Terra dei Fuochi

NEW YORK -- "Terra dei Fuochi / Land of Fires" is an environmental performance project blending modern dance, music and documentary theater to tell the story of Campania Felix, an area in Italy north of Naples that suffered devastating loss of life due to a scandal-ridden toxic waste disaster. The piece is a three-person dance with multimedia drawn largely from life stories of mothers in the region whose children "have become angels too quickly." Accompanying the performance will be a booth providing information about Campania Felix and how it can be compared to others around the world. The aim is to provide further education in the increasing land and water contamination issues facing our global community. This world premiere is choreographed and directed and by Bianca Falco (Napoli, Campania - NYC) and composed by Alberto Falco (Napoli, Campania). La MaMa will present the work's world premiere March 23 to April 2 in its First Floor Theater, 74A East Fourth Street.

In the 1980s, hazardous waste disposal became a joint venture uniting the Camorra (an organized crime group), industries from all over Europe and the political class of Naples and Campania into what is now known as an "Ecomafia." A region between Naples and Caserta became known as the Triangle of Death when cancers usually seen in older people became epidemic, taking their cruel aim at children. Illegal dumping there has been widely documented but the trash crisis has only worsened through the parallel problem of the illegal burning of toxic waste, which has brought the region another nickname, the Land of Fires. The situation is a result of decades of secret dealings between manufacturers in Italy and beyond, pressing to avoid the high costs of legally disposing of hazardous waste, and the Camorra, one of Italy's three main mafia organizations, which saw the potential to make huge profits by disposing of it. Some revelations came from the declassified 1997 testimony of Carmine Schiavone, a former treasurer for the Casalesi clan, one of the most powerful Camorra factions. Speaking in secret to an investigative parliamentary committee, Mr. Schiavone described nighttime operations in which mobsters wearing police uniforms supervised the burial of toxic garbage from as far away as Germany. It is believed that the Camorra, seeing its own children dying, stopped burying waste in its back yard a few years ago and is now illegally shipping it off to Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

The region was once known as Europe's vegetable garden and was called by the Romans Campania Felix, the fertile countryside. Agriculture had ceased to be the primary source of income for many farmers there, who were suffering from price competition from Spain, Libya and Greece. They sold or rented portions of their land to companies for waste disposal. The growers stayed afloat with that money, using it to maintain their crops because they had been assured that the waste was not pernicious. Over 20 years or so, more than 10 million tons of illegal, toxic garbage was dumped into fields, caves, quarries and even the Bay of Naples. Cancer rates, malformations and birth defects increased dramatically, with both humans and farm animals affected. Farm products from the region, a major agricultural hub, have continued to be channeled into pasta sauces and frozen soups that are sold domestically and internationally. The effects of toxic drinking water have even been traced to migratory birds. But assertive action has been resisted through the corruption of politicians and fear that the Neapolitan agricultural economy would be compromised. Having failed to counteract the disaster politically at a local or national level, activists are now resorting to exposing the environmental disaster as a worldwide scandal, to at least result in it being monitored.

Director/choreographer Bianca Falco was impelled to create a dance on the subject after reading "The Gospels of the Land of Fire" by Father Patriciello, a priest of the town Caivano, who became kind of celebrity activist after he noticed how the number of "white coffin" (children's) funerals had doubled the number of weddings in his parish. He began organizing the community and serving as spokesman for its bereaved. Falco went on to watch interviews with the suffering mothers and reached out to Noi genitori di tutti (We are the Parents of All, www.noigenitoriditutti.it), an association of mothers and fathers in the region who have lost their children to cancer. She started a dialogue with these parents and in particular with Marzia Marzia Caccioppoli, a seamstress whose only child died at age nine of a type of brain cancer usually seen as the result of radiation exposure in adults. Being a trained choreographer and dancer, she set out to portray their tragedy using the conventions of documentary theater and modern dance.

She writes, "As a native of Campania, this is a deeply important and emotional issue for me. After watching the interviews of mothers who lost their babies to cancer and being myself the aunt to nephews and nieces living in the area I was moved to act."

"Terra dei Fuochi/Land of Fires" was granted a residency by chashama.org at their space XOCO 325 West Broadway in Soho during December, 2016.

To accompany the performance, an informational booth will provide details about the toxic waste situation afflicting Campania Felix and how this situation can be compared to others around the globe. The aim is to provide education on land and water contamination issues facing our global community. The production's blog here.

