We are now a few months into the Biennale and the Gloria installation at the U.S. Pavilion has maintained a consistently high level of attendance, with over 250,000 visitors since the opening.
Working from Venice for the past two and a half months, I had the chance to assist with the performances and meet some of the athletes. Two of them, Sadie Wilhelmi and David Durante, have kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about their experience at the Biennale.
Dave was a member of the USA Gymnastics team for six years, including a participation in the Olympic games in Beijing. Sadie is a gymnast with extensive dance and circus background. Before coming to Venice, she performed as a freelance aerial artist with a company in New York and took part in other dance and choreography projects.
Here is what they have to say about their experience at the Venice Biennale:
How did you get involved in this project?
Dave: The IMA and USA Gymnastics are both in Indianapolis. When the project was selected, I was asked to participate based on my background and experience with the U.S. team. Besides performing myself, I am the athletes’ coordinator for the whole project and in charge of the logistics, including finding the performers and runners. I worked with the choreographer and performers who were selected to create the routines. We trained in New York for about four months before coming to Venice at the end of May. I’ll be here in Venice for the entire run.
Sadie: I got involved through my friend Olga Kaminsky, who is good friends with Dave.
How long did it take to create the choreography?
Dave: The choreography took a little bit of time. Initially we did not have the sculptures, so we worked with mats and foam blocks. Rebecca Davis, the choreographer, was instrumental in putting it all together and bridged the gap between the gymnastic and the dance world. The performers also had input here and there.
Sadie: It took us months to put this together. We started in January of this year and it came together during lots of hours of training and rehearsal.
How many people have performed these routines since the opening of the show in early June?
Dave and Sadie: We’ve had three guys and three girls for the gymnastics, as well as five runners. At the opening, we also had Chellsie Memmel, who was part of the team in Beijing, and world champion runner Dan O’Brien.
Were the artists involved in the choreography?
Dave and Sadie: They gave us some guideline parameters to work with. They wanted gymnastic movements that one could see during a routine at the Olympics. The real challenge for me was to take gymnastics and push the limit on what is physically possible on these sculptures, while staying safe and not get injured.
Read the rest of this entry »