Artemis Ignatiou has been the choreographer of several Olympic Flame ceremonies in the last decade, but Thursday’s Lighting of the Flame for the Rio 2016 Olympics at Ancient Olympia will be really special for her and the dancers to perform at the event.
This formidable dancer, who has evolved into the brains behind those unique events that connect the birthplace of the Olympics with the Games’ modern version, explains to Kathimerini that this year the Lighting of the Olympic Flame will be dedicated to the memory of the woman who made it all happen throughout the 20th century, choreographer Maria Hors. Ignatiou’s mentor passed away last September.
“The wonderful Maria Hors taught me and supported me, and above all she loved what she did and she loved us all,” says Ignatiou as she struggles to contain her emotions for the artist who performed at the very first Lighting Ceremony in 1936 before becoming the event’s choreography for many decades.
Ignatiou speaks with great respect and emotion about Hors, and goes on to reveal that upon undertaking the choreography a decade ago she had decided not to bang the big drum at the Temple of Hera, where the Flame is lit by the sun’s rays, out of respect for her: “Only Maria Hors did that,” says Ignatiou.
Hors used the drum to mark the start of the ceremony, but Ignatiou has resorted to something else that also makes a distinctive sound in the serene atmosphere of the ancient temple at Olympia: “I have found some pebbles at OIympia instead, and I hit each other with my hand to the rhythm.”
Yet this time the drum will bang again. Twice. In Maria Hors’s memory. “First it will bang at the Temple of Hera and then at the Stadium. We will then hope that she gets to hear us from above,” Ignatiou says, revealing a wealth of emotions for her mentor.
This is not the only thing that will be special this year. Gifted Ignatiou recounts how she started thinking about the dance routines to be presented in Thursday’s ceremony for the Rio Olympics as soon as the previous Olympic Flame ceremony was over, for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.
“I started focusing on this wonderful country, Brazil, intending to attribute some of that special sense of joy, of livelihood that the Brazilian culture has, although of course the choreography is based on the Greek element,” says Ignatiou, who has chosen the themes of the ancient “Kouroi and Kores” – the archetypal figures of young male and female Greeks in ancient statues – and of the “Nereids”, the 50 sea nymphs from the Greek mythology.
Ignatiou further promises several surprises for the watching public, not only for Thursday’s Lighting Ceremony but also for the Handover Ceremony on April 27 in Athens, when Greece delivers the Flame to the Rio 2016 organizers at the Panathenaic Stadium, after a six-day Olympic Torch Relay around most of continental Greece. She and the dozens of performers she will direct deserve our full attention.