TEACHER PROFILE: ELITA CANNATA
Born in Italy, Elita Cannata’s natural ability and motivation has led her to a dynamic performance and teaching career. She has studied Countertechnique since 2005 and performed in Anouk van Dijk’s work in 2007 / 2008. Currently based in Amsterdam, Elita is now a Senior Countertechnique teacher, alongside working as a performer and rehearsal director with several dance companies in The Netherlands.
Tell me a little about where you are from and how you started dancing:
I come from a sporty household. My sister was a professional tennis player, but I was never natural at sports. Finally, when I was 14, after having always danced around at home, we realised I should be doing dance classes! So, I started quite late, but had the motivation and passion for it and was lucky to have already have a flexible body. When I was accepted into Codarts University for the Arts, it was clear I was doing the right thing for me.
How do you look back at your years in university?
When I entered university I felt like I had stepped into my dream movie of Fame, a school filled with music, dance and talent! Part of my education was going to the theatre every week. Seeing all these different companies, body types and aesthetics, made me feel I was in the right place. In the first show I saw of Anouk van Dijk, I vividly remember watching Nina Wollny and wanting to move like her, it was so refreshing. Afterwards, I auditioned for an apprenticeship with Anouk’s company. When I found out I was chosen, I was ecstatic!
How fantastic! How was the experience of being an apprentice with anoukvandijk dc?
It was a beautiful moment to be there as an apprentice. Class every morning was about diving into research and play, in order for Anouk to develop the essence of what Countertechnique is today. I was surrounded by the experienced dancers that had been working with her already for many years, so it was amazing to see how they were going for the process of the training class. To see how much Anouk was giving, was probably the biggest gift I have ever received from a choreographer. Anouk really wanted to share with us and just continue to make it better for everyone.
Suddenly training wasn’t about how it looked, or what it should look like, but about how your skeleton functions, how it works in space and how it connects with others, in a genuine and simple way without dogmatic rules. There was a new freedom to have fun in a technical class and for the dancers it was an endless process of learning. This was incredibly valuable to see and learn, because as a young dancer you often feel so much pressure to focus on the end result of getting it ‘right’. I brought all of this with me into my professional career and is the reason why I eventually became a Countertechnique teacher. I wanted to teach something that could really help, the way I was helped as a student and into my professional career.
How has Countertechnique then helped you further on in your performance career?
The biggest thing would be that I have learnt how to focus on the process, reminding myself that I don’t need to immediately understand what is at the end. It has also given me a calm sense of confidence, giving me tools that I can rely on when I have doubts or frustrations during creation processes and performances. It has given me the ability to stay playful with movement, which has been especially valuable when performing a piece numerous times.
What do you like to focus on in your classes?
I like to make a fun atmosphere and my music helps dancers to relax and feel comfortable. With students I introduce simple movement combinations and tools, so that they can first be confident with this in order to then play around. I help them understand that being in the moment is the most important, and that I am also in the moment. It is not so much about ‘teacher and student’ but there is an exchange. This is something that is really important in Countertechnique and is what makes a big difference.
When I am with professional dancers teaching open class, I often try to give them a new perspective and pleasure in their research of movement. It is important to understand that even in the same movement you can always find something new. If I can bring that small curiosity into a professional class, I am happy.
What would you say that something is specific to your style of teaching?
I have realised that I am quite vocal and musical in my classes! I find that producing sound with movement can help to release the body and give rhythm and dynamics to the movement. Following the sound can help send the body in certain directions through space. I am also an enthusiastic person so if I see something exciting happening or changing in the room, for example a student having a moment of understanding in movement, I need to let it out!
What is your message to professionals who are interested in Countertechnique, but might be afraid to try a new technique?
The word ‘technique’ can often carry a negative connotation; we sometimes associate it with a certain experience, perhaps the early years of training that were tough, or the way we look or are perceived/defined as dancers. But technique is something that is there to help you, to provide you with tools so that can be more aware of what you are doing.
When you take a class, it is your moment and that hour and a half is for you. You can discover something that you can use that day, or the next day, or months after. If during the class you feel like you are failing, let it happen! I think it is good! It means you’re learning something new and you can make a step further in your process. If you stay in your comfort zone, how can you experience new movement and discoveries? There is something beautiful in finding something new. The more you practice it, the more you realise it. Countertechnique is there to help you find differences in the same thing that you may have been doing; in the movement, or the arrangement of how the information is shared. Sometimes it is hard to let go, but if you do, before you know it you will find yourself somewhere else. If you find yourself feeling lost, just let it go so that you can make space for something to happen. Something new will always come and that is the beauty of Countertechnique.
Find out here where Elita is teaching next.
The Countertechnique Teacher Profile Interview Series is a bi-monthly publication, initiated in October 2017. Madeline Harms is an Australian dancer and writer, currently based in Mainz, Germany. Learn more about Madeline on her blog Travelling Dancers.