An enfant terrible grows up

Constantinos Rigos, the enfant terrible of Greek dance, is 36 years old. He provokes, amazes, captivates and we adore him. How could we not after «Crazy Happiness,» «Swan Lake City» and now «Winter Journey» – metaphysical, poetic, unique. The latest work by this young choreographer, who over the past 13 years has managed to win over both critics and audiences with his innovative and pioneering work, will have its premiere tomorrow at the Vassiliko Theater in Thessaloniki. Despite a last-minute decision by the board of directors of the State Theater of Northern Greece (KTBE) to cancel it, due to financial difficulties, the performance has finally been allowed to go ahead – «behind closed doors» – for friends and journalists. Rigos studied at the University of Athens, followed by the State School of Dance. In addition to work with his own company Oktana, for the past two years he has been artistic director of KTBE’s dance theater. Tours have included stops in Lisbon, North Carolina, Tbilisi, Batum, Lyon, Bologna, Stockholm and Sarajevo… and the journey continues. He has also been the winner of the Melina Mercouri Prize (1997), the State Dance Prize («Daphnis and Chloé,» 1995; «Five Seasons,» 1996) and the State Choreography Prize («Boxing Ring,» 1999; «Crazy Happiness,» 2001). «Winter Journey» is Schubert’s lieder «Winterreise;» it is the epitome of loneliness, the snow that falls and the dancers who have been practicing since January, finding the route of the the journey. Kathimerini interviewed Constantinos Rigos by telephone immediately after a rehearsal, when his words rushed out like a torrent. «’Winter Journey’ is the music of Demosthenes Grivas, a reincarnated Schubert. [It is] Robbie Williams’s pop melodies, the silences and sounds from the bodies of the dancers. [It is] the simple, abstract costumes by Dionysis Fotopoulos. This is the most esoteric work that I have done so far. A journey. The dancers guided me. ‘Winter Journey’ has no plot, no roles, its structure is different, the costumes are not intended to shock. And it lasts for two-and-a-half hours,» he said. «There are many differences with my previous work. The relationship between the dancers and the audience changes. They are all on the stage of the Vassiliko Theater. The work reflects not only a change in me, but in the team. Something that I wanted for years that finally came on its own, quite naturally. The performance is choreographed down to the last detail, even the dancers’ laughs and the tiniest reactions. Even so, I want the work to come across as unchoreographed. That’s difficult and fairly painful, but it’s my goal at any rate.» What are the experiences on a journey through the world of dance? The whole course. The moments that – when you recall them later – you cry or laugh over. The first performances, «homemade,» were produced the way I still try to create. Performances abroad in jam-packed theaters. Like when the curtains opened on «Orpheus and Eurydice» at Lyon. Oktana’s tour of Venezuela… that, I will never forget. And what about the critics? I pay attention when they are constructive. Otherwise it’s meaningless. It’s important for them to support you when you’re starting out, to give you self-confidence. I was lucky in this respect. The audience, of course, sees things differently. They come to see, to enjoy the performance. I might be upset by a negative review, that’s natural. But I still continue in the way in which I believe. How do you feel about dance in Greece? There is a slowdown. A few years ago there was a boom, then we started thinking: What that person’s doing? What’s the other person doing? We experienced internal rancor. It would have been better had we focused on what we were doing, not on everyone else. To support each other, we’ve got to accept that we are all different and that every opinion has its value. Some theaters will be filled and others won’t be, that’s not important. Isn’t that what happens in other fields of art? Oktana has danced for 50 people, and will again if need be. If you could change something what would it be? I would find a different way to distribute the grants and the state prizes. The Ministry of Culture must assist dance. I believe that new troupes should be supported so that they acquire the confidence to continue. Choreographers should have the chance to present their work abroad. Audiences abroad are different. It’s not that they know more about dance. They enjoy a performance and are completely wrapped up in it, or they throw tomatoes at you. Here we watch a performance and we say, «Well, so what?» A lot of work goes into every production. It’s easy to criticize, very difficult to create. Does technique matter? Yes. But it’s not always the most important thing. When I watch auditions, there has to be a click inside me. A dancer’s mind, the way they think, their personality, all play a role. A dancer might have long legs but I might not like them. They should be able to draw from inside themselves what it is that I want to be expressed, and I should also be able to help them draw it out. Constantinos Rigos has been artistic director of KTBE’s dance theater company for two years now. «The collaborative effort will continue. As part of our immediate plans, we intend to invite choreographers down from Thessaloniki, as we did last year.» First Greece, and then the world Education: State School of Dance; Economics at the University of Athens. Since 1990 he has been artistic director of the dance theater troupe Oktana («Autumn ’44,» «Daphnis and Chloé,» «Alcestis,» «Orpheus and Eurydice,» «La Dame aux Camelias,» «Boxing Ring,» etc.) Since 2001 he has been artistic director of the Dance Theater of the NTNG («The Sleeping Beauty,» «Bluebeard,» «Shipwreck,» «Swan Lake City,» etc.) Other collaborations include work in the theater, opera and cinema. Tours: Lisbon, North Carolina, Tbilisi and Batum, Lyon, Bologna, Stockholm, London, Amsterdam, Sarajevo, Bogota, Cologne, Caracas, Cairo, Berlin, and many others. Prizes: Melina Mercouri (1997), State Dance Prize («Daphnis and Chloe,» 1995; «Five Seasons,» 1996), State Choreography Prize («Boxing Ring,» 1999; «Crazy Happiness,» 2001).