Fini returns to Mississippi to work with MSA Dance

Published 8:19 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2023

WESSON  — Dancer Antonio Fini has returned to Mississippi. The Italian is a First Dancer for Michael Mao Dance in New York and visited the Mississippi School of the Arts last year. He helped send some dance students on a trip to Italy this summer through a scholarship. 

Fini is the founder and director of Dance New York and Italy. He visited Co-Lin Community College to demonstrate new techniques and watch the students perform. 

He arrived Monday and started instructing students on the Graham Technique and dancing fundamentals. Tuesday was filled with more practice and rehearsals for his piece Summer Spirits. His time on campus was like the movies he had seen. 

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“It was lovely to be in this space. I love how they have the wolf as a symbol and the environment here,” Fini said. 

One of the pieces the students danced to is titled the Cosmic Dance of Siva. It was originally choreographed by Ted Shawn in 1928. 

Fini said Shawn is considered the father of modern dance. He took folk dance and made something new. 

His concern about the Cosmic Dance of Siva was it would be cultural appropriation. Fini called the culture center in India and asked about the hand signs Shawn made in a video of the dance. He was told they were a crescent moon and deer and she asked him to come to India and teach. 

“We all connect through dance. We think it’s bad to appropriate. They think it is amazing. It is like a sign of respect,” Fini said. “We are trying to learn from other cultures and improve upon things.”

The last time Fini was in Mississippi was last year. Students rehearsed to go on a trip to Italy for the summer. He ended up awarding scholarships to four students. 

The four students from MSA went to his home nation of Italy and danced. They said it was an incredible experience this summer and Fini said it was neat to have the connection. 

“It was a beautiful bridge as I’m learning more about the US and to have them home. It is nice to see how they learn, change and open up,” Fini said. “It is a great opportunity. The students are so talented and I hope to bring them to Italy for my own festival. MSA’s campus is beautiful and so old. It reminds me of the show called ‘Fame.’It was based on the Laguardia school of the arts. The talent here is also very good. LaGuardia is about 70 years old. MSA is 20 years old. They could be the best for students to be here. It is one reason I like to come back.”

Another reason he comes back is MSA’s dance teacher Tammy Stanford. 

“What is special is their teacher. Tammy and the connection she has and the care she has for dance,” Fini said. “We always struggle about our career as dancers. We talked in the car about how everyone finds a space in the world to do art. It has encouraged me to continue. She makes me want to come back.”