MOPS_DanceSyndrome is a unique Locarno-based dance company and dance school that brings together young adults with Down's syndrome.This content was published on September 27, 2020 - 11:00
Seated at a table, Amedea is deep in thought. She is writing a long poem, trying to put down on paper her feelings about dancing, which she has practised at the MOPS_DanceSyndrome dance company in Locarno, canton Ticino, for the past 12 years.
The dance troupe consists of young adults, aged 18-35, who meet every Wednesday and Thursday to train, rehearse and create new shows. Amedea, Gaia, Elisabetta, Simone and Vinzenz come to enjoy the sense of movement and the pleasure of being together.
The company was created by the choreographer and multidisciplinary Swiss artist Ela Franscella over ten years ago. It is unique in Europe, as it is composed only of down dancers.
Down's syndrome, or trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. Individuals affected by this condition show clinical signs, such as cognitive delay that varies widely among individuals, and characteristic facial features.
MOPS_DanceSyndrome began in 2005 following the meeting of Ela Franscella and Simone, a 19-year-old boy with Down's syndrome.
“I met him at a dance and movement course that I held in Locarno. When I saw Simone dance, I thought he would be the ideal person in my search to create objective art. This is an artistic form which is able to directly address the audience with its sensitivity, and which goes beyond subjectivity or culture of origin. Dance is the perfect medium for that as it creates connections beyond words.”
But it took another three and a half years before the MOPS_DanceSyndrome project came to fruition.
An innovative approach
Ela Franscella has developed a method that involves the dancer listening closely to their body, as well as a deep undestanding of the intimate space around them and the feelings of other dancers. It also focuses on the dancers’ knowledge of their own physical capacity and the freedom of movement that comes with it.
“MOPS dancers are always present in the here and now. They know how to seize the moment, like no one else, and live it so intensely that they transmit it in its emotional entirety during rehearsals and performances,” said Franscella.
The company has more than ten original choreographic productions to its name. It also takes part in professional dance circuits, where it works alongside companies of non-disabled dancers. It also participates in international dance festivals, performing in Switzerland and abroad, and partners with Swiss and foreign professional dance companies.
Franscella's original approach has won awards and recognition, including support from Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Foundation for Culture, Danse Suisse, the British Council, its British counterpart, and canton Ticino, which awarded her its Pro Ticino 2018 prize.