A puppet can say things that "humans" would not dare to say.


Ava Loiacono from Switzerland is an actress, musician and ventriloquist.An expert on the Jaques-Dalcroze technique, Loiacono has trained in Paris in movement and taught at the Royal Ballet School in London. Currently she teaches at the High Pedagogical School and the Academy of Vivaldi Locarno in Switzerland.  Recently, she performed the fabulous "The Art of the Fugue" at the Sandre Hall, Calcutta School of Music. The event was presented by ThinkArts & Calcutta School of Music with the support of EMBASSY OF SWITZERLAND.


What drew you to ventriloquism?

I had been working for over 15 years with my mother's puppet company in Switzerland and at one point the company broke up. I found myself alone and the question was how to face this problem and what to do with my future. I casually - but maybe it was not so - came across a very interesting book: "The Odissey Of the Voice" an historical overview of the voice development. There was a chapter dedicated to ventriloquism. Reading it I thought that that was going to be the answer. In my mother's company I was trained to do all sort of voices; I just had to learn how to do them without moving my lips. And this is where my new life started...

Is ventriloquism enjoying resurgence? Or is it seen as an outdated entertainment?

Ventriloquism is very little used in Europe. But it is very popular in USA. There it is also used to spread the gospel. American ventriloquists work mainly with dummies which are like wooden puppets some of them extremely sophisticated: they can move not only mouth but also eyes, eyebrows, ears. These dummies however cannot be moved around so much because of their weight and of the technique required to move the face.

For me it is not an outdated entertainment; I use it to create illusion, just like the conjurer; I also combine this work with music, movement and obviously with a script, a story with a content, lively characters that can "touch" people's heart and imagination.


Is it liberating getting to speak through puppets - and say anything?

It can be very liberating. A puppet can say things that "humans" would not dare to say. It has always has been like that in the history of puppets. There are many anecdotes from the past, during the fascism in Italy for example. During the play puppets would complain and make fun of the regime. The censorship could not arrest puppets!

Do you make your own props? What has been the inspiration behind “The Art of the Fugue”?

I used to make them; now I don't have my own lab to build them anymore. I have professional artists, mainly sculptors and puppet makers helping and collaborating with us.

The Art of the Fugue started very casually. Several years ago I decided to make a different Christmas present to my Indian children and my nephews. I prepared a very short show with a duck's head, a tiny rabbit in a finger's hat. In this story the duck was tired to be a duck and wanted to become a singer; to do so she needed to become a canary and therefore travel to the Canary Islands. In these 15 minutes she also sang accompanied by me at the piano. This show amused so much the children who were continually asking for it. So one day I decided to have a tea party and showing it to friends. In this occasion I invited also Mauro Guindani who was very amused and decided to develop it into something complete. The Art of the Fugue is now traveling all over the word and it is performed in 4 languages.


How was your experience doing the workshop with the children of Kolkata?

Lovely experience. I found the children very lively and warm. I was also impressed by the number of them. In Italy I would hardly manage to get 6, whereas in India there seems to be more interest and desire to learn.

How did you get involved in Dalcroze?

I started the training when I was 21. What attracted me was this new way to learn music; through the body movement. I found the method complete for it develops the ear, the instrumental skills (piano), the ability to improvise music, accompany the movement, as well as singing, creating coreographies and of course teaching. The training was extremely demanding; lot of study for many years.

The Dalcroze approach uses physical movement, and a large, open teaching space is ideal. However, many teachers don’t have access to such a space, particularly instrumental and ensemble teachers. How can the Dalcroze approach be utilized in such situations?

A minimum of space is required to do a Dalcroze class. Chairs and desks can be removed and if the space is too small the participants can be split into 2 groups. However if you continue the training a proper space is a must.


What is it about Dalcroze that inspires you to teach through this approach?

As I said before this is a holistic approach that works on the neurosensorial system. As Emile Jaques-Dalcroze said "We do not only listen to music with our ears, it resonates in our whole body, in the brain and the heart".

The Jaques-Dalcroze Eurhythmics is an active musical pedagogy based on body movements. The student- child or professional- is brought to feel what he hears through moving his body to the sounds and rhythms played by the teacher.

The stimulation of his global motor skills allows him to experience his body as an instrument, whereby musicality is felt and transmitted. The Jaques-Dalcroze method accelerates in children, even if they are not aware of it, the foundation for listening, motor skills and useful social abilities in many areas beyond the musical process.

What teachers/techniques influenced your work in addition to Dalcroze?

My very first "maitre" was Jacques Lecoq, a great theater pedagogue who gave me the basis for expression. His approach through neutral mask and then expressive masks are still  the foundations for my theatrical work. Another important figure is Mauro Guindani, my theater director. He wrote 4 of the solo pieces I am and have been performing. His "pen" is agile and sophisticated; a very special ability to write FOR the person he has in front. And finally another Mauro, Mauro Sarzi who comes from an historical puppet theater family;  five generations of amazing Italian puppeteers. With him I have started a new big project on the theme of water which will travel around the word.

Pic Courtesy: Amlan Biswas





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