Being Called to Matera

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A magazine photograph of a renovated cave room in Basilicata, Italy, intrigued me. Every cell of my being knew I had to be there. All obstacles dissolved and in no time at all, I was transported from my home in the Hudson Valley of New York to the southern Italian town of Matera.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Naomi Walker, Claudia Catani & Elaine Colandrea with San Falcione and Matera in the distance, from Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

I have followed that call for over 15 years, making pilgrimages to Matera to retreat into what I call earth wombs, caves that were once sea beds, with shells and fossilized sponges embedded in the curved limestone walls. This locale has cradled me in the breath, sound and movement explorations of Continuum – a biological awareness practice based on the fluid nature of all life.

Image by Prue Jeffries. From left to right: Claudia Catani, Elaine Colandrea and Naomi Walker in San Falcione from the Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

Image by Prue Jeffries. From left to right: Claudia Catani, Elaine Colandrea and Naomi Walker in San Falcione from the Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

Matera has nourished my soul in transrational, inexplicable ways. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being a troglodyte settlement in harmonious relationship with the environment, as well as the 2019 European Capital of Culture, Matera has been continuously inhabited since Neanderthal times with a history of providing refuge for spiritual seekers.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Elaine Colandrea in Materadancescapes film The Heart of the Cave.

I wanted to transmit my experience of being there – of wandering the shepherd’s paths on the steep, thyme-scented hillsides, of sheltering in ancient, frescoed cave churches known as rupestri with my fingertips touching the furrows of long ago pilgrims’ carved crosses in the cave walls. The vastness of the Murgia plateau under the strong Mediterranean sun, the fields of asphodels in springtime flower, the falcons swooping and diving in the ever-present wind currents – all of this and more I had absorbed and wanted to share with others.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Materas’ Murgia from Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

As a dancer, my own sensed experience was my place of beginning. Like other artists, investigators and shamans, I know things by becoming them. A creative collaborator once wrote that in another time and place, I would be a temple dancer. The limestone caves and landscape of Matera – sacred places of refuge, discovery and sustenance – resonated for me as the temple for this dancer. An American by birth, with grandparents of southern Italian heritage, I embarked on conveying to others the healing this locale offered me, the inspiration for communitas I found there, and the deep sense of home I discovered in Matera – all of which grew into Materadancescapes.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Nature in the Murgia from Materdancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

In this endeavor, I have been assisted by many along the way. Watermark Arts Creative Director and heartfelt collaborator Prue Jeffries traveled with me to Matera, along with her trusty drone “Stella” and video equipment. With an intrepid sense of adventure, she has filmed and documented my journey, along with her own perceptive and artful eye for nature in this compelling landscape. Spending days with footage, the Materadancescapes film collection has come into form under her loving attention.

Elaine Colandrea

Photo by Prue Jeffries. Elaine Colandrea in Parco Murgia Timone, Matera.

A number of people native to Matera have served as loving guides to this land of cave churches. Damiano Scalcione was the first person to generously welcome me to Matera, and has continued to do so with every visit. Claudia DiPerna, along with her husband Michele Cenzone, opened my eyes to many of the cultural features of Matera. Michele Cappiello and Maria Teresa Barbaro graciously and kindly offered their vast knowledge of the local nature, history and culture. Paolo Montagna, Director CEA, made arrangements for us to film in Parco Murgia where Chiaroscuro was created at the San Falcione location. Francesco Catucci hosted us for the filming of In the Heart of the Cave. Since my first visit to Matera, Antonio Panetta of Locanda di San Martino, along with the devoted staff, has provided me with a gorgeous location for visits and workshops and made me feel at home. Each of these individuals has gone way beyond themselves to support me while I am in Matera. I treasure them as friends of my heart, fellow pilgrims in the journey of life.

Elaine Colandrea, February 2020

View the Materadancescapes Collection.

Chiaroscuro

ElaineWatermark Arts Videos, Materadancescapes, News, Watermark Arts in Italy

Conceived and produced by Elaine Colandrea, Artistic Director, Watermark Arts

Filmed and edited by Prue Jeffries, Creative Director, Watermark Arts

Performed by Claudia Catani, Elaine Colandrea & Naomi Walker

Music: Stella Maris by Moby courtesy of mobygratis.com

Filmed with permission in San Falcione, Parco Murgia Timone, Matera, Italia

Special thanks to Maria Teresa Barbaro & Paolo Montagna, Director CEA Matera

San Falcione

Rock churches excavated in the 9th and 10th centuries generally conformed to a Byzantine model, having a rectangular or square chamber with plain walls and behind these two arched presbyteries supported by a central pillar. The rock church of San Canione, better known as San Falcione, is no exception. Attributed to the earliest Italo-Greek monastic communities which settled in the area around the 9th century, it’s one of Matera’s oldest rock churches. Located in a small ravine, it’s easily recognised thanks to the perimeter wall built in the 19th century by the noble Gattini family, who used the cave complex as an enclosure for sheep and goats. Inside the church, where the floor is now lower than its original level, there’s a fresco of Saint Nicholas on the central pillar and one of a bishop saint on the right-hand wall. Still on the right, in the altar recess, there was once an extraordinary fresco of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: Joseph, Mary and the Child were clearly visible, along with Saint Simeon and the prophetess Anna who blessed Jesus with one hand while the other held a missive with words ‘This Child created heaven and earth’ in Greek. Many small cavities excavated around the church are the remains of a medieval apiary.

In the Heart of the Cave (Nel Cuore della Caverna)

ElaineMateradancescapes, Artist Videos, Watermark Arts Performances

Filmed on location in Matera, Southern Italy, a Unesco World Heritage site and European Cultural Capital for 2019. The cave town of Matera is one of the earths oldest civilizations, inhabited continuously since Neolithic times. The landscape of Matera is filled with rupestri, or cave churches, which have drawn spiritual seekers for millenia.

NY based choreographer and dancer Elaine Colandrea, whose grandparents are from the Basilicata region of Southern Italy, performs In the Heart of the Cave. She has taught Continuum in these beautifully renovated earth wombs for well over a decade.

Music: AVE – Composed by Morena Boschetto with vocals from Simona Arbizzani & Morena Boschetto.

Filmed & edited by Prue Jeffries
A Watermark Arts project – first in a series filmed in Matera in 2018.

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