Exercices spirituels

Creation 1998

By Caterina Sagna 

based on Ignace de Loyola


Choreographed and performed by
Caterina Sagna
Original music
Roberto Paci Dalò
Stage props and costumes
Tobia Ercolino
Light design
Nuccio Marino

This solo has been produced on the request of Centre d'Arts Vooruit of Ghent (Belgium).



Using the Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius Loyola as a starting point, the performance visualizes a practitioner intent upon executing the exercises suggested by the author.

We are dealing with the staging of a meditation treatise having the aim of leading us towards an identification with an imaginary model.

In the text, the stages which mark the progression are characterized by a constant and obsessive comparison (with God), while on stage the interpreter uses as her reference element a series of pictorial signs, which she will consider as a model. In order to draw nearer and nearer to this model one will have to experiment with different ways of communication, through the body, with a static and perfectly autonomous element, which on the contrary will be discovered to be flexible to every suggestion.

We will attend an obsessive and hypnotic operation which, through the negation of appearance, will shatter the usual reading and communication schemes. 


Jean-Marc Adolphe
February 1998

"Ogni dipintore dipinge sé" ("Every painter paints himself"). The dance, a painting in motion of body stances, a metaphor which is practiced in the visual realm, can be perceived as a self-portrait of figures displayed in the density of the stage space, in the voids of language, in the permanence of a dark side-scene from which the exhibition of the gesture shall be born.

Since Les Bonnes (from Jean Genet), performed with her sister Carlotta, Caterina Sagna has imbued with her tall marmoreal figure the disenchanted universes which she has staged and choreographed. A stylist of geometric representation, she freed herself from declamatory movement to dig into the humus of an almost sleep-walking dance. (Le Sommeil des Malfateurs, Le Passé Reste à Venir), to mould the harmony of the corporeal into the watermark of certain literary sources. (Lenz, from Büchner, Quaderni in ottavo from Kafka, and again Rilke, Christa Wolf...) without falling as a result into the "dance-theatre" genre.

These various group works, set as many tableaux vibrating with the same ecstatic research, can be read as a series of "self-portraits", not as a reproduction of any ordinary ego, but as an endless exploration of an essential solitude. And this happens without canceling the work on alterity which makes dance fertile. Every painter paints himself in the eyes of the other, in looking at the other. From this point of view, one of the most emblematic tests for Caterina Sagna will be the first part of Isoi, an unusual static duet with her sister Carlotta. Two twin figures, interchangeable, and yet very different. We could say: one is made of flesh, the other of spirit. But evidently neither one is only flesh or spirit. The self-portrait that Caterina Sagna makes up from one work to another maybe reaches this impalpable frontier, this ever-vibrating fusion between flesh and spirit. This duality, a prerogative of the most important mystics, is assimilated by Caterina Sagna in the research of a dance which is - mystery in action - the form of a physical spirituality.

In dance, the ultimate form of self-portrait is the solo; little does it matter if this "scale reduction" be often imposed by economical contingencies: when a "production means" shortage occurs, the solo remains the inalienable white sheet of the dancer-choreographer.

Two years ago Caterina Sagna created Cassandra, a mythical character, an oracle whose prophecies are condemned to remain unheeded. Around a deaf presence, Caterina Sagna weaves the detachment and the trance, telling the beads of the rite with a determination and a frenzy which no reason can contain.

Here she is today, attending the Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius Loyola, through the reading of Roland Barthes which Caterina Sagna transfers into dance problematics. An ascetic exercise whose aim is to suspend sentiment, hunting the emotion in the rarefaction of movement. Beyond every doctrine, Caterina Sagna is interested in the methodical aspect of the Spiritual Exercises, in their repetitive obstinacy, in what materializes (and humanizes) the deification of existence.

With Tobia Ercolino, painter and scenographer, she imagines a visual element (canvas or tableau) which will allow some physical interferences: to tear, to bind, to cross, etc... Spirit of the painting, flesh of the dance. Or perhaps also, simultaneously, the contrary. A gesture which transgresses the visible to bring back the being in one’s perpetual incompleteness.

Translation by Mariella Lo Sardo