Dancing into an exciting future

Two years since the National School for Dance has changed its leadership, it is gradually moving toward becoming an institution with university standards. It’s an ambitious aim, one which goes back at least two decades. It was 70 years ago when Koula Pratsika saw her dreams come true with the establishment of a center for dance studies, from which so far thousands of students have graduated. A report on the school, which was published recently, includes proposals for future action, yet leaves a number of questions unanswered. What are the school’s new prospects? Is there a wind of change or is the institution facing a conservative regression? Will it be upgraded in terms of new staff members and programs, or will the school sink into stagnation? Maintaining and improving standards at the school has proved to be a difficult task. Following Koula Pratsika’s tenure, the torch was handed over to Dora Tsatsou, who fought hard to establish a comprehensive dance education. She was succeeded by Deni Efthymiou, who raised standards substantially by inviting, among other practices, prominent tutors from abroad to work with the school on a permanent basis. Since November 1999, the school’s director is Pavlina Veremi, who spoke to Kathimerini on the subject of recent achievements and future plans. It is well known that prominent teachers have taught at the school. In the recent report on the school, you mention that one of your basic aims was to raise the level of education. Do you believe that a change in staff was needed? This change has already taken place. There are 30 professors currently on our staff, whom we selected on the basis of their qualifications, such as diplomas and general education. I couldn’t keep members of staff who did not fulfill these requirements. Also in the report, you mention that in the last two years you have imposed the development of ‘real performances.’ What does that mean exactly? Simply, that my philosophy is different. Following the completion of the academic year, the students embark on a rehearsal period. This is entirely dedicated to preparing the performances; it is some sort of professional repertoire study. Together with a series of new courses, such as Pilates and virtual design (production and set design), you also introduced the Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) course. Do you believe it is necessary in a professional dance school? The RAD course, which offers diplomas for dancers and teachers, is optional. I wanted to offer those students interested in the program a chance to get these diplomas – one additional asset for the future. Your plans for the future? The building is undergoing a thorough modernization. I’m also highly interested in the issue of fresh talent. Already last year we began auditions in the municipalities of Petroupolis and Aghios Dimitrios, where we discovered young, talented kids. We want to keep up this practice by carrying out auditions throughout the country. I have this great vision of establishing a postgraduate course, leading to the school receiving university status, with specializations for dancers, choreographers and professors. When will this happen? It is a matter of legislation, as well as raising the general level. I do believe, however, that a perfectly organized program, which is already in motion, will play a crucial role.

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