Italian ambassador to Lebanon, Nicoletta Bombardieri, held a ceremony on Tuesday evening in honor of Caracalla Dance Theater Director, Ivan Caracalla, at Caracalla Theater in Sin-el-Fil, during which she bestowed upon the latter, on behalf of the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, the Knighthood of the Order of the Star of Italy in recognition of his outstanding artistic achievements in promoting dance, arts and culture in Lebanon and worldwide through the Caracalla Dance Theatre and of his artistic bonds with Italy.

Marking this special occasion, the Italian diplomat delivered the following word:

“Distinguished guests,

Dear friends,

I have the great honour and privilege to welcome all of you to celebrate and reward one of the most outstanding figures of the performing arts in Lebanon: the Director of the Caracalla Dance Theater, Ivan Caracalla.

Tonight’s event takes place here, in this theater, because this theater, its life, history and meaning are at the very essence of the bestowal upon Ivan Caracalla of an important decoration by the Italian Republic. Decorating Ivan Caracalla, we decorate the vision and the mission of his own theatre, which is the promotion of ballet in Lebanon.

The beautiful video and dance performance that we just watched are a testimony of a much longer artistic project, of an enduring success, of a living endeavour.

Tonight we do not only celebrate the personal engagement of a man, but also the determination, clairvoyance and dedication of the women and men of an entire family whose work has spanned through several generations with the same objective and the same dream.

Ivan Caracalla has dedicated his life to continue the dream and the project of his father, Abdul Halim Caracalla, whom I have the honour and pleasure to greet tonight. Before taking over the reins of the company, Ivan spent years in Italy and in Europe, where he developed a very close cooperation with the Italian movie and opera director, Franco Zeffirelli, whose name needs no further explanations. Ivan, with his talent and passion, conquered the trust and friendship of Zeffirelli. During those years, Ivan lived in the Italian and European cultural milieu, which had an influence on his subsequent work.

During his direction of the company, Ivan Caracalla deepened and broadened the international network started by his father and brought the company back to the world stage, in Lebanese Festivals as well in several artistic venues spanning from USA to China, through Italy and Europe.

The Caracalla Company has attained a unique combination of dance styles. First and foremost ballet, which is the daily bread of every single dancer, combined with modern styles, especially from Martha Graham, and with the more traditional Lebanese and Arab folklore. In doing so, the company has created a unique repertoire that has been showcased across Middle East and in many other countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With tonight’s event, Italy intends to reiterate that the promotion of culture, in Lebanon as well as everywhere, is not a luxury for the few, but an essential activity and a spiritual value for the entire society, especially in current times of crisis and hardship.

Cultural institutions, especially those with a distinctive and prestigious history, must be preserved and supported, because they have an essential role to play in educating younger generations and shaping the future of a nation. In this regard, we should not forget dance and ballet, whose present and future in Lebanon should not be neglected.

And here, I would like to address directly the corps de ballet and the soloists who have performed a few minutes ago. I loved your performance and I congratulate you for the energy, strength and perseverance that you have showed throughout these uncertain times of economic crisis and pandemic.

I am sure that tonight, as every day, you are proud of the achievements of your Director, because they are also the achievements of your own work. I encourage you to keep rehearsing and to stay committed to the Art of Terpsichore, which is one of the finest and noblest of the performing arts, tracing its roots from the Princely courts of the Italian Renaissance.

Dear Guests,

For the aforementioned reasons, on behalf of the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, I am very glad to bestow upon Mr Ivan Caracalla the decoration of Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy (Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia) in recognition of his outstanding artistic merits in the promotion of dance and ballet in Lebanon and of the Italian artistic influence through the productions of his dance company.”

For his part, Ivan Caracalla delivered the following word:

“Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

I thank you all for being here today to share with us the honour of this knighthood, the Order of the Star of Italy, that has been bestowed upon me by the Italian government and presented to me by Her Excellency Ambassador Bombardiere.

Your Excellency, I am deeply honoured by this knighthood. This Order of the Star of Italy is a testament to my artistic and cultural collaboration with Italy and its great artists. This is not just a knighthood. This is a challenge. A challenge to continue this journey and to further develop it to new artistic heights and cultural achievements.

Italy has played an inspirational role in my artistic career. Italy is the land of the Renaissance. Italy is the land of the opera, the theatre, the movies. It is where Michelangelo and Da Vinci crossed each other on the streets of Florence. It is where Puccini and Verdi shared their operas on the same stage. It is where Morricone and Leone made history. It is where Fellini, Visconti and Bertolucci set new standards for the cinema.

But most of all, Italy was home to Zeffirelli. Maestro Franco Zeffirelli. This man was a Titan. A man rich in his craft, enormous in his creation. And it is thanks to him that I am standing here today and receiving this honour.

In 1997, Maestro Zeffirelli came to Baalbeck to watch the reopening of the festival with Caracalla’s production of Andalusia, the Lost Glory. That is where I met him for the first time. Two months later, he invited me for a weekend to assist his production of La Bohème at the San Carlo theatre in Napoli. I only returned home around five years later.

His guidance, his teachings and his artistic experience opened for me the gates to a new world of the performing arts. And once through these gates, there was no looking back. I have been fortunate to forge an incredible artistic journey with some of the most talented artists in Italy and the world.

In 1968, Abdel Halim Caracalla created something out of nothing. It was not magic. It was destiny. He was brave enough to engage in a battle that everyone thought he would lose. Against all odds, and in a stroke of his own genius, he created the first professional dance theatre of the middle east at a time where dance was frowned upon. 52 years later, it has reached the four corners of the world and still going strong.

The Romans always used to say, “Fortune favours the brave”. And I hope that I together with Alissar, my beautiful and amazing sister by my side, we will be brave enough to continue this legacy. Sometimes, it is the things that we actually fear the most that can wind up being the forces that push us to higher creative plane, despite the incredible adversity we face on daily basis.

I would like to thank the Italian government and the Italian embassy in Lebanon for their encouragement towards the Lebanese artists.

I would like to thank Ambassador Massimo Marotti, with whom this knighthood was initiated and I would also like to thank Marco Di Sabatino for his relentless follow-up to make this ceremony possible.

But most certainly, I would like to thank Her Excellency Ambassador Bombardiere for her visit to our theatre and for recognising the important role that the Caracalla Dance Theatre is playing today.

I thank you for bestowing on me this honour. It is a memorable moment that will forever shine in my artistic quest.

Thank you, Madam Ambassador. Thank you all for being here today.”


Source: National News Agency

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