Breaking new ground in the language of dance in Greece

From Brazil to Portugal and Milan, and from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Lithuania and Korea, choreographer Apostolia Papadamaki has a full agenda for 2005. With performances of her work in six different countries so far this year and her participation in the latest production of pioneering Belgian artist Jan Fabre, «The History of Tears,» this dynamic Greek choreographer is making her mark. A founding member of Sinequanon, she has played a pivotal role in rejuvenating the Greek contemporary dance scene, while the past couple of years have seen her at the helm of Quasistellar, which embraces the interaction of all art forms with dance. Papadamaki is now in Athens presenting three works from her four-part «Beauty Series» (which has already completed successful tours abroad and will be going back on the road after Athens) at the New Wing of the Benaki Museum tonight to Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and November 1-3. What was it like working with Jan Fabre? It is the second time I have worked with Jan Fabre. I have immense respect for him. He is the absolute artist. He never rests, he doesn’t care whether the audience likes his work or not, he is constantly studying. Extremely polite at rehearsals, substantial, he demands and gives the best… He never gives directions about what you should do. He explains the meaning of the scene and you have to develop your own way to communicate it to the rest of the artists. Can you tell us a few words about «The History of Tears»? «The History of Tears» is a mixed performance, very extreme. It is a fascinating piece about body fluids: tears, urine, sweat. It is extremely poetic and contains a lot of symbolism. The premiere was given at Avignon (at the Palace of the Popes) on July 7, 2005, opening the city’s festival. The international group of performers that took part was very interesting. One of the most intense scenes is the first one, which lasts 15 minutes: newborns crying and their parents, not being able to stand the noise anymore, killing them. «The History of Tears» is about the passage from the Dark Ages to the Renaissance. When people stopped believing that they were victims of fate and took their lives into their own hands. Can you tell us about the pieces you are staging at the Benaki? «The Beauty Series» is composed of three solos and one group piece. It arose from a need I had to address the concept of identity. These are symbolic works in which I use cliche movements and situations to achieve the opposite: a very personal narrative. «Female Study,» the most personal of the four, was created when I had just given birth to my daughter and felt torn in many different directions. «Male Study» was the hardest, the most unfamiliar, so I chose an actor to perform it. It is less physical, it approaches a different code and is more conceptual. «Hermaphrodite» is very artistic. The dancer is on a pedestal throughout the performance, illuminated by one light. How did the audience react to the nudity? Not a single person complained. As far as I’m concerned, nudity is not pornographic. Half-nude and fully dressed can be. That is why in the fourth piece of «The Beauty Series,» titled «Icon Skin,» I depict society with dancers that are either fully or half-clad. The nudity represents the innocent body. We do not know how to accept our bodies anymore. What is beauty? We are bombarded with models of perfection. Maybe the audience is more shocked by the psychological state of the dancers. What are your concerns as a choreographer right now? After «Transmutations,» the last piece I presented with Sinequanon, I changed course. The manner in which I choreograph is not about movement, it is about mixed performances. My collaboration with Jan Fabre had a huge influence. One concern I have is about dance education. That is why I have chosen unknown performers; they are more receptive. Being a dancer does not make you an artist… It is not good enough to be technically able, you have to have brushed up against all the arts… Technique is a thing of the past. Performance art is taking a completely different direction.