The ensemble is a collection of artists from Campania and neighboring communities, including Bianca Falco, composer Alberto Falco (Napoli, Campania), lighting designer Marcello Falco (Napoli, Campania) and dancers Bianca Delli Priscoli (Salerno, Campania) and Laura Orfanelli (Abruzzo).

All three Falcos are siblings; they are descended from Raffaele Calace (1863 – 1934), a famed Italian mandolin player, composer, and luthier. He and his brother Nicola were instrument makers in the Neapolitan mandolin family and their atelier continues to this day. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raffaele_Calace)

Bianca Falco’s choreographic language draws from her life experience, dance training and personal research; she creates her own movement vocabulary with elements of Ballet, Modern, Contemporary and Butoh. She was formed in modern dance by Murray Louis in Alvin Nikolais Technique. Her work is theatrical and abstract at the same time, incorporating manipulation of props and using text, which in this production is recorded. The score by Alberto Falco contains three compositions of concrete music and one mixing concrete and contemporary music.

Bianca Falco (www.biancafalco.com) is a choreographer, dancer, dance teacher, certified Pilates teacher, and musician born in Napoli, Italy. Her career began in Italy and after dancing ballet there for several years, she performed in a piece choreographed by Murray Louis and received a scholarship to study modern dance at the Nikolais and Louis Dance Lab in New York City. She also studied Zapateado and Son Jarocho (Veracruz folk dance), jazz dance, and movement for theater, as well as Cyr Wheel, aerial silk, and trapeze. She plays the clarinet and jarana, a Mexican string instrument.

Besides dancing for Murray Louis, her early experiences in Europe included operating her own dance school and receiving first prize in an international video dance competition sponsored by RAI Italian national TV. Her dance/soloist credits include "Freestyle Die Trilogie," an experimental dance theater piece choreographed by Peter Fuxx, which premiered at the famous Schauspielhaus Theater in Vienna. She has also danced for Poppo and the Gogo Boys at the Joyce Theater and performed with Fly-by-Night Dance Theater, a low flying trapeze company.

Her long association with La MaMa includes choreography for several productions, among them "Intermezzo" (La MaMa Moves Dance Festival), "Apnea" (La MaMa NYC), and "Easy" (Spoleto Festival, Italy). From 2000 to 2003, she co-directed an emerging dance company, NuVoLe Dance Theatre, which presented new work at the Present Theater Company, the Montreal Fringe Festival, La MaMa Moves, and Brooklyn Arts Exchange. Her choreographic credits also include the "Acettes" (Artscorporation, The Highline, NYC), "Intermezzo" (La MaMa Moves Dance Festival) and several art/music videos for director Massimo Monacelli in Perugia, Italy.

Falco has also worked as a choreographer and movement director for film, theater and video. She choreographed the music/art video "Somebody to Love" directed by Josh Jordan, the western-themed film musical "A Ballad for Tex" and the short film "ALEX", which won Best Fiction Film and Best Cinematography at the Directors Guild of America's festival Cityvisions in 2011. Most recently, she workshopped "Searching" a dance/spoken word/live music event, performed at the No-Lesque performance art series at the Slipper Room. She creates and performs site specific dances for and acts in "The Zero Hour," Zero Boy's interactive comedy and high art monthly event at The Slipper Room.

La MaMa is dedicated to the artist and all aspects of the theater. The organization has a worldwide reputation for producing daring performance works that defy form and transcend barriers of ethnic and cultural identity. Founded in 1961 by award-winning theatre pioneer Ellen Stewart, La MaMa has presented more than 5,000 productions by 150,000 artists from more than 70 nations. A recipient of more than 30 Obie Awards and dozens of Drama Desk, Bessie, and Villager Awards, La MaMa has helped launch the careers of countless artists, many of whom have made important contributions to American and international arts milieus.

La MaMa's 55th season celebrates the creative and collective histories of La MaMa's local and global communities. Since its beginning, La MaMa has forged creative partnerships with artists based in different parts of the U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. In recent years, these long-term relationships have taken on new life through distance collaborations over the Internet. The 55th season embraces new pathways forged in performance and technology to connect the myriad experiences, politics, conflicts, aesthetics, intimacies and dreams of people and communities participating in an increasingly globalized world.