Highlighting Greek dance

A new book casts light on the important legacy of Rallou Manou, one of the most prominent personalities of Greek dance in the second half of the 20th century. A dancer, choreographer and dance teacher, Manou played a key role in the development of postwar Greek dance. «The Rallou Manou Archive – Her Life and Work,» published by Ephessos, is the result of meticulous work that Chryssothemis Stamatopoulou-Vassilakou of the Department of Theater Studies carried out with the help of seven students. The book serves as a guide to Manou’s work and contains a detailed description of the choreographer’s archives, which include a full list of all the shows she choreographed or participated in as well as photographs and other material. Manou, founder of the Greek Chorodrama dance theater company, was a pioneering figure in Greek dance. Her deeply rooted love for Greece led her to seek the genuine nature of Greek identity and look for a way of expressing it in modern times, without the usual stereotypes. Greek identity She drew the themes for her choreographies from all aspects of Greek tradition, from antiquity to the Karaghiozis shadow puppet theater, but tried to give them a modern setting. She was against the imitation of foreign ways, but she did not confine herself to strictly Greek themes. What she wanted to achieve with the Greek Chorodrama was to define and express Greek identity through dance, with a combination of tradition and modernism, without merely reproducing Greek tradition. A staunch believer in personal development, as her daughter-in-law and current president of Greek Chorodrama Sofia Mylona told Kathimerini English Edition, Manou wanted both the dancers and the public to have a rounded education so that they could discern good from bad. That is why she insisted on a comprehensive approach to her work: The music and the sets and costumes were considered as important as the choreography itself, which is why she collaborated with many well-known Greek artists and composers of the latter half of the 20th century for the productions she prepared. That is also one of the most important aspects of the history of the Greek Chorodrama, other than its contribution to the Greek dance scene both at home and abroad: the company’s collaboration with composers such as Manos Hadjidakis and Mikis Theodorakis as well as artists including Yiannis Tsarouchis, Nikos Nikolaou, Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghika and Spyros Vassileiou extended the significance of Manou’s legacy to all forms of postwar Greek culture. The first chapter, which is also the longest, is a detailed record of all the performances Manou produced or participated in. This chapter is particularly valuable, given that so far there had been no detailed record of Greek modern dance productions. As Manou was highly organized – 192 files were found in her records – there is plenty of information about her performances, although, naturally, there is more detail about some productions than others. The productions, recorded in chronological order, are accompanied by their full title, the names of all contributors (choreographer, dancer, sets and costumes designer and music composer, among others), the date and location of the performance, as well as photographs (where available). There are also press releases and notes with additional sources from which further information was derived (other archives, such as those of ELIA, the Theater Museum and the Theater Library as well as private ones, like those of Koula Pratsika and Agapi Evangelidou, were used to enrich the material found in Manou’s archives). All the information is presented in an orderly and user-friendly way, which makes it easy to look up whichever production one may be looking for. The chronological index which precedes the chapter is also very useful. The second chapter, a guide to Manou’s choreographic material, is rather more specialized. It is a record of how many notes Manou had kept on each of her choreographies and ballet texts, as well as the curriculum vitae of Greek and foreign dancers and choreographers, composers and other relevant information that she kept. It does not contain the actual notes, but states the number of notebooks and papers found. The remaining chapters are lists of Manou’s audiovisual material (such as films from performances, tapes with music, recitations, lectures and interviews) and sketches for sets and costumes. Near the end, one can find Manou’s own literary input: The edition ends with a list of the texts, articles and lectures she wrote, her two books and their contents, as well as texts intended for future publication. As Sofia Mylona explained, it was Manou’s husband Pavlos Mylonas who approached officials at Athens University’s Department of Theater Studies in 1999 and asked them to record the contents of his late wife’s archives. The archives are still housed in Manou’s old house in the city center, which is where Stamatopoulou-Vassilakou and her team worked. A permanent location for the archives, which would hopefully make all their highly valuable contents available to the public, has yet to be found; as Mylona explained, the same problem extends to about 800 costumes from performances staged by the Greek Chorodrama, many of which were designed by well-known artists and are of great value and interest. So far, she said, the state has not expressed any interest. Manou’s dance school is now run by Voula Moragemou. As for the Greek Chorodrama, it continues its activities and is currently backed by the Benaki Museum. Exhibition Future plans include an exhibition with the Greek Chorodrama costumes at the Benaki Museum, scheduled to coincide with the 20-year anniversary of Manou’s death in 2008. The exhibition will be accompanied by a detailed edition. Another of the company’s plans, Mylona says, is to restage some of Manou’s choreographies, from a more up-to-date dance perspective. Mylona firmly pointed out that this does not mean experimenting with Manou’s work – the basic structure of the choreographies will remain the same. «I believe Manou’s work still has a lot to say today. It is not like a museum exhibit,» she said.

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