Despite the difficulties that the artistic director of the Kalamata International Dance Festival, Vicky Maragopoulou, faces every year, the festival always turns out to be well organized and special. This year, which marks the festival’s ninth anniversary, is no exception: as about 40 foreign dance troupes have appeared at Kalamata in the past eight years, a new era has started for the Kalamata Festival. This summer, between July 18 and July 27, important personalities from the international dance scene will perform, some of whom are as yet unknown in Greece as well as others who have performed here in the past. Eight dance groups of high standing from abroad and four Greek troupes will present either their latest productions or older ones. «Organizing a dance festival for a wider audience can be risky, because one might opt for big names that may not meet with the expected response. On the other hand, one might also get carried away by one’s personal experiences and organize a festival totally based on personal taste,» said Maragopoulou at a recent press conference. «In Greece people have very little experience with contemporary dance creations.» This year’s festival focuses on solo performances. The festival opens with Israeli choreographer Inbal Pinto, who first presented her work – full of tenderness, intuition and humor – in Greece in 1999, during the Fifth Kalamata Dance Festival. «Oyster,» the show she will present this summer, is a bittersweet and dreamy choreography in which dance meets the circus and the world of fairy tales. «Oyster» will be presented on July 18 and 19. The solo performances start with «Etude #1,» a choreography by a striking lady of the Canadian dance scene, Marie Chouinard, who will perform on July 18 and 19. Xavier Le Roy will present «Self-Unfinished» on July 20 and 21, a show highly representative of the non-dance scene which challenged all the perceptions of dance shows. Brussels-based American choreographer Meg Stuart and her group Damaged Goods will present «Disfigure Study,» a show focusing on body disfigurement, on July 23 and 24. Finnish dancer and choreographer Tero Saarinen will present his solo «Hunt,» set to the music of Igor Stravinsky’s «Rite of Spring,» on July 24 and 25, and the George Piper Dances will present their work «Critics’s Choice *****» for just one night, on July 25. Five noted young British choreographers have collaborated for this show, namely Matthew Bourne, Michael Clark, Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant and Christopher Wheeldon. On July 26 and 27, Catalan Cesc Gelabert, mostly active in Germany, will interpret his solo «Preludis,» a show on the relationship between man and time. Finally, Frenchman Nasser Martin-Gousset will present «Neverland,» an elegy about the sufferings of love, on July 27. In terms of Greek offerings, Haris Mandafounis is back with his latest production «Strangely Sentimental,» which he will present on July 22, while Antonis Foniadakis will present the duet «Sensitive Screens, Skins Interval,» a co-production with the Kalamata festival, on July 21 and 22. Newcomers Cecile Mikroutsikou and Vasso Giannakopoulou will make one appearance together, on July 26. Shows will be held at the Kalamata castle amphitheater, the Kalamata Municipal Regional Theater and the city’s Cultural Center.