Kalamata’s International Dance Festival, one of Greece’s annual summer highlights, promises to be even richer and more interesting this year. With powerful performances from Belgium, but also France, Sweden, Israel and, of course, Greece, the festival will take place July 13 to 22. The shows, as well as a variety of parallel events and educational seminars will be spread across various venues of the southern city. The festival, which is keen on representing all tendencies of the contemporary dance scene and has hosted performances by highly distinguished artists since its inception in 1995, has become a well-known institution, as underlined at Wednesday’s press conference by Minister of Culture Giorgos Voulgarakis. «Dance is a privileged field because it transcends language barriers and can be understood by people of different cultures and nationalities. Greece can have results by investing in it,» said Voulgarakis, who also announced his decision to have Athens’s Embros Theater stage dance productions exclusively. This year, the ministry increased its funding for the Kalamata festival to approximately half a million euros. The fact that a provincial city such as Kalamata, which lacks the capital’s structure, has managed to establish a landmark dance festival and set precedents is very important, as pointed out by the minister of culture. The city’s international dance center is active throughout the year, engaging in research and cultivating relations with institutions abroad, the festival’s artistic director Vicky Marangopoulou explained. Educational activities are of major importance for such a festival to grow, she emphasized, adding that what has made it all possible is the existence of DEPAK, the city’s municipal organization for cultural growth. Kalamata’s 13th Festival will comprise three sections: the main program of performances, educational seminars and parallel events. The main program has a strong Belgian presence, Belgium being a country which has been setting new standards in contemporary dance since the early 1980s, with the contribution of artists such as Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Jan Fabre and the eruption of the so-called «vague flamande.» Wim Vandekeybus, one of the pioneers of Belgian contemporary dance, will present «Spiegel» (Mirror), a compilation of scenes from six landmark works of his from the past 20 years, with his group Ultima Vez. «This performance can provide a second reading of his work,» said Marangopoulou. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, another Belgian artist, may only be 30 years old but he has already made a name for himself worldwide and is an expert at combining various techniques. «Myth,» one of the festival’s highlights and Cherkaoui’s first choreography for the Toneelhuis company, features 21 dancers, actors and musicians. Exploring the ways that traumas influence people, the performance has a setting that combines elements from Hieronymus Bosch paintings and Japanese manga. Two years after its first appearance in Kalamata, Belgian contemporary dance collective Les Ballets C. de la B. will return with choreographer Koen Augustijnen’s latest production. «’Import Export’ is about globalization and people’s weakness and difficulty in responding to all the pressures,» said Marangopoulou. Another two artists who have emerged from Belgium’s dance scene, Greece’s Linda Kapetanea as well as Josef Frucek, will perform «Sudden Showers of Silence.» Founders of the Rootlessroot company, Kapetanea and Frucek previously worked with Vandekeybus. In his first appearance in Greece, Sweden’s Palle Dyrvall will perform the solo black comedy «Catastrophe Communication Combinatoria,» a monologue of destruction which combines dance, movement and recitation which he choreographed with his collaborator Caroline Hainaut. France’s Dominique Boivin and Pascale Houbin will cast a poetic look at the medieval love story of Abelard and Heloise in «Bonte Divine.» Houbin is the founder of her Non de Nom dance company and Boivin is co-founder of the Beau Geste company. Israel’s Batsheva dance company will perform Ohad Naharin’s choreography «Mamootot.» The production, Naharin’s first work following his wife’s premature death, is different from the choreographer’s previous work. Greek of Cypriot descent Fotis Nikolaou and the X-It company will perform «9th Hour,» a work about death, loss and abandonment. «It is very important for Greek groups to participate in festivals alongside dance companies and choreographers that have been such an influence,» said Nikolaou. «The parallel events will help give an atmosphere of celebration to the city,» said Marangopoulou, explaining that they will help even those who are not acquainted with dance to get a feeling of it. The events will include a site-specific duet by Dominique Boivin at the city port, Italian tarantellas by the Encardia ensemble at the Municipal Railways Park, live music shows by Belgium’s Think Of One and the screening of Buster Keaton’s «Navigator,» accompanied by live music. The seminars will be conducted by Frey Faust.