Amarcord – A Fellini Feast

Rossella Brescia playing Gradisca in the Amarcord Dance Performance in Rome. April 2014

Rossella Brescia playing Gradisca in the Amarcord Dance Performance in Rome. April 2014

Last night I was invited to a fabulous Fellini feast, the opening night of “Amarcord” – a dance performance based on Italian Film Director Federico Fellini’s 1973 film of the same name.

The title “Amarcord” is taken from the local dialect meaning “mi ricordo” in Italian or “I Remember”– and is a fantastical trip through the memories of Federico Fellini growing up in small town Italy in the 1930s when Italy was under the leadership of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.  The movie pokes fun at the the oppressive natures of both the fascist regime and the Catholic church as seen through the eyes of an adolescent boy.  It also plays on all the stereo-types of Italians still very much present today  — the young boy’s obsession with his mother, his continuous sexual desires and fantasies, the rowdy family meal and the Italian love of life.

The dance performance–choreographed by Luciano Cannito– was a delightful, enchanting trip through the scenes of the film using both voice track from the film and lively music to dramatize the small-town life.

The dance opens with a priest, in long black robes and traditional hat slipping across the stage.  Then appears the rambunctious, adolescent Titta, representing Fellini, and played by talented young Italian dancer Nicolo’ Noto — bouncing, jumping and flipping as he tries to impress the towns stunning beauty, the sensual, red head Gradisca, played by Rossella Brescia.

Titta, played by dancer Nicolo' Noto showing off for local beauty Gradisca and her friends in the Amarcord dance performance in Rome. April 2014

Titta, played by dancer Nicolo’ Noto showing off for local beauty Gradisca and her friends in the Amarcord dance performance in Rome. April 2014

I was charmed by the 1930s costumes– the women were in dresses that fell below the knees, puffy, feathery scarves, small hats and short heels.  In an Italy where the past 20 years have been dominated by images of scantily dressed show-girls, these elegantly dressed dancers seemed much more seductive, sensual and appealing.

It is not long before Titta’s grey-haired mother takes the stage, scolding and dragging an ebullient Titta home.  At home the dancers manage to create the scene of a lively family meal with the mother and father arguing, the irrepressible grandfather slipping his hand on the bottom of the maid, the younger brother misbehaving.  All this with the dancers spinning and swirling around a dinner table.

The meal is interrupted by a group of Fascist black shirts who march in and drag off Titta’s father for questioning over his socialist inclinations.  Throughout the dance performance the rigid, marching, stiff-armed fascist black-shirts were in sharp contrast with the rebellious adolescent boys, the sensual women, and the bustling, lively family.

Guests at the Grand Hotel interrupt their dancing to give the fascist salute to the local fascist leader accompanied by local beauty Gradisca in Amarcord Dance performance. Rome, April 2014

Guests at the Grand Hotel interrupt their dancing to give the fascist salute to the local fascist leader accompanied by local beauty Gradisca in Amarcord Dance performance. Rome, April 2014

At one point in the performance Titta and his three friends decide to visit the town’s brothel– again, the scene is beautifully choreographed and the costumes of the prostitutes, netted skirts, feathers and head-bands are elegant and enticing– far from vulgar.  Titta is discovered by his ever-present Italian Mamma who drags him off by the ear and leaves him to confess to the local priest– the same one that slid unctuously across the stage at the opening.

In perhaps my favorite scene — Titta on the left of the stage kneels before the priest who dances and scolds, while behind Titta erupts an extravagant scene portraying Titta’s irrepressible fantasies as he tries to repent.

The story goes on with the beautiful Gradisca falling into the hands of a German soldier — the two dancers erupt in a aggressive, seductive dance showing a night of love making which degenerates leaving Gradisca alone, rejected and humiliated.

