Rigos’s Athenian comeback

Ranging from an adaptation of Dionysis Solomos’s «Free Besieged» to the children’s performance of Evgenios Trivizas’s «Frutopia,» and from the Diogenis nightclub’s Peggy Zina shows to Apostolia Papadamakis’s «Hermaphrodite,» it looks like Constantinos Rigos has found the key to success; he is never scared of expressing himself and exploring every new proposal. At the age of 39, the acclaimed Greek choreographer is looking at embarking on yet another new beginning. Looking back, he has every reason to be proud of his significant contribution to modernizing the landscape of contemporary Greek dance with the establishment of the Oktana dance company in 1990, as well as for the work he did on giving the National Theater of Northern Greece (NTNG) Dance Theater a new, more modern, identity, even though this is his last year with the state-funded company (after holding the post of artistic director since 2001), following the surprising announcement recently that his contract will not be renewed. Earlier this month, the NTNG ended its run of performances of «Free Besieged» in Thessaloniki in what is Rigos’s final, brilliant exit from the ensemble. Next Sunday and Monday (June 25 and 26, at the Rex – Kotopouli Theater), the choreographer will make a triumphant return to Athens to present a revamped Oktana in what Rigos calls «a different version» of «Free Besieged,» «Schediasma B,» which is part of the Athens Festival. In anticipation of his appearances in the capital, Rigos spoke to Kathimerini about the performance and about his future plans. Tell us a bit about «Free Besieged.» It is a performance about entrapment and the need for freedom. I based it on the poem by Dionysis Solomos and the state of siege he describes, what the heroes feel when they reach an impasse. Their exodus is an act of necessity. It was also a big exit for you. How do you feel about your last production with the National Theater of Northern Greece? It was a symbolic, unheroic exit. I do not believe in heroes. I could never have done this performance without the conditions that exist at the National Theater of Northern Greece… I was not really a part of the NTNG anymore. It was an important lesson. What is different about «Schediasma B»? It is a different version of «Free Besieged,» which delves deeper into the psychology of the characters, trapped in this closed space which is theoretically Mesolongi. It looks at their anxieties, their failure to act. There are two groups; the dancers and besiegers watching them. The stage is surrounded by a huge mirror, which reflects them and multiplies them. I am trying to make a sociopolitical comment about how every siege can become a spectacle. In «Free Besieged» I was looking at issues of national identity and pride. «Schediasma B» explores the individual stance as well as the international dimensions of the issue. Both performances are clearly political, but if you compare them they’re like night and day. What does freedom mean in art? Theoretically, freedom means doing what you want. The problem is that you often don’t know what it is exactly that you believe or how to approach it. In my work, freedom is about being able to find ways to allow the performers I work with to be real, to not have to play a role. Other than that, I don’t think that you have any reason to make art unless you want to shake things up, criticize… Are we going to see Oktana’s comeback? I want this to be a new beginning. The only person still with me from the old Oktana is my assistant and dancer Amalia Bennett. I am taking several dancers from the NTNG with me. We have great plans, a lot of ideas. I want the team to develop good communication. Everything is still up in the air.

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