From spectacle to pure dance

A lost paradise through the eyes of a contemporary Greek choreographer: On the occasion of his new production for the National Theater of Northern Greece’s Dance Theater, Constantinos Rigos spoke to Kathimerini in a phone interview recently. «Igor’s Room» features two of Stravinsky’s most prominent works, «Les Noces» (a work Rigos first started working on in 1993) and «The Rite of Spring.» Shows run to the end of the month at Thessaloniki’s Vassiliko Theater, while the production will travel to Athens at the end of April. At the age of 38, Rigos is an avant-garde, provocative artist at the forefront of the Greek contemporary dance scene. The new production is made up of two works. How are the two linked? To begin with, they are both by Stravinsky. These are two choreographic takes on Stravinsky. «Igor’s Room» is a space – with set and costume design by Dionysis Fotopoulos – that changes as the story unfolds. That’s the idea. What is important is not how the two are linked but how they contrast with each other. «Les Noces» is austere and minimalist, while «The Rite of Spring» is chaotic and deconstructed. Perhaps they are the only works based on pure choreography in my career so far. All the other shows were based on spectacle, as well as dance and theater. What stage have you reached as a choreographer? I’m at a point where I want to be more involved in dance. Dance is developing as a descriptive art, less narrative and more about our own experiences. «The Rite of Spring,» «Les Noces,» «Autumn» (a former work to be presented at the Halandri Arts Center next month) as well as my next project have much more to do with music and movement. How difficult is it for a choreographer to approach leading dance works such as «The Rite of Spring»? When you work on this kind of project, you give into it, unfortunately. I started working on «The Rite of Spring» like I always do, when I got to the point of adding the music, the work itself refused to take in anything more. «The Rite of Spring» is a black and white piece, unless you want to break it down and comment upon it. In that case, you can do whatever you want: You can make French fries, you can play music. I will do it at one point. A few random images from the show? I eliminated all the narrative and theatrical elements that were part of the first version of «Les Noces.» Now you are not moved by it in terms of emotion but as a composition. It’s very intense. There are references to Russian weddings, for instance, or to general, abstract, Russian situations. It’s seems old-fashioned, but there lies its charm. At the end of the show, the couple are off to an unknown destination. In front of them lies chaos, which looks like a garden. After the interval, we find ourselves in the garden. «The Rite of Spring» is highly primitive. People are walking on their own solitary paths. They come on stage and form a kind of cult. Then they go off together, all in the same direction. They follow a theme, a situation, as if in a trance. Initially the costumes seem Visconti-like, while the movement is rather athletic and strange – exhausting for the dancers. The end result of «The Rite of Spring» gives me a sense of a lost paradise: as if the first created humans agreed to be thrown out of heaven once more. What is your opinion of contemporary dance trends? I think that choreographers are divided. There are those who choreograph based on music and those who rely more on spectacle. There are those who are influenced by neoclassical dance. There is no ideal or right way to go. It has to do with how much you feel you want to give. This time round I wanted to offer something through motion rather than through thought. What is the difference between Athens and Thessaloniki? The public come to see my shows in Thessaloniki – lots of people, including young people. I miss Athens as a city and in terms of my friends, but that is not to say that I would like to be there and work. Right now I’m tied to Thessaloniki, to the people here, to my house. It would be hard to leave this place, but I could do my job anywhere else. What is the problem with dance in this country? Any advice for young dancers? Here are the problems: structure, people, what everybody claims for themselves. Piece of advice: Don’t ever believe you know something. There is a huge difference between the young dancers graduating today and us when we finished school. Today when dancers graduate they know everything because they have the experience of all that has happened in the last 10 years. When they go out there, however, it would be wise for them to assume that they know nothing and begin again from scratch. Vassiliko Theater, Lefkos Pirgos Square, Thessaloniki, tel 2310.251182.