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Dimitri: I love the true Ticinese

Sixty-six-year old Dimitri is Switzerland's most famous clown

Mime-artist, actor, stage-designer, director, singer, costume-designer, theatre-owner and museum-director - Dimitri is all these things, as well as Switzerland's most famous clown.

A familiar figure in many countries, Dimitri has been awarded such prestigious distinctions as the Grock Prize and the Hans Reinhart Ring. He maintains a close relationship with Ticino where he was born 66 years ago.

"The fact that I come from Ticino has helped me in my career, even though I do not regard myself as a genuine Ticinese because I also have German-Swiss roots and even some Russian blood.

Of course, I love Ticino; I love Ascona, the place of my birth. However, I prefer to see myself as a citizen of the world than of Ticino - and this is a trait I share with many pure-blooded natives of the region.

I see the fact of having grown up in Ticino as a stroke of good fortune because it enabled me to learn an extra language and - especially useful in a profession such as mine - to learn the facility of gesture and expressing joy which is so typical of Latin peoples. In this respect, the people of Ticino are of Latin origin, and this is something I like.

I especially like the true Ticinese - those who still live in their mountain valleys and have a basically spontaneous, good-natured and open personality. They are also very witty and amusing. These are the sort of people I really love! It is also a region of highly skilled artists, with whom I feel an affinity.

However, Ticino is not reflected particularly in my work because words are hardly used in my art. Even the school we have set up is based on non-verbal communication: almost 80 per cent of our work consists of movement, dance, dexterity, acrobatics and improvisation.

We settled in Verscio almost by chance; it was fate. Nonetheless, I must admit that I enjoy working in Ticino, though I could work anywhere in the world. The main thing is to have friends and a bit of support from the community and the government - which is not always the case. But I don't want to complain.

I try to promote cultural life, to create something entertaining and beautiful, worthwhile for everybody - not just Ticino people - and this is confirmed by the very mixed audiences who come and enjoy the shows I put on at Verscio. I do not claim to communicate any particular cultural or artistic message to Ticino; I am not a guru with something special to say.

I would offer one piece of advice to all the local or Ticino-based artists I know: persist in your chosen calling. Continue to do what you are doing; the important thing is not to get demoralised just because certain people are ignorant of art or don't think it has any real importance.

Another thing is not to let oneself be discouraged by the lack of subsidies and public support; artists, it must be said, are often a very low priority. In the final analysis, however, it is the joy and smiles of one's audience that are the artist's best tonic."

Dimitri


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