Throwing Balls at Night is inspired by the 1913 ballet Jeux (Games) written by composer Claude Debussy for Sergei Diaghilev’s Paris-based Ballets Russes (which travelled extensively but never performed in Russia) with choreography by Kyiv-born ballet dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky. The plot of Jeux is simple: three individuals play tennis under a full moon, lose the ball, and go search for it, but the production from the beginning was shrouded in shade and mystery. The work initially aimed to be the first gay male ballet, but Nijinsky instead chose to feature two female dancers. Debussy, the composer, complicated matters by doubling his fee and composing a complex score. Drawing upon the limited correspondence between Sergei Diaghilev, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Claude Debussy, and inspired by the remaining preparatory drawings and photographs, which showcase body movements reminiscent of magazine poses, Miliani re-enacts the ballet with voguers – a type of dance characterised by the pose-like movements that was birthed by the Black and Latinx queer communities of Harlem in the 1980s and borrows its title from the eponymous fashion magazine. Miliani’s outdoor performance, played in a tennis court at night, pays homage to the original ballet underlying the shared themes of fluidity and the power of the youth.

Jacopo Miliani (b. 1979 in Florence, Italy) is a visual artist based in Milan. His practice addresses performance as an expanded methodology which aims to investigate the connections between language and the body. He is the founder of an independent publishing project that focuses on sexuality and language: Self Pleasure Publishing. He has collaborated with different performers including Jacopo Jenna, Antonio Torres, divaD, Benjamin Milan, Mathieu LaDurée, and Eve Stainton. His projects have featured professionals from various disciplines including the filmmaker Dario Argento, the fashion designers Boboutic, and the music producer Jean–Louis Hutha.

Miliani’s work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions at GAMeC, Bergamo, Italy (2019); Centro Pecci, Prato, Italy (2019); Galeria Rosa Santos, Valencia, Spain (2018); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2017); David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2017); Kunsthalle Lissabon, Lisbon (2016); ICA, London (2015); Studio Dabbeni, Lugano, Switzerland (2015); Madre Museum, Naples, Italy (2011). In 2021 he directed the film La discoteca, the winner of the 8th edition of the Italian Council.

Performers: Giorgia Oliverio, Kenneth Ifameh, Mathieu Mendy, Samuel Atzori.

Photo credits:
Jacopo Miliani, Throwing Balls at Night, 2017–2023.


Performance partners

Video by Vytautas Tinteris


Photo by Marius Žičius