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Cecly Placenti, Artistic Director

  • Writer's pictureCecly Placenti

International Artist Sara Pizzi

International Spotlight Session

As an artist, I create with the goal of building community. To that end, I have developed several initiatives that connect dancers and choreographers with audiences and with each other. The Spotlight Sessions present a peek into the lives, processes, and motivations of individual artists through interviews, short feature articles, previews, and capsule reviews. In this newest section, we welcome international artists who have come to work and create in NYC with an interest in how they have been shaped by the community and how their unique contributions are adding to the rich tapestry that is the NYC dance scene. I hope you enjoy getting to know these talented individuals as much as I have and continue to follow them on their creative paths.

Meet international artist Sara Pizzi

Sara Pizzi from Bologna, Italy began her dance studies with Urban Dances performing in concerts, music videos & TV shows. In 2017, Sara moved to NYC, graduating from the Contemporary/Ballet Track at Peridance Center in 2020. Sara is a company member of The Next Stage Project, Valerie Green/Dance Entropy, Light Painting NY, Six Degrees Dance, and sarAika movement collective, which she co-founded with Aika Takeshima. Sara was a guest artist/choreographer at CreateArt, Dixon Place, Green Space, City Center Studios, Lincoln Center Plaza, Movement Research, Gibney, HERE, The Brick & more. In 2022, Sara premiered her first commission for “Et Alia.” Sara is also educator for Musicamente, a dance program for people with disabilities, and Woodside on the Move, a preschool program for seniors and kids as well as a teaching artist for Valerie Green/Dance Entropy and sarAika movement collective community classes and residencies. Sara is also photography/videography assistant for BECCAVISION. 

When Sara takes the stage- whether that stage be an outdoor film shoot in the woods or a black box theater with technical lighting- she commands attention. Never boastful or contrived, her inviting presence is infused with commitment, passion, and an attention to detail that welcomes audiences into her experience. Her background in hip hop and commercial dance, coupled with her experience in contemporary, gives her a rhythmic clarity and unique style that allows her to easily communicate her feelings as well the intent of each choreographer she works with. Possessing a strong foundation in the mechanics of movement, Sara is able to create strong lines while showcasing an effortless ability to both give in to and resist gravity, qualities that give her dancing rich texture and depth.

For Sara, coming to America and pursuing a career in dance was fated. While still in high school in Bologna Italy, she visited a friend in Florence who encouraged her to take a ballet and contemporary dance workshop led by American choreographer Davis Robertson. "My friend had to loan me ballet dance wear since my specialty was hip hop," said Sara. "I had a great time in class and felt fearless, especially during the final improvisation session where I showcased my hip hop technique." That fearless quality, still evident to anyone who watches her dance, brought Sara to America. A week after the workshop in Italy, Sara received a letter from the program director of Steps on Broadway in New York City, Mindy Upin Jackson, informing her that she had been awarded a 7-month scholarship for their open international program. "At the time, I was considering giving up dance in Italy and accepting an invitation to study psychology at the University of Padova." Sara ultimately chose to pursue dance and accept the opportunity to study in New York, and hasn't looked back since.

In Her Own Words

Motion by Degrees: How did your artistic journey begin?

Sara Pizzi: I’m a contemporary conceptual dance artist, including a choreographer, dancer, and dance teacher. My career started in my teen years with urban/commercial dance, being part of the dance agency “Spotlight Work Team,” which allowed me to perform for national events, competitions, TV shows, and advertisements and commercials. Therefore, my career had a drastic change of direction once I moved to New York. My education has become primarily based on ballet & modern techniques, and I landed on the complete focus of the study and application of contemporary dance, being able to create an organic and unique style that mixed my urban background with a more academic and technical aspect. Now, my art is based on any physical medium that can evoke inner personal exploration, deeper analysis of our inner self, creating a safe place for discovering and questioning and can bring togetherness in solving common social issues. This creates performances that break the concept of standard performance, creating collaborative, conceptual, interactive art experiences and teaching at any level and any age, prioritizing any class that involves people with physical and mental disabilities or for underrepresented communities. These are the goals of my movement collective, which I founded in 2021 with Aika Takeshima. I am naming it the sarAika movement collective, and I look forward to expanding my network and dance abilities to other contemporary dance companies/organizations. I trust in this project, and it makes me proud that last year, we grew so much, performing every month for organizations/events and different DEIs and being able to assist and represent underrepresented communities and voices. Thanks to the success of this year, the schedule for 2024 is full of exciting projects, making me proud of myself and the NYC dance community.

