A dancer pays homage to where it all began

In 1991, Athina Vahla, or Nana as she was known by her classmates and teachers at Greece’s State School of Dance, headed for London armed with two scholarships (one from its founder Koula Pratsika and the other from the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation) ready to embark on a great adventure. Her classmates and teachers at London’s Laban Center for Movement and Dance preferred to call her by her proper name, Athina and soon the young Greek dancer and choreographer began to gain recognition for her talent, persistence and hard work. In 1994 Vahla received the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund Award and was later invited back to Laban, this time around to work as an instructor. The choreographer now lives in England but in a few days’ time she will be returning to Greece to present «The Splinter in the Flesh,» a piece she has adapted specially for the students of the State School of Dance, with whom Vahla has maintained a professional connection throughout her career abroad. Prior to her arrival in Greece, Vahla spoke to Kathimerini about the piece and explained that it is inspired by one simple concept: survival at every level. «From my days as a student at the State School of Dance I remember the long, hard hours of work; the love and dedication you need to put into dance; the art of survival,» she explains. This kind of gumption is something she also sees and admires in her students, especially the ones she works with in Greece. «They fight and have faith in themselves despite the difficulties they face,» she says. From her base in London, Vahla has created a number of fascinating pieces, several of which are installations or site-specific works, such as «Spaces Between,» a piece she presented in London in 2007 at the opening of the renovated Royal Festival Hall to critical acclaim. She has also worked with the Candoco Dance Company of disabled and non-disabled dancers. «The Splinter in the Flesh,» which will go on stage at the Athens Concert Hall as part of a series of performances titled «Explosion» presented through Thursday in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the State Dance School’s Hellenic Dance Company, is built around research she conducted into the nature of arena fighting. «The splinter is that subconscious reminder plunged into our flesh that tells us at any given time that we can either choose art or conflict,» she says. If Vahla’s previous work is anything to go by, «The Splinter in the Flesh» promises to be just as dynamic and innovative as the choreographer herself. «My career as an artist has never followed a linear course because I have the devil inside me and can’t do what I see happening around me in the world of dance. My curiosity alone has led me to explore styles that can’t necessarily be used in one particular recipe,» explains Vahla. «My art gnaws away at me and it no longer belongs to the realm of dance but to a multifaceted realm that explores the object, the means, the process, the locus and the purpose of dance.» Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333