Giuseppe Calabrese

Born: Ostuni (Italy), 1989
Education: Scuola di Danza del Teatro dell Opera di Roma, Rome; Codarts, Rotterdam
Experience: Experience: Astra Roma Ballet, Rome; Introdans (since August 2013)

You can dream of something. Of working with Jiří Kylián, for instance. Or of parents who give you unconditional support. Or of cuddling with a panda. These things haven’t proved an obstacle to the dancer Giuseppe Calabrese. He has already realised two of the three dreams. And the panda should be possible too…

His wishes reflect his character perfectly. One the one hand down-to-earth, ambitious and focused, and on the other a desire for new and special experiences and unexpected “offshoots”. And should he happen to forget this at any moment, he always has his tattoo to remind him. “The most important agreement I’ve made with myself is to be true to myself. And by that I mean that wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I should be myself. But who am I? I have a whole life to discover that.”

Not a lawyer or a journalist but a dancer

Whatever is still to come, Giuseppe is the youngest child of his father and mother: a barber and an accountant in Ostuni, an Italian town halfway up the ‘heel of the boot’. And he has a sister, Nicoletta, who works as a doctor in Milan. “My parents thought I would become a lawyer or a journalist because I find it so easy to talk. No one in our family has anything to do with art. Until one day I went along with a few girls in my class to their dance lesson. I was sixteen and I had never seen a dance studio from the inside. But from that day on you could hardly get me out of it again, I liked it so much! But I caused a problem for my father…”

Dance came at the right moment

Nowadays he understands – much better than he did then – what his father was struggling with. “I was right in the middle of puberty and didn’t feel too happy with life. For me, discovering dance came at just the right moment.” His father’s doubtful glances stung him. Now I understand the reason for these. They weren’t “against me”, but on the contrary “for me”. He didn’t want me to be bullied.” Ever since he became a dancer, Giuseppe’s parents have been following him – together with another couple who are friends of theirs – just about everywhere. “I’ll never forget seeing them in the theatre in Milan. Along with my gran!”

It turns out that Giuseppe is highly talented

They helped him to be able to study at the Scuola di Danza del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in, of course, Rome. “We agreed that I could have a shot at it. I didn’t know if I was good enough. After all, I didn’t have any serious prior training. If it didn’t work out then I would put my Plan B into practice. Which I didn’t actually have.” But none of them, Giuseppe nor his parents, let themselves get worried about that. And it turned out that he was highly talented. “I loved the lessons and the school! After my graduation I started as a professional dancer at Astra Roma Ballet, a company directed by Diana Ferrara, former étoile prima ballerina from Teatro dell’Opera. I was just twenty at the time. Very soon I discovered how difficult it was to keep my head above water in financial terms. I had to take on extra jobs to pay the rent and to eat.”

Continuing his dance career in the Netherlands

Giuseppe talked to his parents again and asked if they would help him to leave Italy to continue his dance career elsewhere – he wanted to audition at Codarts in Rotterdam. They immediately said yes. He was accepted, was allowed to start his studies in the third year and graduated after two years. Immediately after this he did an internship at Introdans and the following year he received a contract. “The decision to move to the Netherlands made another person of me. And increased my understanding so much, in so many ways! From looking after myself in another country – me, who had never been anywhere else – and learning English, to full immersion in modern dance. I feel a huge affinity with modern! I don’t have a classical ballet body, but I do have a very dynamic and fast-learning body. In Rotterdam I gained access to all my qualities and abilities.”

Talent and luck

“Do you know when I feel happy and grateful? When I feel that I’m exactly in the place and with the people where I want to be. I treasure such moments. I’m very loyal in my contacts with people who are important to me. Of course, you need talent and luck as well. And you need to keep looking around you. For me, dancing means using a combination of your body, your heart and your head. You have to get all three involved and to “nourish” each aspect properly.” Giuseppe pauses for a moment and starts laughing. “And not taking things too seriously, and putting things into proper perspective from time to time.” Duly noted!