The Swiss choreographer was born in Baltimore, USA, and studied dance with Marika Besobrasova in Monte Carlo. After her first engagement as a soloist in Turin, she was hired by Egon Madsen at the Frankfurt Ballet. There she danced the classical repertoire and worked with various modern choreographers such as Jiri Kylian, Uwe Scholz, Daniel Larrieu, Stephen Petronio, Christoph Nel and William Forsythe, the house choreographer of the Frankfurt Ballet. Under his direction, she remained with the Frankfurt Ballet for eight years and participated in all the major productions of this important substantial era.
She then went on to work with Pavel Mikuláštik’s Choreographisches Theater from 1990 to 2003. In 1995 Rafaële Giovanola was mentioned in the annual poll of critics of „ballett international/tanz aktuell“ in the category „exceptional dancing personalities“. Since March 2000 grounded together with Rainald Endraß the Freelance Group CocoonDance. For her debut „Jigaboo“ Rafaële Giovanola got the award of the Patrizia-Van-Roessel Foundation (NL), in 2007 she won the international internet-dance festival SideBySide-net, in 2010 the sponsorship grant from the canton of Valais, in 2021 she received the cultural award of the city of Monthey and in 2022 the Deutsche Theaterpreis DER FAUST for her choreography “Sphynx” with tanzmainz. In 2017 she established a junior company in Monthey (CH) and before 2012 in Bonn, which have been awarded numerous prizes like “Kinder zum Olymp”, “„Auf dem Weg zum Kinder- und Jugendkulturland NRW“ and was invited in both 2016 and 2019 to “Tanztreffen der Jugend” as part of the Berliner Festspiele.
In addition to her own choreography and numerous commissions, including works for Dance Company at Theater Osnabrück, Zentrum für Zeitgenössischen Tanz (ZZT) in Cologne and tanzmainz during the 2021/2022 season, she also teaches around the world, including at tanzhaus nrw in Düsseldorf, Theater St. Gallen, Staatstheater Nürnberg as well as for the Ewgenij Panfilow Company, the Perm Ballet School (Russia), the choreographic centre Donko Seko Bamako (Mali) and at Attakkalari Centre for Movement Arts in Bangalore (India).
The performance art collective CocoonDance was founded by choreographer Rafaële Giovanola and dramaturge Rainald Endraß in 2000. Since then, they are producing in the independent Theater im Ballsaal in Bonn (D) and from 2004 on they are also in charge of the dance program. An important pillar of the company is located in the Swiss Canton of Valais, where CocoonDance has been co-produced and supported since 2005.
Under these conditions CocoonDance has established itself as a dance-art institution with an extensive network of freelance guest artists, national and international co-producers and collaborations around the world, but also in the field of cultural education as in numerous projects with its two Junior companies (D/ CH) as well partnerships with local schools.
Since its founding, the company has produced about fifty full-length productions that have toured through five continents and been invited to showcase festivals in Germany and Switzerland like the TANZPLATTFORM DEUTSCHLAND in 2018 and 2020 or STEPS festival in 2022.
The driving force behind these many years of artistic development are the pronounced focus on improvisation and continuous teamwork. The work of CocoonDance can best be explained as a reflection about the dance and the body itself, as a shift of the dance space away from the narrative space into a space of distance and thinking. Since 2016 CocoonDance elaborates a tool which becomes crucial. In intensive research periods the company explores movement techniques that are often alien to dance. Through physical encounters with unfamiliar forms of movement and ‘other’, non-academically trained dance bodies, the search of the ‘unthought body” led Rafaële Giovanola and her ensemble to an expanded understanding of the body and movement. Bodies that are transformed into something new and alien, which allow us to recognize and question traditional body images and the social construction of body and gender.
Since 2017 the company is developing a movement vocabulary based on the movement material of its pieces, which can be used to create, explain and share a choreographic language. The ultimate intention here is to create an open archive that not only stores the collectively gained knowledge, but is constantly dialogically re-examined, supplemented and shared. The MoveApp, an interactive digital advanced form of the glossary work, aims to assist users to explore and expand the possibility space of their bodies through terms and their explanations. The CocoonDance MoveApp is free to download on Google Play and App Store.