The question Mauro Astolfi gets asked the most about the performances of his Spellbound Contemporary Ballet is also the hardest one for him to answer.
"When people ask me, 'What do you want to say [with a piece]?' I say 'Nothing,' " admits Astolfi, Spellbound's artistic director. " 'Dance' is the answer. It's a language for me. It's the best possibility in my life to express things."
Cleveland is the first stop in Spellbound's first multi-date U.S. tour, with a performance Nov. 10 at the Ohio Theatre in conjunction with Dance-
Cleveland. The Italian ensemble fuses dramatic lighting with simplistic staging and evocative displays of athleticism. The company's performances do say something, but it's something different to each viewer.
"I prefer audiences in the U.S. because they don't judge. They prefer to watch," says Astolfi, who has trained and danced around the world. "In Europe, they are always looking for meanings."
The company, which has toured abroad and made select U.S. stops under the name Spellbound for 15 years, is also scheduled for dates in Philadelphia, Houston and elsewhere during November, March and April.
Astolfi chose the name Spellbound after hearing Paula Abdul's 1991 song of the same name. The word intrigued him, so he looked it up in a dictionary.
"It was a stupid song, very commercial, but I loved the meaning," he says. "The Italian equivalent is incantato. It has a very beautiful meaning to it: something that has a magic force around it."
The word became an inspiration to him. Astolfi says his body is constantly tuned in to such things, much like a television set that's always on.
"Everything can inspire me," he says. "You have to be open. Your body should always be ready to feel what's happening."