Internationally renowned dancer, choreographer, performer, actor and artist Daniel Proietto talks to our editor Michael Peter Johnson about his most memorable collaborations, catsuits and costumes.
Photo (left) by Erik Berg
You have worked with the incredible designer Stevie Stewart (founder of BodyMap) for Afterlight Part 1. What are your memories of this and how does the tracksuit -like costume make you feel?
The process with Stevie was a dream. She came everyday with a huge bag filled with her latest conquests of materials and also with outcasts from the past. For Afterlight, she brought in big pieces. At first I started to wrap, drape and tuck the fabric around my body. She'll look closely, considering a lot as I literally ran around, improvised my moves whilst revelling in the clothes - often at quite an extreme pace. I was just feeling them, observing, while Russell (Rusell Malliphant Afterlight choreographer) kept laughing or mostly saying “No." We had a truly fun process.
Initially Stevie was thinking of a ‘new Ballet Russes’ garment. Sort of like a new version of Nijinsky's iconic costumes, perhaps even a hybrid of them. But during the creation, I was wearing my favourite rehearsal jacket most of the time, an Adidas original, in orange which is very big for me and almost gives a bat-wings look. I truly adore the movement and the way it makes me feel when dancing with it - Russell ask thought it was best to juxtapose, a ‘rehearsal look’ to the melancholic piece. I like the Adidas original because it is symbolic of our times but I think Russell's choice of the red / no brand was perfect for the dramaturgy of the piece. Stevie tailored my rehearsal trousers onto a heavier silk and added a few details to it. The cream colour beanie was added because under the first spotlight, Russell thought my black hair didn't define or sculpt me enough. I think that added to the casualness of the overall look.
In the long version of the piece, I take the scull cap off with the jacket in the middle and I become topless. I like this moment, as I like to dance with my hair whipping and adding flow. With my bare torso exposed, I feel freer and somehow like a nude version of the original Nijinsky pictures.
When I am dancing Afterlight, I feel great in the track suit. It is as close to being ‘me’ as I can be on stage. I feel it implies simplicity - the everyday man and it brings Nijinsky down to earth and closer to our days, don't you think?
Image of Daniel in the Sinnerman costume. Photo by Danilo Moroni
Yes definitely, I’d like to talk to you about your catsuit for Sinnerman designed by Stine Sjøgren. It was spectacular, bedazzling and beguiling and has since been featured in a film on SHOWstudio by Nick Knight. Could you share a little more about this costume; it’s effect on you and why it was used in the solo?
Well, thank you so much, I know that Stine will be happy to hear so many compliments! Alan Lucien Oeyen, the choreographer (my partner and my longest collaborator), asked Stine Sjoegren to create this costume back in 2010 for a ballet he created with the Norwegian National Ballet, where he is the resident choreographer. The first part of the piece was danced to Nina Simone’s amazing Sinnerman. Initially the work involved 5 dancers who were coming in and out. There were various costumes that had an interplay with the light, including my rather fabulous catsuit.
The costume is my absolute favorite to wear. It affects how the audience perceive my movement quality, creating optical illusions so to speak. I adore it the costume, it makes me feel empowered, it gives me confidence, I feel like a ballet rock-star wearing it. Sinnerman is such a highly demanding solo. Probably the hardest work I've ever danced. It's like a fight and Nina's epic version of the song is merciless, you have to give yourself completely, as she does, the costume definitely sets that tone, that mood and that energy.
I love the ritual of putting it on, it's slightly hard in texture, a little uncomfortable to begin, but it melts to my body as I warm up. It's so much fun to see the reactions when I swing into a studio or walk through the theatre with it on; the technicians, the security guards, everyone just gasps in awe!
In your dance career, what has been your favourite costume or designed piece?
Definitely Sinnerman by Stine Sjoegren, but there are plenty of other contenders Including a see-through Swarovski catsuit by Stevie Stewart for my solo work Almost Human. Also a homemade reproduction of a childhood costume from E.R made, aka "flower costume" by Ellinor Oeyen - Alan's mother! - for What's not to love? Which has to be one of the cutest things I've worn on stage.
Sounds so sweet! You have mentioned working in catsuits a lota lot, how do you feel the material Lycra has influenced your training and professional career?
I guess it isn't my favourite material, because the first thing I look for in movement is flow, so silks and jerseys have been a much more common match to my dancing, adding that extra soft and oily quality that I could only wish to achieve with my body. Although I keep falling for fabulous catsuits, most of them had very little percentage of Lycra in them.
Image of Daniel in the Sinnerman costume. Photo by Carolina Holden
What are your most recent projects and what's next for you?
The latest creation I was involved in was also my first large scale choreography for the State Ballet at the Vienna Opera House. It was a very exciting project commissioned by Manuel Legris. The company is truly phenomenal and I was allowed in with my dream team which includes composer Mikael Karlsson, Alan Lucien Oeyen as writer, Stine Sjoegren for costumes, set designer Leiko Fuseya and Martin Flack in lighting and video.
Besides this I created my piece Cygnet for the National Ballet of Cuba and also the State Ballet in Vienna and most recently I taught it to Marianela Nunez, one of the greatest ballerinas of our time. I’ve recently premiered a new work by Omar Saravia with music by David Bowie, an idea we've been developing slowly for over two years. I've assisted Alan in his next creation for Gothenburg Opera Dance Company, my favourite contemporary troupe. I'll be performing again on stage with Shoji Kojima, a 77 year old flamenco dancer from Japan, and in the piece, also signed by Alan I'll be reprising a solo work by Kabuki choreographer Kanjuro Fujima, created specially for me - I’ve been studying Kabuki Dance for 5 years now and I'm really thrilled to be doing this collaboration.
I also will reprise in London AfterLight, at The Print Room at The Coronet, which is an incredible atmospheric theatre. Later this year at The Coliseum. I will be performing with Ivan Putrov a duet I created for us. I will also head to Houston, USA to present another work of mine, Player.
Daniel was born in Argentina. He trained as a dancer at the Instituto Superior de Arte of the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, where he studied until he joined Ballet de Santiago in Chile, at the age of 16. He later became a member in companies such as Teatro Colon, Teatro Argentino, Teatro San Martin and Carte Blanche (Norwegian National Contemporary Dance Company) where he created and performed works by Ohad Naharin, Amanda Miller and Robyn Orlin, among others. He has since worked for Russell Malliphant and Ina Christel Johannessen. Since 2005, Daniel has worked closely with dance and theatre director Alan Lucien Oeyen and his company Winter Guests for several award winning productions as a dancer and, most recently, as an actor. In 2007 Daniel received the 1st prize at the 21st International Competition for Choreographers in Hanover, Germany for his choreographic debut. Since then, Daniel has made and toured several works in Argentina, Norway, Denmark and Greece, among others.