As a performer, I’m currently working for several dance companies based in NYC and for various aspects of projects that can include pure dance or collaboration with visual and performing artists. I’m a company member of Valerie Green/Dance Entropy (also teaching artists for afterschool programs), Six Degrees Dance, Reza Dance Project, Faustine Lavie Dance Project, and Julia Asher collective & I’m the dance captain of The Next Stage Project & Light Painting NYC. In addition, I was recently a project-based member of Kaleid Dance Collective & I was a guest artist/choreographer/dancer at more than 70 events/organizations based in the five boroughs of NYC from 2021. I’m a dance teacher for the Woodside on the Move program, teaching dance to the combined class that sees youth and seniors together – and a dance teacher at Dalton School, MS447, and DanceWave. Lastly, I’m a videographer/photographer assistant for BECCAVISION.

MBD: What is your drive as an artist? What do you hope to express or contribute to the world through dance?

SP: My art is based on any physical medium that can evoke any inner personal exploration and deeper analysis of our inner self, creating a safe place for discovering and questioning & can bring togetherness in solving some common social issues. This makes performances that break the concept of standard performance, creating collaborative, conceptual, interactive art experiences & teaching at any level and any age, prioritizing any class that involves people with physical and mental disabilities or for underrepresented communities. What sets me apart from others, I believe, is the themes my work underlines and the intention behind it. Breaking these two concepts down, my dance’s themes do not start from a personal story or from my singular experience, which raised a specific personal emotion, but are topical aspects within which everyone can resonate. So, my work speaks for/to/about people to spark the imagination and inspire every individual regardless of status, language, or experience.

Regarding the intention, I’m using my technique to tell a story; I’m not using a story to show off my technique. I’m dancing for others, not for myself. My dance is an action of love; dance is a social action. And I’m proud that in the last couple of years, this message was well derived, being able to perform all over NYC, receding appreciation and growth back, being able to produce performances and classes which gave a huge benefit to our community starting to create a more diverse, inclusive and equitable environment.

MBD: What has been your biggest challenge and your proudest moment?

SP: The struggles I’m facing right now as an independent artist living in New York are the lack of time, the highest risk of burnout from work, and losing your goals. Time becomes a slippery object you can barely grasp, slipping to your fingertips. Being a freelancer pushes you to be able to work every day and every time, and managing time efficiently must be part of your skills if you don’t want to lose your social life. Feeling you are doing too much at the same time and not doing enough is one of the most concrete and struggling feelings I have (and I’m sure I’m not the only one). Learning to say no to opportunities and focus on defining what is helpful, satisfying, and productive for the success of your career is one of the biggest struggles all artists like me suffer in this city. The increase in the importance of presence in social media is not helpful too, pushing everyone to compare themselves with other individuals, losing track of whether they are doing what their heart is telling them to do, or because they are inside the copy mechanism of becoming someone that you are not just because that looks like happiness? Having a daily reminder of who you are, what you want, and doing only what will help you to proceed with your career, pay your rent, and make you happy is a lifesaving tip that will allow you to decrease your daily struggle and have more time with your beloved ones.

I’m proud to share that right now, I have earned a full-time living from my creative career, but it hasn’t been a smooth road. It took me years to accomplish this stability, and I still cover so many aspects and skills. Regarding dance, starting from dancing from smaller scale companies or for only project-based companies, I’m now a stable company member for different dance companies, which allows me to have a set schedule and monthly income, still giving me time to join some short-term projects in NYC and abroad. On top of it, experience and acknowledgment in my community permit me to start teaching in different facilities, from teaching my dance classes in dance studios to being faculty for community and after school programs and dance academies. In addition to this, with my dance company, in a few years, we have built trust, which developed in residencies, workshops, laboratories, open classes, commissions, and performance opportunities, which, besides filling my time schedule thoroughly, also contributes to supporting my lifestyle. 

MBD: What are you up to currently?

SP: Currently, for June, I'll be in rehearsal for Valerie Green/Dance Entropy to perform at the Museum of Moving Images and as a culmination of the senior residences, and for Faustine Lavie Dance Project for the final performance culmination of the University of Settlement Residency about immigrant voices. With my company, sarAika Movement Collective, we have a full calendar of community free performances and classes around Queens boroughs for Queensboro Dance Festival 2024, which will proceed all summer, concluding on September 15th at Queens Theater. On June 19th, we'll hold a collaboration class with the Italian choreographer Katia Tubini as a first step of our collaboration, which will see a choreographic exchange NY-Italy between sarAika and LPP company in 2025 and 2026. On June 22, we'll have the premiere of the commission from Arianna & Imani's production at The Flea Theater for the queer theater festival "Let me love you."  Ending in June with sarAika participating at the New York Pride March, for the third year in a row, promoting an accessible way of self-expression while expressing queer pride through arts. In June, I'll be traveling to Amsterdam and Pisa for some choreographic workshops and teaching opportunities, to come back to NYC to proceed to work at CUNY, HERE, and the University of Settlement Residencies among the premiere of the reworked version of Double Bind commissioned by the IATI Theater in collaboration with La Mama. 

Want to see Sara in action?

Check her out on Instagram at @saraikamovementcollective or on her website

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