Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet shines at the Athens Festival

Balletomanes flocked to – and almost filled – the Herod Atticus Theater Wednesday night for a premiere by the company formed by Swedish dancer Birgit Cullberg in 1967. From 1985 to 1994 it was led by her son Mats Ek, who provided classical dance with his own personal take on the psychological depths of ballet. Since 2003 choreographer Johan Inger, as the company’s artistic director, has followed the same approach – the human body struggling with moving obstacles. Inger’s «As If,» which opened the evening, draws on ideas about the nature of mankind and how we relate to each other and our surroundings, in this case represented by a long movable wall. A young man makes desperate but futile attempts to communicate with those around him in jokes and broken phrases, the lack of communication another obstacle. This was further developed in the next ballet, Mats Ek’s «Fluke,» where the action unfolds in between two cubes, symbols of the boundaries we all live in. Dancers toss balls into the audience, mechanical mice run around the stage and are picked up by the dancers. Helbi is no expert, simply a spectator who has seen numerous ballet performances, many of them pioneering. On one point everyone was in agreement – the excellence of the dancers and their interpretation of human emotions and relationships. In the audience was Swedish Ambassador Marten Grunditz and his wife Maine, Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, Thanassis Valtinos, president of the Greek Cinema Center, the artist Nicholas Egon and his wife Matti, and Dora Vyzovitou, the prime minister’s public relations director. After the performance many from the audience went across the road to the terrace of the Attikon for Greek cuisine under the Acropolis.