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Giovanna Summo

Giovanna Summo, choreographer-director, performer, after a lengthy career of research and artistic activity in the field of Western theatre-dance, devotes herself to the ancient Indian Kutiyattam theatre, debuting in 2016 at the Kerala Kalamandalam (India), realising numerous performances up to 2020.  Since 1979 she has worked in the field of dance, theatre and the visual arts, collaborating with directors, choreographers and visual artists of international renown. In 1985 with Ian Sutton and Silvana Barbarini she founded the Vera Stasi dance company. In 1997 with the director and visual artist Fabrizio Crisafulli she created the Gruppo Arte Teatro Danza, both supported by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. In 2010 she launched the Teatro Danza Occidente Oriente project; a study of common roots in the arts; the search for a poetic synthesis of Eastern and Western dance-theatre languages. In 2022 she presented the project L’Educazione Cosmica, Maria Montessori tra oriente e occidente, debuting in Rome with the performance L’India di Maria Montessori.


L'Educazione Cosmica

The Project

The project includes a series of activities: conferences, workshops and performances on the life and works of Maria Montessori, particularly concerning her Indian years; a reflection on educational values, observed from various points of view, based on the interaction of science and spirituality, West and East, art and pedagogy, with a view in which the human being is a bearer of values of peace.

The title refers to the extraordinary idea of cosmic education that Maria Montessori developed fully in India with the collaboration of her son Mario.  Devised and directed by choreographer-director Giovanna Summo, the project has been conceived and implemented between India and Italy and has availed itself of the valuable contribution of the artist of Kutiyattam, an ancient form of Indian theatre, Kalamandalam Sindhu, and of the writer Paola Giovetti who, in her biography of Maria Montessori, has collected the last testimony of friends and collaborators of the great educator.

The Story

Maria Montessori is a charismatic figure of twentieth-century culture. A feminist ante litteram, she developed radically innovative ideas in the field of the education of children, inspired by a view of the child that she defined as “revealing”, which won wide international appeal.

In 1939, at the age of 69, she travelled to India at the invitation of George Sidney Arundale, educationalist and director of the University of Benares, and of his wife, the dancer Rukmini Devi. Welcomed with great honour by the Theosophical Society of Adyar, esteemed by Gandhi and Tagore, she was supported by the Indians in promoting and disseminating her work by creating teacher training courses and a Montessori school at the rising Kalakshetra, the major Indian institution of music and dance.

Throughout this extraordinary experience, she was accompanied by her son Mario, who contributed fundamentally, as her assistant and collaborator, to the cosmic education project; a new vision of education in which the human being is viewed in his relations with all the essential aspects of his existence.

L’India di Maria Montessori

Western Dance-theatre and Kutiyattam performance.

The outcome of authors of different generations, the performance is devoted to the Indian period of Maria Montessori and to her intense collaboration with Rukmini Devi, the famous dancer who, together with her husband George Arundale of the Theosophical Society of Adyar, invited her to bring to India her activity as educator. In rendering the profound union that, in Montessori’s extraordinary adventure, took place between pedagogy and art, East and West, between the sphere of the master and that of the disciple and between the maternal and filial dimension, the work sets side by side Kutiyattam, the ancient dance-theatre in Sanskrit, and Western theatre-dance. It also merges, in a single expressive cipher, dance, recitation, video and music: the particular combination of Western and Eastern performance techniques, also the fruit of Giovanna Summo’s more than ten years’ experience of work and study in both Italy and India, aims at tracing differences and motifs common to the two cultures.

I Montessori in India, un archivio presente

A simple and direct account, aimed at re-establishing the story and thought of the Montessoris in India, and simultaneously Giovanna Summo’s personal experience in developing the project L’Educazione Cosmica; from her initial ideas to the resultant realisations; meetings, collaboration, learning experiences, developments of the beginnings in India, continuation in Italy. The account is accompanied by readings and short dance-theatre events, projections of photographic and video documents: an event that unites the values of documentation with scenic action.

The Conference-performance is aimed particularly at secondary-school teachers and students and undergraduates. Its essential nature is suited to any kind of space: theatres, schools, libraries, universities, conference halls.

La Danza delle mani

Movement workshop for young people

A short workshop, a single encounter, held by the choreographer Giovanna Summo, aimed at junior school children, to introduce students, through hand movements, to the idea of “cosmic education”, according to which the human being, in order to understand his task in the world, must observe the elements of Nature, animals and plants. Utilising the mudras of  Kutiyattam theatre-dance, hand movements reproduce, following one of Maria Montessori’s written texts, the images of trees, corals, water, flowers, insects, worms, birds, cows, etc., thus discovering hand functions linked to fantasy and artistic expression and thereby using them in dancing and telling stories, as well as for practical purposes.

Laboratorio di animazione Stop-motion

Workshop for young people
by Magazzino dei Semi

Animated Object Trouvés (A.O.T.) are small objects that, owing to their past, their geometric, chromatic or luminous characteristics, capture our attention and stimulate our imagination. Salvaged, reinvented, provided with new functions, new roles and new meaning, they become fantastic living protagonists of other animated worlds.

Magazzino dei Semi utilises the technique of stop-motion animation with the creative enthusiasm of the first experimenters, ideally mixing the silhouettes of Lotte Reiniger with the Rayographs of Man Ray. An arsenal of evocative small objects, a light table and the free visual energy of the participants compose, in the dim light, one frame at a time, strange microcosms and unexpected events. The participants, from 8 years onwards, can experiment with the technique used to realise the animations present in the performances of the project “Cosmic Education”.

Mammolina va in India

The long journey of Maria Montessori.

Mammolina va in India (“Mammolina” is the affectionate nickname used by family members and collaborators for Maria Montessori) recounts in fairy-tale fashion her life from birth to death, paying special attention to her longest and most adventurous journey:  her trip to India. The narrator is a slightly transgressive granny, sitting in a narrow space, between a white table and a panel placed behind her shoulders, like a puppet in its tiny theatre. While telling the fairy-tale, the granny performs brief dances with her body and hands, and moves various stage objects, including a miniature of the children’s house and a puppet portraying Montessori herself. The action is accompanied by music and video projections that give the tale the joyful rhythm of a lively poetic narration.

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