The power of a Gaze. Interview with Gloria Chiappani Rodichevski

May 13, 2010


Interview. 1

Photo gallery and video. 3

Reviews. 4



Yuki Imaizumi during the second part of Uomossessione.

© Photo by Gloria Chiappani Rodichevski

As a writer, poet and journalist writing has been the medium through which you have been observing and interacting with the world of ballet and dance for years now, as an “observer.” I would like to start our conversation by asking if your multimedia work Uomossessione is your first creative “incursion” into this universe you are already so familiar with.

Yes, if by creative incursion you mean the development of a theme (obsession) through explorations in the world of dance and the synergy of artistic languages.

How did you come to create Uomossessione? What was your starting point? Given your strict relationship with writing, I imagine that the first aspect that sprung up was the poetic one. No, everything began from the music. I started composing without any precise theme or goal. Listening to the piece again a few days later, I was impressed by its obsessive rhythm. The initial idea was, therefore, the rhythmic interaction which was very insistent, or obsessive, to be precise.

This is quite striking: a writer producing a dance video starting from a musical cue and developing it further. Musically speaking, did you draw any cues from some particular genre or musicians?


How is the video structured?

It is divided into two parts. The Observed and The Sublimated. I want to say that in the first part there is a musical intervention by Alexandre Rodichevski, which further accentuates the obsessive rhythm. During the assembly stage, Alexandre’s technical assessment combined with his artistic sensitivity, was fundamental.

And so, as a renowned and controversial saying goes: “First of all the music, and then the word.”

The music comes first, then the image, and after that the word, and lastly, dance. On listening to the rhythm I felt the urge to comment on it through images. I therefore selected some videos I had created a few years earlier and produced new ones, harmonizing them. When I say make a comment, I mean to say that the image was a big contribution to the sense of obsession, sustaining the rhythm of the musical composition and developing the psychological theme. And after the need for images, I felt the need to make a comment through poetry. The first part of the video is introduced by this poem:

The Observed


has now imprisoned man

under the observation lens

obsessing him to death.


The poem that sets the pace for the second part is this:


The Sublimated

As a freed man

in the deep heights

of the sea-sky

I sublimate human misery.


The final need was that of dance.

With the participation of Yuki Imaizumi.

Yes. This young Japanese dancer entered into the European Terpsichore Company – Balletto di Vicenza, after having achieved her specialization with Prisca Picano, former prima ballerina of the San Carlo Theater of Naples. Yuki's participation in the video was important for the choreography which was fundamental due to the interaction between her gaze and mine.

You chose a remarkably modern theme, as demonstrated by the initial allusion to sado-scientism, “obsessing man to death.” What is your view on the actual relationship between man and science? Do you think that man today has become a victim of his creation?

Undoubtedly, something (or a lot of things) has gotten out of hand. We know that science and technology are neutral instruments that can be used for the good or evil. In the video, however, the allusion to sado-scientism must be taken in a less specific way. The key to interpretation is the answer to the question: what psychological conditions are we led to by our contemporariness? It is evident that with such a question, the range of answers is very broad.

There is, however, a “strong” element, and this is the great eye projected on the screen, in the first part of the video.

Yes, that image is a metaphor which decodes itself. It stands as a visual materialization of the theme which the first poem refers to. Some artists and intellectuals of different schools of expression to whom I showed the video when it still did not have the choreographic interpretation, underscored the tangible emotive effect this eye achieved on them. Yuki herself took this direction. While she was preparing to interpret the part of the Observed, her spontaneous reaction was: “That eye imbues fear in me.” My reaction to her impression was equally spontaneous: “It should imbue fear.” Earlier on I had said that the interaction of our gazes was fundamental, and what I have just narrated is an example of this.

So what does the eye represent? It is clearly a symbol, but why is this symbol so strong, so emotively and universally recognizable?

As I said earlier, the range is extensive…

… because the theme is rich, complex.

Yes, it may be considered, for example, from the viewpoint of a capillary prolongation of mass communication: man at that point found himself trapped in a cobweb of gazes (and ears) he could not elude. A sort of reference to the Orwell’s Big Brother of 1984 is a natural consequence.

However, without referring to any particular political system, if Orwell’s romance can be seen as contextual to the atmosphere of the cold war and in fears of Soviet totalitarianism, contemporary life has demonstrated in the fact that the Big Brother is in reality, simply the Leviathan of modern times.

In literature there have been numberless diagnoses of the controlling eye with all its attachments and interconnections. What comes to mind for example is the fact of citing Sartre’s Huis clos.

It may perhaps be the more modern representation of hell: three people locked up for eternity in a room, under the weight of an invisible and likewise omnipresent gaze. The impossibility of being visible is the truest and horrifying condemnation man is subjected to today.

