Manchester’s Submerge Festival brought international as well as local performers to Salford Lads Club, showcasing almost extinct arts while bringing positivity to a post-Covid era.

Last week, performers Alessandro Sciarroni, Gianmaria Borzillo, and Giovanfrancesco Giannini danced the “polka chinata”, in a collaboration show with UK based theatre company, Thick and Tight by Daniel Hay-Gordon and Eleanor Perry who artistically used the inspiration of iconic models with Finding Grace, and the comedic phycology of music and sound in Cage and Paige.

Alessandro’s performance was accompanied with a two-hour workshop teaching the dance to Salford residents, performer and director Gianmaria Borzillo, talked about the international importance of polka chinata he said: “The dance was born in Bologna and it was danced by just by one couple in all over Italy, and in all over the world, and so it was disappearing, step by step slowly.

Alessandro Sciarroni and Gianmaria Borzillo about to start the polka chinata performance. Credit: Mel Cionco.

“So, we decided to save distance from oblivion, me and Giovanfrancesco went every Monday for three months to learn the dance.

“I mean, it’s not important in the workshop to get exactly the dance in two hours, it’s important for us that you just come back home, and you have the memory and the experience of what polka chinata is, so there is a way that polka chinata can just survive.”

Alessandro Sciarroni and Gianmaria Borzillo. Credit: Lee Baxter.

Historically, since its creation in the 1900’s, polka chinata was a dance performed only by two men (due to the then restrictions on female dancers), to show and express their passion and strength towards women.

However, with the invention of dances like tango and more female accompanied performances, polka chinata became unpopular and less seen for its cultural history and more for the intimacy it portrays between two men.

Giovanfrancesco Giannini, choreographer and director, has expressed that even when the dance is not about politics or identity is about showing and dancing his own person and humanity to the audience.

Alessandro Sciarroni and Gianmaria Borzillo. Credit: Lee Baxter.

He said: “We never thought about this dance as a queer dance in a way.

“Even when we are queer, and it becomes something that is already there, you don’t need to underline it.

“We understand that it depends because people may see it as political and nowadays you could argue the political issues are already there in the dance, but it doesn’t need to go deeper, because everything was already there.

“So, we just have to be on the stage with our presence and to perform, you don’t see just the dancer technically manage a dance and just get adjusted by it, you see a person really giving all of themselves on the stage.

“And, and you can see also our relationship, our friendship on the stage.

“So, in this way, it may be political, because the body in general, when you use the body in public, the body becomes political.”

Daniel Hay-Gordon and Eleanor Perry performing Cage and Paige in Salford Lads Club. Credit: Mel Cionco.

UK based theatre company also delighted Salford’s audience with their performance, with Azara Meghie’s Finding Grace and their comedic act of Cage and Paige.

Azara Meghie in Finding Grace. A piece inspired by iconic black model and actress Grace Jones. Credit: Lee Baxter.

Finding Grace was a piece of contemporary art, as Azara explored the icon that defines its inspiration Grace Jones, while talking about her identity and culture.

Cage and Paige followed Azara’s act, and it was inspired by the comedic yet artistic idea of mixing music theorist John Cage’s words with the laughter of BBC Radio 2’s Elaine Paige.

The performance was one that explored the ideas of art, music, and dance, being described by creators as a “camp” work which brings positivity amid the depressive state of the world caused by Covid, Eleanor Perry, co-director of Thick and Tight said: “We started researching and listening to lots of interviews, and suddenly there were loads and loads of parallels that gave a really wonderful mixture of ideas that are quite philosophical and profound, and beautiful, and things that are very throwaway and camp and silly.

“And those are two things are always at the heart of our work, really, and in the heart of what camp is and so it sorts of just ballooned into this piece that just goes off, as it just go on and on.”

Daniel Hay-Gordon, co-director for Thick and Tight, carried on by saying: “Because theatres have been shut for a long time, people want to be connected to something that’s live in front.

“And they want to escape the simulated and the digital and feel things in a clear and simple way, like a performance.”

Similarly, to Alessandro’s polka chinata, the performance even when not inherently queer in nature, still shows the whole humanity and being of both performers Daniel and Eleanor.

Thick and Tight commented about the good support queer theatre gets in today’s age, and that artists inside of the UK get the proper representation they deserve. Eleanor said: “I see quite a lot of stuff that would be called queer or has queer performance in it, so representation is not lacking.

Daniel Hay-Gordon and Eleanor Perry performing Cage and Paige in Salford Lads Club. Credit: Lee Baxter

“But, I think in some ways, I think there’s probably different kinds of things that would be good for queer theatre, which might help in the situation of Covid and theatre.”

Daniel said: “I think I think when it’s outside, when it’s clear outside work, we need more representation, and more support.

“There’s a lot of mainstream queer work out there, and it’s always the start, and any story in mind needs to be always supported.”

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