CULTURE

Combining movement and stage

In 1902, Isadora Duncan wrote about her ecstatic experience when she first came to Athens and visited the Parthenon. Her dance, liberated and very genuine, set the standards of modern dance. The school she founded at Kopanas and, above all, the influences of her brother Raymond and her sister Penelope, were to direct the first steps of Greek contemporary dance. The exhibition recently opened at the Municipal Arts Center at the Eleftheria Park, by Athens mayor Dora Bakoyianni and the Dean of Athens University Georgios Babiniotis, was organized by the Department of Theater Studies of the University of Athens. Called «Dance and Theater: From Duncan to the Latest Dance groups,» the exhibition has recorded the history of modern dance in Greece. On Thursday, an elaborate publication which bears the same title as the exhibition and is published by Efesos Editions will be presented at the University of Athens. Eleni Fessa-Emmanouil, an assistant professor in the Department of Theater Studies who is also the exhibition’s curator, said in an interview to Kathimerini that the exhibition was the result of extensive studies on behalf of the department, which is headed by president Walter Puchner and deputy president Spyros Evangelatos. «This is the first study on the course of the coexistence of dance and theater in 20th century Greece. The process, which was influenced by Isadora Duncan’s presence in Athens, officially started with the Delphic Festival, organized by Angelos and Eva Sikelianos and goes as far as the experimental suggestions of 1990s dance groups, including Dimitris Papaioannou’s Omada Edafous, Constantinos Rigos’s Oktana Dance Theater, Sofia Spyratou’s Roes Dance Theater, the Dancers Society of Arts and others.» The history of the relationship between dance and theater is seen through the work of 62 Greek dancers and choreographers and 40 dance groups. Among them are Koula Pratsika, Rallou Manou’s Greek Dance Theater, Zouzou Nikoloudi, Agapi Evangelidi, Yiannis Metsis, Leonidas de Pian, Yiannis Flery and Linda Alma, Haris Mandafounis’s Contemporary Dance Group, Daniel Lommel’s Aenaon Dance Theater, Constantinos Michos’s Wrong Movement and various other major choreographers who have contributed to the renewal of the Greek dance and theater scene. Much of the material for both the exhibition and the publication resulted from research by 80 students and graduates of the Department of Theater Studies, with a significant contribution by theater experts Maria Zacharopoulou and Sofia Karayianni. The exhibition, which will be on display at the Piraeus Municipal Gallery from February 24 to March 15, is also scheduled to travel to other Greek cities. «It is a tribute of honor with love, concern for the future and respect to all the effort of those involved in dance,» said Fessa-Emmanouil. «As for the relationship between dance and theater, the exhibition is mostly about the contribution of dance experts. We have mostly looked into dance groups, emphasizing the work of pioneers, during the 1980s and the explosion of the ’90s. There are also references to the choreographies of ancient drama productions, ballet and music theater.» Fessa-Emmanouil also talked about the educational value of dance and added that it should hold a more substantial role in education. «I urged the students to carry out an applied research; they had to meet and discuss with the choreographers and the dancers, for instance. This will help them later, in their professional lives.» Another issue that the research touched upon is skepticism regarding the tendency to combine dance and theater, which may endanger both art forms. «Of course, dance theater has very frequently produced spectacular results.» When asked about the state of dance in Greece, Fessa-Emmanouil replied that dance has a very serious history in this country and possesses an energy that seems to come out of nowhere. «But so much is still pending. There is still no structure for the development of dance, sponsorships are not sufficient and dance degrees are not recognized.» The publication’s text was edited by Nikos Hadzigeorgiou, director of Efesos, and the artwork and the cover were edited by Maria Kavvadia. «Dance and Theater: From Duncan to the Latest Dance Groups» is on display at the Municipal Arts Center at the Eleftheria Park (behind the Eleftherios Venizelos statue). Exhibition runs to February 15.