Dance, arts and mental health

Photo: Bernard Duret

What has changed, what are the developments in your work, since the last interview?

I consider myself lucky because I have been able to continue my artistic-pedagogical explorations almost non-stop since the last interview.  After our conversation in January 2016, I did six more Newtopia (mini festivals of dance, arts and mental health.) Although the health crisis (pandemic) brought some cancellations, the support of the French state and the motivation of the participants created a fertile ground so that this collective…madness continued. Perhaps the most complex, yet more moving in terms of richness of content was NEWTOPIA 4.2 / THE PEARL in 2016.

The general theme of the three-day programme was Silence and Slowness, a return to the fragile body, at the Chapelle Saint Anne, a 14th century chapel turned gallery and concert hall; presenting: an awarded audio installation by Lynn Pook in which each member of the audience experiences both tactile and auditory sensations throughout their entire body through a 16-channel composition that gives the impression that the sounds, and the vibrations they produce are wandering around the body, an interactive sculpture-installation by Jakob Gautel and Jason Karaïndros : « The Angel Detector becomes a sort of lighthouse inviting a passing angel to rest for a moment. A (silent) dialogue with the angel that has been thus attracted can begin. », Body Mind Centering, Feldenkrais and Perceptive Pedagogy free sessions for visitors of the event, promoting introspection and slow action through somatics, Tai Chi performances with masks, by members of the France Shaolin Association and four dance, theater and music performances exploring the poetics of immobility or slowness. In addition to these, more propositions participated and all together made up a celebration of empathy and kinesthetic richness.

In 2018, I took a break from the Newtopia adventure and focused on a solo Orange Bear Lights II (FEUX ORANGES D’OURS II) a rework of an improvisation that I performed in 2015 at Tours. This is a kind of one-man show about the personal relationship to trance. A work of choreographic and vocal self-analysis constantly re-staged, a game with one’s self with raw impulses, exhibiting grotesque states and self-mockery. Transcendence, denial, escapism, resistance and / or jubilant regression and healing. Inspired by the automatic writing of a personal poem that tickles various themes dear to the author: the division between dancers and non-dancers, separatism between body and spirit, male versus female, education, manipulation of the public opinion, the conception of happiness etc. This solo goes through numerous forms and aesthetics: post-modern dance, neo-expressionism, lecture-performance, song, minimalist techno  dancing, butoh, fascia therapy/perceptive pedagogy, etc. I will present it in Milos and maybe in Syros this springtime and/or summertime 2022 along with another solo that I created with and for Filio Louvari.

I also completed a work on the subject of religions and the spiritual quest, Divine(s) and In 2019, I presented Politeïes questioning community life and democracy. In 2021 after three cancellations we managed to present Omni-Nihilum on polarity and opposites. All the above inclusive performance art was created from experiences and materials from the participants (devised theatre method); professional and amateur artists, people with mental difficulties, psychologists and others in a collective dance theatre adventure.

Next stop, Ekstatik (2022) and Metanymphs (2021) in co-production with the International Dance and Theatre Centre of Milos (artistic director Filio Louvari).


Photo: Bernard Duret


After a decade of successive crises (economic, social, environmental, health) what changes and developments have occurred in the contemporary dance scene in Greece and what do you think is missing?

Unfortunately, for family and professional reasons, I have lost touch with the contemporary Greek dance scene. I hope this will change soon and that I will be more present in these developments in the future.


Photo: Bernard Duret


How might we imagine the landscape of dance in the next ten years?

A difficult question. On a philosophical level, I see dance as an integral part of our evolution of consciousness so it is not going to suffer catastrophic consequences. As Paul Valéry said, dance is the mother of all arts. Without movement there is no creation.  As an incurable optimist, I believe that the trials and tribulations of our field will push us to creative updates and spiritual revisions. What I hope will come, immediately, is the collapse of capitalism, something that has already begun according to some theorists,  so that the biosphere is saved. We, artists, will have new opportunities to rethink our ways of producing our art and to move further away from the Body-Object,  to which the patriarchal structure of the old-world has accustomed us. To accelerate our renunciation of the exploitation of man and nature as inanimate or “inferior” objects and to invent new humanistic and ecological bonds thus participating in the moral renewal of world civilization. Perhaps all this sounds pompous, but I still believe in the African hummingbird tale: even a drop of water participates in putting out the fire…

Body-Subject, empathy, non-violent communication, increasing experiments of communes are the things that give me courage. A documentary film, Système K, gave me an existential slap in the face two years ago. Artists in Kinshasa, Congo, homeless, destitute and in situations of social violence produce art that stunned me! I felt much more emotion and philosophical depth in Système K than in many dance performances that are often in the early stages of narcissistic expression.



SILENCE IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF SOUND recordings by Gordon Hempton part of Newtopia 4.2 festival