Modern dance, past and present

“A one-day conference on dance would simply have to start with a tribute to our teacher Zouzou Nikoloudi,» said Petros Gallias, president of the Union of Greek Choreographers, at the «The Identity of Contemporary Dance in Greece,» conference held earlier in the week at the Hellenic-American Union. Indeed, the brief retrospective on the life of this great lady of dance, who passed away just a few weeks ago after touching, with her work and character, an entire generation of young choreographers, was a moving moment. What is the history of contemporary dance in Greece? How does the new generation of dancers and choreographers approach movement? What have we achieved so far? Four hours proved insufficient for the speakers at the conference to address these questions fully or to express their views on the general theme; not one was able to stick to the 15-minute limit. The result of this scheduling glitch was that many members of the audience tired halfway through and left at the interval, while the open discussion with the public slated for the end of the talks was canceled. Nevertheless, some interesting points were made and there was food for thought. Clementini Vounelaki, the last speaker at the conference, strayed from the formula and did not read her speech as planned. Instead, she proposed a more well-rounded conference to be planned, which would be «similar but better, so that we can approach dance as it deserves, with video projections and live performances of choreographers’ work.» The conference got off to a shaky start with a half-hour delay by Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, who did, however, stay for the first half of the event. This was followed by the tribute to Nikoloudi and then by an address by Tatoulis. Then came the lectures. Highlights: – How dance critic Andreas Rikakis came to know Nikoloudi (in the 1970s) and other humorous remarks in his speech on «Dance Theater in Greece.» – Thoughts on contemporary dance by Elena Patrikiou, a doctor of classical literature and ancient history, that emerged from her lecture «The Nation and Classes: Femininity and Masculinity, Problems of Re-enactment and Self-Definition in Modern Dance.» – A comic respite and a touching moment or two with dance theorist and former dancer Steriani Tsindziloni, who presented a project she is preparing for her doctoral thesis on dance in Greece at a time of globalization. – Thoughts on the relationship between music and dance by composer Cornelius Diamantopoulos. – The adventures of dance as seen through various artistic media, from painters Tsarouchis and Moralis to modern-day choreographers Dimitris Papaioannou and Constantinos Rigos, as well as some practical advice for young choreographers, in a lecture by National Gallery Curator Manos Stephanidis. – The important question of dance education (or lack of it) in Greece, addressed by dance scholar Katia Savrami and choreographer Vasso Barboussi.