Months of Dance leap back into Athens theaters

Every year, as spring fever sets in, the timely Months of Dance kick off. The institution first started many years ago, at Giorgos Michailidis’s Open Theater. Back then, the event lasted only one month and there was a process of selection for the dance companies that were to participate. Yet it was the beginning, an important beginning and we should not forget it. A period of prolonged silence ensued and some thought it was all over. At that time, the newly founded Association of Greek Choreographers, led by Petros Gallias, started to slowly redefine contemporary Greek dance and to organize the Months of Dance at the Katia Dandoulaki Theater. The press conferences were improvised, with the choreographers handing out photographs and notes concerning the shows they were staging. Those of us who remember those times and who love dance feel very moved. It looks like something has changed. As of this year, the Months of Dance – which started recently and will run to June 15 – will be held with the support of the newly established National Center of Theater and Dance. The press conference was a formal affair, held at the Ministry of Culture. There are many ambitious plans and hopes for a new national strategy concerning dance. We want to believe it, but first we have to see it happen. The truth is that the association paved the way for many important innovations. The very first festival did away with the selection process and it was clearly stated that all choreographers could participate, which was liberating. A few years later the «Independent Presences» section was added, meaning that choreographers who did not have their own company could still present their work at the festival. Nonetheless, the problems of the Greek contemporary dance scene are ever-present. There is no venue for rehearsals and performances, the insufficient funding cannot cover even basic needs and always arrives late, to mention just a few. I thought of asking two young choreographers, who both happen to be women and who have experienced all of this, to talk about their participation in the Months of Dance and what it all means. «I first presented my work as a member of the Association of Greek Choreographers in 2002. So I had the opportunity to do so without spending money,» Lila Zafeiropoulou, artistic director of the Eldor dance company, told Kathimerini. Zafeiropoulou will stage the performance «Mazi» (Together) at the Ivi Theater, May 18-21. «It is very good that the festival lasts a few months and has spread to many theaters, but the problems remain. For instance, the first installment of the 2007 funding has not yet been given and already we are being asked to submit papers for the second. We put on our shows with borrowed money and it is difficult to find sponsors. At least our participation in the festival means that we have a free theater for four shows and one day of rehearsals.» One year ago, the Ministry of Culture had promised to give the Embros Theater to Greek choreographers as a permanent venue for contemporary dance performances. But then technical problems arose. «The festival provides a solution to the problem of premises, but can’t solve all the problems,» said Mariella Nestora, also a member of the association’s board of directors. She has already staged her choreography «Undo» at the Dipylon Theater. «Theaters lack the necessary equipment required for dance performances. The floor is unsuitable, the audience seats do not have the right angle and the environment in general is not healthy for dancers.» Another issue that concerns all choreographers is the need to exchange views and ideas. Both Zafeiropoulou and Nestora expressed the desire to see more of each other’s work. «It would be interesting for different groups to work together, then maybe we could have more shows,» said Zafeiropoulou. «I see the audience having questions regarding modern dance. Maybe it is because they haven’t seen many shows or maybe because we are unclear. The audience mostly consists of friends of ours and people who love dance, but those who should be attending – like the Funding Committee, festival directors and the official guests – don’t come. The truth is that I can’t have a dance company operating all year long. The festival is like a celebration, a taste of what the choreographer would really like to do. We need a different kind of support from the state. There are lots of talented artists but everything proceeds painfully slowly. We have to stir the waters and I was fortunate enough to find excellent collaborators, but for how long?» Months of Dance performances are being held at five theaters, the Alkmini (20 Alkminis, Kato Petralona, tel 210.342.8583), the Argo (15 Elefsinion, Metaxourgeio, 210.520.1684), the Dipylon (2 Kalogirou Samouil & Dipylou, Psyrri, 210.322.9771), the Ivi (27 Sarri, Psyrri, 210.321.5127) and the Roes (16 Iakchou, Gazi, 210.347.4312).

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