Gradisca-- played by Rossella Brescia dancing with a German soldier in the Amarcord dance performance. Rome, April 2014

Gradisca– played by Rossella Brescia dancing with a German soldier in the Amarcord dance performance. Rome, April 2014

The performance ends on a up note.  The Americans arrive and the dancers — waving American flags explode into a frivolous Charleston and a Yankee soldier in fatigues stumbles around cheerfully.   Meanwhile, Gradisca has found her true love, an Italian Carabinieri soldier who she happily marries as the show concludes.

As part of the offer to see the show, I was also invited by Walks of Italy on a mini Fellini Tour of Rome.  Since Fellini spent his life living and making films in Rome, the three hour tour could only touch on a few of the key places.  We began at Piazza Del Popolo where in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” Marcello Mastroianni and Anouk Aimee’ invite a prostitute into their car for a ride.  We then strolled down perhaps one of the most charming streets in Rome, a tiny hidden jewel called Via Margutta. There we saw the spot where Fellini lived for decades with his wife  Giulietta Masina.

A plaque with the names of Italian Film Director Federico Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina outside their former home on Via Margutta, Rome. Photo by Trisha Thomas - April 10, 2014

A plaque with the names of Italian Film Director Federico Fellini and his wife Giulietta Masina outside their former home on Via Margutta, Rome. Photo by Trisha Thomas – April 10, 2014

We then passed by the Spanish Steps where in the film “Roma” a group of hippies danced and jumped in the fountains.  And of course a Fellini tour would not be complete without a stop of the Trevi Fountain to see where Fellini filmed actress Anita Ekberg flouncing in the water and calling out to Marcello Mastroianni  “Marcello, come here.”

Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni in the Trevi Fountain scene in Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita"

Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni in the Trevi Fountain scene in Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”

8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Adri
    2014/04/18

    What a delightful evening of theatre. I am utterly intrigued, and what fun the Fellini Tour of Rome must have been. Now that is my kind of guided tour! I bet Bart would love it too Thanks for this one. It was charming. Happy Easter to you and yours!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/04/22

      Thank you Adri! It was a delightful evening and the tour was very special. We had a lovely and knowledgeable guide named Vincenzo Macchiarola who has promised to put me in touch with his friend who does a “Famous Courtesans of Rome” tour which interests me a lot and he is going to help me with a future post I want to do on Liva (wife of emperor Augustus). Happy Easter to you — a little late. Un abbraccio

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    Nancy Rockwell
    2014/04/18

    Terrific post! The dance sounds magical, I wish I could have been there. I remember the film, but dimly, as it was many, many years ago that I saw it. But who can ever forget Marcello Mastroiani? And the themes of Italy’s love of life, family, food, and seduction, that cannot be conquered by any dictator. I was in San Francisco last week, and had a cab driver who was from Florence, I would say in his 60s, and had been in SF for 30 years. Still, he said in a strong accent, “People visit Florence for its fine art and to have a good meal.” So Italian! You capture that spirit so well, in your words.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/04/19

      Thank you Nancy, it was a lovely evening. You are right, Fellini portrayed in his film, and it was clear in the dance performance, that the rigidity of fascism and the oppressive sexual teachings of the Catholic Church could not repress the lively, vital nature of the Italian people in the 1930s.

      Reply
  3. Avatar
    Gwen Thomas
    2014/04/18

    What a wonderful evening! So fun!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/04/19

      It was a magical evening, and a fabulous escape.

      Reply
  4. Avatar
    Joan Schmelzle
    2014/04/19

    OK I have now added “Amarcord” to my Netflix queue. Seems that an interesting story is the closest I’ll come to the dance though I have seen pictures of it probaly on Italian Reflections Daily or another blog.
    Wow! Would my cheerleaders have loved to execute the toe touch jump Noto shows in the picture. I had maybe one or two who came close.
    Another interesting story! Thanks

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2014/04/19

      That Nicolo’ Noto was amazing. Not only was he doing that fantastic tough-touch jump, he did handless back-flips on stage. He combined his dance techniques with what seemed almost like circus tricks — and it was perfect for his role as the lively, rambunctious young Titta. Rossella got big play as the beautiful star, but Nicolo’ was wonderful.

      Reply

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