AURA: A Shamanistic Techno Ritual of Dance

AURA: A Shamanistic Techno Ritual of Dance is a performance by Moreno Perna and Evgenia Rubanova in collaboration with techno label Immaterial.Archives; supported by ICK Amsterdam,​ Dansmakers Amsterdam, United-C, AFK and Olland Buisman.​ Moreno talks about healing through movement, exchanging energies, taking the audience on a spiritual adventure and how his performance connects to ancient rituals.

Usually when thinking about visiting a dance performance, the first thing that comes to mind is ballet or contemporary dance. Not with AURA – for this performance Moreno and Evgenia use techno music.

The idea to use techno as the lead for their performance came very naturally. ‘I’ve always been very interested in movement language and the energetic essence of the human body, ​w​hether it’s the aura or the chakras inside of you. I’ve thought about how I could combine this spiritual part with a dancing performance. Always working very intuitively, I had a feeling that I wanted to create something fun and energetic. That’s when I started experimenting with the third chakra, this is the fire chakra. It’s one that is active and fiery. It’s about changing the space actively and is often used to cleanse and transform energy.’

Naturally, Moreno started to use techno in the studio. ‘It made sense for me to use techno with this chakra. Techno allows me to push out all of the energy I have inside of me and connect with myself. It’s a moment of liberation. It’s healing through movement. When you dance to it, you can get into a state of mind where you can do a lot of emotional work. There’s a lot of transformative energy with the music and the beat can take you over, which makes you feel all kinds of things. The body moves intuitively, and you can discover your own body and other people.’

‘Techno music allows you to do so because it’s rhythmic and repetitive, it gives you the freedom to dance and express how you want. With other scenes and music, there is less freedom, music is more directed somehow and there’s less freedom of interpretation. This is why I like working with techno for this performance. There is not just one way to dance to it, you can be on the beat, slow it down, double it, pick up other sounds in the track and dance on those ones. It’s very primordial and fun to use.’

Moreno feels their performance is also inspired by and connected to history. ’Some movements come from Taranta, an Italian shaking ritual. It’s coming from my roots which is an extra layer to the performance. But I also see our performance as a continuation or evolution of Pagan rituals like Saturnalia.’

Saturnalia was a week-long sequence of festivities during ancient Roman times to honour the god of Saturn. It was a celebration with performances, gambling, dancing and theatre, orgiastic parties, abundant alcohol consumption and the use of natural drugs.

‘I wanted to combine this performatory element and the party element of Saturnalia to bring that element of going loose or getting lost. In present times, I also see this at clubs. It’s that place where we go to – in a hopefully safe space – to enjoy, to get lost, to put out energy, stress or any negative energy on the beat, and go intuitively with our body on the music without thinking. We refresh our energies, exchange them and we connect to people. I wanted to bring all of these elements into our performance.’

The performance is a ritual and has a shamanistic layer to it. It’s choreographed, but every performance is different as the audience is part of it. Evgenia and Moreno carry out their performance whilst being surrounded by the visitors – who are standing or sitting in a circle around them. For the audience, a map was created, portraying the different options of positions the visitors can choose from. Allowing them to experience the ritual in different ways, depending on the choice the visitor will make.

The rose represents the space where only the performers can be.
As audience, you have the freedom to choose where to watch from:
• Inner Line: sitting on pillows on the floor (Yellow)
• Outer Lines: sitting on the chairs positioned on two outer lines (Green)
• Free Space: standing behind the chairs, joining the dance when needed and felt (Purple)

By integrating the visitors into their performance, Moreno and Evgenia want to bring across physical sensations and provide them with a safe space to explore what they want to do with those sensations. ​‘The exchange of energy is very important ​to ​me, because that’s also what a dance performance is. It’s a physical experience for the audience.’

Moreno and Evgenia bring across these sensations by letting their movements and performance be inspired by the first four chakras. It starts out slowly by creating a sensitive space through movement and getting close. The first chakra, is about connecting, grounding and letting go of fears. The second chakra deals with emotions. ‘Here we work a lot with awakening the energy in the audience, to open up their chakras, to connect with us in the sensations they receive, and not with their brain.’ Following is the third chakra or the fire chakra. This chakra ​focuses​ on transforming the energy, to release the negative and freshen up. ‘When we have them in our hands, we can start rising up the beat and going into the real techno mode.’ Finally, they end with the fourth chakra, the heart chakra – which focusses on reconnecting and love.

‘The goal is to guide people through these four chakras with our performance and let them feel the same as us in the end.’ Just like the saying ‘Together we dance alone,’ Moreno wishes to create a communal feeling. ‘In clubs, you create one community aura together with everyone in the room. This is what I want to achieve with our performance. Everyone reacts different to the music and the sensations, this makes every performance a very interesting and different one.’

Immaterial.​A​rchives, the Amsterdam-based techno label owned by Italian duo Elisa Battistuta ​and CYB (Alessio ​Ciborio​), produced the music for Moreno’s performance. ‘Elisa and I have known each other for many years, she introduced me to Alessio and together they created the music for our 40-minute performance. I’m really thankful for it. They knew exactly what we needed in terms of transitions and the dramaturgy of the piece. It’s a combination of a movement climax and a musical climax.’

AURA: A shamanistic-techno ritual of dance premiers at Amsterdam Fringe Festival at Vlaams Cultuurhuis de Brakke Grond on the 5​th​ of September, continuing on the 6​th​, 7​th​ and 15​th​ of September. From the 25 until 27t​h​ of October a 3-day festival of ICK artists will take place. Moreno and Evgenia will perform an extract of AURA at the foyer of the Meervaart theatre with the DJ’s of Immaterial.archives. Initiating a party where people can join in with the performance.

You can buy tickets for AURA here. For more information on the event you can attend their Facebook event. To stay up to date about Moreno’s performances or if you’re interested in his work you can visit his page here. For more info about the performance and party at the end of October you can have a look here.

Moreno Perna (1989) is an Italian performer and choreographer based in Amsterdam, working under Dansmakers Amsterdam and as a supported artist by ICK Amsterdam. After graduating at the Amsterdam University of the Arts, he worked with Jan Fabre between 2014 and 2018, as part of the casts of “Mount Olympus – to Glorify the Cult of Tragedy” and “The Power of Theatrical Madness”. He also works as a nightlife performer under the name of Vortex X. His body of work focuses on the subject of identity as a cultural construct and how to find what is deeply and intrinsically humans behind social masks, through means of movement and spiritual research with his “Auratic Practice”. In collaboration with Dansmakers Amsterdam, he created two performances: “LDRC”, about the weird world of The Internet, and “XYX”, a performance about Gender identity.

Photo credits: Alwin Poiana
Music: ​CYB (Alessio Ciborio​, Immaterial.Archives)