Il Tragitto: Brian Mengini Goes Off the Beaten Path


Back in 2010, I had the crazy idea of traveling to London to create whimsical art using some of the brightest ballet dancers in the UK with London as backdrop. It was just that simple. I would call this vision, London’s Calling. And so it was! To turn my dream into reality, I set up a crowd funding project to cover expenses, but although I really wanted it to work, I didn’t think it would happen. That is, until the first pledge came in. Then subsequent pledges came in, some from complete strangers. I thought to myself: ‘Wow, this is really happening!’ The subsequent trip and results were nothing short of magical! I was able to create some amazing images, some of which have gone viral, one of which was commissioned by a major dance magazine for publication. Several have gone on to be timeless pieces. I was able to meet the Mariinsky’s Igor Kolb and attend a general rehearsal of the company at the Royal Opera House. I made some amazing new friends and had the time of my life.

Well, I am back at it again. This time with more deliberation and intensity and a greater vision. This time, Italy is calling! This summer, I will be spending a week traveling in Italy on my newest project, Il Tragitto, which translates as ‘The Path’. Once again, I need help to make this trip happen! I am not sure how or why it all started, but over the years, I have developed a strong passion and a bit of an identity for shooting dancers on location in various parts of the world. Incorporating dancers into the environment is a fun and special experience for me. It can be tricky, but I love the challenges and end results. So, as you can imagine, I am over the moon about doing this in the country where ballet originated. Just thinking about what the images might look like make me giddy and excited to start!

Photo: © Brian Mengini

Photo: © Brian Mengini

Il Tragitto is a project about origins and discovery, taking me to places in Italy like Guglionesi, Riccia, Milan, Tuscany, Turin (home of the 2006 Winter Olympics) Sicily and Rome, where I will be capturing the vast beauty of the country with ballet dancers and without. Just imagine: beautiful ballet dancers set in the beautiful countryside and hills of Italy or in quaint rustic little villages! My plan is to alternate between stunning classical styled images, and sharp, sleek contemporary shots. Yet, as I began to speak to people while planning the trip, it struck me that there are actually few ballet companies in Italy. I was surprised: ‘This is Italy, an epicenter for the arts, the home of ballet, after all!’

So, while it is clear that I will not be faced with a surplus of company-based dancers, I have already been able to line up my cast. Undeterred, I began to use the internet and social media to research Italy’s companies, two of which located in Rome: Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and Balletto di Roma. Two of the dancers I am in touch with live and train in Italy. Another one is based in London, but her family lives there and she will be home for the summer! So, it’s a start. A slow one, but still a start. I will continue to use social media and online forums to find more dancers to work with. I was about a week or so out from my London trip and still trying to line up dancers to work with. If you are a dancer and interested to take part, please do get in touch!

Photo: © Brian Mengini

Photo: © Brian Mengini

That will take care of some of my location work. Whatever happens, I know it will be filled with amazing art and experiences. I am really excited to get these images created and shown back home. Yet, my hope is to one day use these images in an exhibition abroad. That would be completely amazing: to have an exhibition in London or Italy of my work!

Another exciting aspect of this trip and another reason why ‘Italy is calling’ is my own family history. In 1907, my great grandfather, Antonio Mancini, left his hometown of Guglionesi for America. This then 17-year-old boy did not tell his family he was leaving home. He just hopped on a boat and left. It wasn’t until many years later when Antonio was a grown man with a family of his own that a cousin from Italy found him in America and wrote to his parents about the meeting. For a few years following, the families on either side of the globe were in contact. Then, as generations passed, so did information and consequently communication broke down. Their last communication was with the family of Antonio’s brother, Leonardo, who was still in Italy. This was 40-50 years ago.

My entire trip will be documented through images and video footage. It will culminate in a website and online travel log, a book and video documentary. I have launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds. FYI, the campaign runs until this Sunday 29 June, and perks start at just $10!

Photographer Brian Mengini resides in suburban Philadelphia and keeps a studio in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Brian’s unending passion for ballet came in the summer of 2007, when the Mann Center asked him to come in and shoot the Royal Ballet’s final performance of Swan Lake. 

Since then, his images have appeared in a variety of exhibits and publications including Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine. 

In June of 2010, Brian started Barre Boys, a website dedicated to the male in ballet with a goal of squashing stereotypes and inspiring more males to pursue ballet. Together with his wife, he has launched Hope Dances, a nonprofit dance outreach program for children with special needs.

Comments are closed.