Two choreographers combine forces in unraveling myth

A door starts closing at the back of the stage. The ground is covered in paper handkerchiefs and the dancers mourn their dead, raising the handkerchiefs in the air and then throwing them away as if they were a scrap of garbage. A huge sculpture made of electrical wiring starts rising into the air and 40 minutes later, the scene is changed completely. The first thing one sees is dancers dressed in black. They stare at the audience, demanding a glass of wine, contrasting sharply with the sole white table at center stage. The two-part performance of «Ariadne / Kithaeron» – the first State Theater of Northern Greece production for the 2002-2003 season – is signed by Constantinos Rigos and Irina Pauls (director of the Heidelberg Tanztheater) and will premiere at the Pallas Theater in Athens tonight in an evening which is part of the UNESCO International Theater Institute Conference taking place in the capital until Saturday. The production is a cooperative venture between the State Theater of Northern Greece Dance Theater, the Heidelberg Tanztheater, the German and Greek centers of the International Theater Institute and the California-based Dell’ Arte theater company. The play will also be staged in Thessaloniki on October 22 and in Heidelberg on November 7. In a telephone interview from Thessaloniki, Rigos and Pauls said the issues they are negotiating in the performance are psychological and physical. What factors can destroy a person’s physical and psychological well being? How can a person deal with loneliness, death and fear? The common element in the two performances is the artists’ desire to trace the roots of their anxieties in ancient mythology. In «Ariadne,» Pauls «approaches the mythical figures and traces the human dimension of their experiences.» In the dark landscape of «Kithaeron,» Rigos «realizes a communal journey into the wild nature of the Dionysian experience.» Elements of myth «I chose three elements from the myth of Ariadne; the ones I believe may still mean something to us today,» explained Pauls. «Death and the way we deal with it, the Labyrinth as a philosophical and psychological concept, and finally, the figure of Ariadne as a symbol of a deeper loneliness which we must all eventually face.» Rigos, on the other hand, has tried to find a theme which is not so specific. «My starting point was the element of anger,» he says. «I discovered this element in Dionysus and decided to develop it on the idea of the Bacchae. «I eventually called the piece ‘Kithaeron,’ the mountain at which all the dramatic events of ‘The Bacchae’ took place,» he said. In the performance, Kithaeron is a metaphysical concept. «It looks nothing like a mountain,» explains Rigos, «rather, it is more like looking into an internal space which contains the memory of the mountain. All those faces are the people of a community who have gathered together for an event, a party. From that moment they all lose control, maybe under the influence of some kind of group hallucination. «There is no music in the performance; it is more like an atmosphere of sounds that were created in Studio 19 by Dimitris Kourtakis. The sound engineers also appear on stage like deus ex machina who help bring the piece to its conclusion. The performance is very harsh,» says Rigos. For the young Greek choreographer, working with a foreign group was an interesting experience. «They are not really two separate works since the dancers (four Germans, four Greeks and two Americans) are the same in both. The most important thing is that this cooperation helps us understand how important it is to work with other artists and groups from abroad. Personally, I worked in a completely different way than usual,» says Rigos. Pauls argues that «working with other groups is a unique way of breaking out of your old habits. I feel full of inspiration and ready to express myself.»