Art director takes the party to the people

Linda Kapetanea talks about how she helped shape a more extroverted identity for the Kalamata Dance Festival as the event turns 30

Art director takes the party to the people

This year is her seventh term at the helm of the Kalamata Dance Festival (KDF). Linda Kapetanea took over the duties of artistic director in 2018, and before she could find her footing, the Covid pandemic happened. I remember her efforts to keep the festival open and safe during those difficult two years, the desire not to disrupt the operation of an institution, which is the leading event of contemporary dance in Greece, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2024. Kapetanea succeeded and the truth is there’s little she cannot accomplish if she sets her mind to it.

Kapetanea, 50, has not stopped working out since the age of 5, initially competing in rhythmic gymnastics and then diving into modern dance at the age of 16, from which she never left, nor would she want to.

What dance means to her? “Communication, creation, adaptability, exchange,” she says.

She grew up in Athens but spent her summers in Kalamata and Mani in the Peloponnese, her father’s ancestral land. “I came to associate the summer with the dance festival,” she explains. Kapetanea studied at the Greek National School of Dance and also alongside important contemporary dance choreographers in New York and Belgium. Upon returning to Athens, she started a family and with her husband, who is also a dancer, founded the dance company Rootless Root.

– What time does your day start?

At 6.30 in the morning.

– And when does it end?

At about 11 at night I turn off the lights because I’m exhausted. My schedule is very intense, but there is no other way. Since I took over as artistic director of the festival, I realized that I would have to sit in a chair for many hours to solve the bureaucratic issues or watch the videos of the nominated performances. So, in the beginning, I let my myself go a little and that bothered me a lot. So, I decided I’ll wake up earlier so I can get everything done. OK, it’s exhausting, but I’m still going.

– Do you exercise daily?

Daily. I can’t go without moving, whether it’s the gym, rehearsals or teaching. I can’t live if I don’t do something for my body every day – and I wouldn’t get through everything else.

– With an already demanding schedule, what prompted you to apply for the position of artistic director of the festival?

‘The festival is a great celebration of dance and what I want is for everyone to participate’

I think it was a consequence of my love for the art of dance. I don’t think anything changed, I just added another dance-related activity to my life. What I love keeps me creative, no matter how hard it is. Besides, I think that, with proper planning, everything is possible: teaching, artistic direction, choreography, motherhood, all of it.

– What is the identity you have shaped for the festival over the years?

From the start, I wanted to take the big step of transporting the performances to the central square of Kalamata. The townspeople knew about the festival but I wanted to open it up even more so that they could regard it as their own. We do not address a special audience. The festival is a great celebration of dance and what I want is for everyone to participate. I tried to do the same with the seminars that are part of the program every year, those that are held for dancers, but mainly those that concern the general public. I was recently informed that everything is sold out and there is a waiting list. This means that we achieved the first goal and made our mark: The Kalamata Dance Festival is for everyone, for children and people with disabilities, for elderly people who want to get to know movement, but also for the special audience of dance, the professional dancers.

– I always see you in the audience at performances watching very closely.

While the festival is under way, I am present from the morning. I have my bike, I go to the seminars, I go to the rehearsals with the artists to see if there has been a mistake or what we can do better next year. During those 10 days of performances, I become a silent observer. I really like to see the people who come, to think about why they come and how they feel after the show. I also observe the dancers who participate in the seminars: How are those who arrive from abroad, how are the Greeks.

‘The townspeople knew about the festival, but I wanted to open it up even more so that they could regard it as their own,’ says Linda Kapetanea. [Elina Giounanli]

– How do you prepare the program each year?

I work on it for a whole year. I’m eager and anxious to plan a festival as different and varied as possible, with acts coming for the first time, but also acts by artists that have been loved. For example, the Catalan Lali Ayguade Company, whose work I know our audience likes, is coming to Black Box again this year, and also we couldn’t celebrate our 30th anniversary without the presence of the choreographer-visual artist Josef Nadj, who will present “Full Moon,” with which he begins his international tour. For the opening, however, we will see a debut: the Hessian State Ballet, in a performance with two acts.

– Contemporary dance is often daring, in terms of subject matter, form and content. The least that happens on stage is to show the dancers’ bodies naked. Has the festival audience become familiar with this?

My job as artistic director is to know where to place each show. To know, that is, when the so-called “specialist audience” comes, who want to see something different, and when it is those who are not so experienced. I also believe that the festival premiere should be for everyone. [It should be] a show that will puzzle, impress, and appeal to everyone, from young children to the elderly. For me, the composition of the program is of great importance, and is not shaped according to the availability of each group. During the winter, when I have chosen the shows, I take a huge piece of paper and draw up everything we will watch. I want to see how a performance can be taken to the square, what we have showing at the same time on the Main Stage and the Black Box, what could follow in the following days, how the audience that will stay in the Kalamata Dance Megaron for two performances can transition from one show to another.

– In your opinion, where does the Greek contemporary dance scene, which you are keen to support, stand?

Greek dancers have been participating in important international dance groups for the last 30 years, maybe more. Then, gradually, Greek choreographers took their first steps, and now claim the biggest stages in Europe: [Dimitris] Papaioannou, [Euripides] Laskaridis, [Christos] Papadopoulos, [Patricia] Apergi and many others. I think the only thing we need to go further is the resources. My dream is to have the budget to commission a new production to a Greek choreographer every year.

The 30th edition of the Kalamata Dance Festival will be held on July 12-21. For details, tickets and more, visit

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