In the non-literary ambience, we find the theme of controlling in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon  also made known through Michel Foucault’s mediative article (Surveiller et punir). Leaving behind these intellectual ambiences and in considering our daily life, we are aware that we are controlled by video cams in offices, shops and public facilities (whether they are open or closed), rummaged through by metal detectors of banks and airports, and even on the Internet our movements are spied on through electronic "spywares." Due to this the eye is a symbol that skips over emotive evidence: I think that contemporary man would not find it difficult to identify himself with Yuki, in her desperate floundering in face of the gaze that imprisons her on a glass slide.

In effect the choreography really succeeds in reflecting and translating this theme. I was also struck by its correspondence to the music, not so much as to the themes but to the tones. In the part on the Observed, the alternating conflict between acute with grave sounds is almost strident: and seem to allude to a state of struggles, of being torn apart and is reflected in an almost mimetic manner in Yuki’s movements, in that claustrophobic anguish which pushes her to “knock” on the glass imprisoning her.

I agree with you as to being torn apart and the state of conflict. However, Yuki in reality never knocks on the glass. The fear/terror of the observer’s gaze consists in two facts: firstly, we as spectators assist in Observed’s struggle under the unmovable Eye we see projected on the screen; secondly, the Observed is aware he is being observed but does not know where the “video cam” is hidden. Even if – paradoxically – he looks in the direction of the camera, he does not see it but perceives its presence. The Observed in fact, has lost her awareness of spatial dimensions and all contact with the outside world.

Going back to Yuki, what helps her to find her way out is not an external intervention (like the observer removing her from the slide, or being liberated by someone), but an interior journey which allows her to transform a critical situation into a strong point. It is of no matter whether she found the way on her own or with the help of a guide. In the transition from the first to the second part in fact, the circle - clearly referring to the eye – that terrifies her due to its intermittency, is gradually transformed into a face. Not by chance the eyes of this face are set offstage, and the face so to say is dominated by the lips alone that – from time to time - speak, whisper, are intent on a pause, explain and convince. Lips that without hesitation speak of the fragility of the person they belong to: the starting point (the access to the way). On the other hand, it is the admission of one’s fragility, and not its negation. It is through the honest admission of feeling entrapped, of the sense of imprisonment which opens out to the possibility of finding a way out and – consequently - of being born again. Yuki listens to what the lips have to say (that is, she assumes the attitude of listening to the voice within her) and establishes contact with them. The first contact that occurs is physical: she touches them the way children do when they need to acquire knowledge of things. The succeeding contact is more important. It is metaphorical and comes about through the re-elaboration of the message. The rebirth pact is sealed by an embrace, a gesture which is continually repeated. While the lips continue speaking, the face becomes increasingly clear, until it disappears. Yuki is ready: she rises, arranges her tutu, starts to stretch out as if she were crawling out of an egg (archetype of birth) and starts dancing on points to express Sublimation. (Others in the video are the symbols connected to birth: the maternal breasts in the first part and the uterine contractions in the second).

Metamorphosis finds its fulfillment in the final part: that of the Sublimated. The contrast is evident: at both chromatic level (the predominant tones of blue on the background, free from images) and at musical and pantomime levels.

For the part of the Sublimated, I wanted to give Yuki some precise choreographic indications: I wanted the liberation and consequential psychological lightness, for example, to be sustained by an uninterrupted sequence of pas de bourrée. Following the interior voice thread of Arianna, Yuki manages to leave the slide from underneath, eluding the Eye and steps into a universe of peace and beauty. Nothingness (taken as lightness, “underwaterness,” liberation, air, wings that open out and serve to make the body and spirit fly) sustains her. The video concludes with a freeze shot in which she leans, in attitude, ideally on salutary nothingness. The vision conveys a wealth of elements and symbols. To cite a few, the lightness implied in the tutu, the final wheel symbolizing the journey of life, the transition, during the video, of the eye-moon-sun-breast-circle-face-wheel.

In flying or swimming, Yuki significantly moves her back in cambré en arrière: as if to underscore that she feels finally able to open out to life, and to relate with trust, letting herself be soaked with strength and beauty.

So can we really free ourselves from the Eye? Using the words of Montale, is there a “tear in the canvas,” a margin of liberty to which we can aspire?

Certainly. There are multiple and totally individual ways: the path may be of the ethical type for some, artistic ones for others… The common element is the strength of will based on interior motivations. In fact, you are not liberated by others, you free yourself. You do not ask for help, that is, if you have decided to let yourself be helped, it is due to the fact that you are already helping yourself. As I said earlier, we cannot elude the Eye without following that thread of Arianna which only our foresight has preserved for us.

Photo gallery and video

See the complete photo gallery and some shots of the multimedia video on:


Read some reviews on Uomossessione at: and

Translation by Yolanda Rillorta