CULTURE

Lovestruck dancer embraces Eros

« I learnt how to fly,» was how Yiannis Mandafounis put it, and indeed, he did fly. The young, flying Eros of the Athens 2004 Olympics opening ceremony has become embedded in our memories with his simple, yet symbolic presence. Emerging from the water and flying above the two young lovers, he symbolized the unlimited power of attraction. It was a magical picture, one of the many created by Dimitris Papaioannou. Eros was present during the entire dreamy parade, until the end, when he removed the dress of the pregnant woman and disappeared with her and the other performers into the water. He is young, only 23 years old, talented and in love. «When Dimitris Papaioannou called me to ask me to work with him and told me about Eros I laughed, a lot. I fell in love this year, so the part came quite naturally…» said Mandafounis, who is currently on holiday on the island of Fourni, near Icaria, far from Olympic Athens. «The opening ceremony was a great experience. I worked very little, so I didn’t experience the close collaboration that the others shared. I did many rehearsals (with a special instructor) and it was amazing. I would like to experience that again. In the beginning, before I went up, the instructor said, ‘I will teach you how to fly,’ and I replied, ‘Well, since you are still alive…’ In the end, it was all very safe, there was no real risk involved, and after the first attempt I got over my fear. I did have close contact with Dimitris Papaioannou and what impressed me most was the respect he had for the ceremony as a whole and for all the people who participated in it.» Son of choreographer Haris Mandafounis (founder of the Contemporary Dance Group) and Yvonne Ribar (an acclaimed dancer and dance instructor), Yiannis Mandafounis is a dancer well worth watching out for in the near future. He attended the Greek National School of Dance for about a year and a half and went on to Paris to continue his studies in classical and contemporary dance. «I inherited my love for dance from my parents,» he said. «Then, I struck out on my own.» He has danced in top Swedish groups and for the past two years has been a member of the Netherlands Dance Theater 2, where he worked closely with the famed choreographer Jiri Kylian. Recently, he also made a powerful appearance in several performances of Haris Mandafounis’s group, while last year he received the Best Dancer Award from the Greek Ministry of Culture. Now, Yiannis Mandafounis is eagerly awaiting his collaboration with William Forsythe, as of February 2005. During the fall he will be in Athens, where he wants to prepare a work of his own. «I want to take a shot at choreography. I like seeing something being created. I make no distinctions between contemporary and classical dance. What interests me is taking pleasure and learning new things through movement.»