images, sounds, colors, obstacles and challenges experienced during my month in China are already part of the wealth of inspiration I put into my creative processes on a daily basis, just as I am confident that the contacts made will be useful in fostering new connections and work opportunities in the near future.