Fallow times and solidarity

mneme- [action] 21

What changed since our last interview?

During the last interview, we talked about “mneme – [action] 21” co – produced and premiered at Onassis cultural Centre. We then presented it in Vienna and Algiers, where we won the 2nd prize of choreography at the Festival Culturel International de la Danse Contemporaine, Algiers 2013. Since then, there have been a lot of changes especially regarding production. In fact this was the last big production I did. It was during this time that the Greek Ministry of Culture stopped the funding for dance.  I tried to find alternative ways in order to continue working.  So the next piece was a co-production of Austria and Algiers, since it was invited by two festivals – Tanzkosmos Festival in Kosmostheater (Vienna 2014) and Festival Culturel International de la Danse Contemporaine, (Algiers 2014) these made the production ”A room of her own – [action] 34″ possible. This is a solo for Ioanna Paraskevopoulou, which has not yet been presented in Greece. The title is inspired from a Virginia Wolf novel:  “A room of one’s own”, a rather feminist novel for its time, which was our starting point for this piece. Over the past years I have been creating work solely for female performers- discussing the female body in various ways.

I would like to continue working on this solo and make it even more personal.  The subject of this work is the female body, again- what the body carries, according to the place you live, the historical narratives of your origins. I started by asking questions – whether one is defined by their place of birth, what kind of (collective) memories /stories/ narratives we carry from our origins, what myths we embody. In fact, it continues with the investigation from the previous work, while becoming more and more personal. I also used set design for both: in  “mneme – [action] 21” the floor was laid with corn kernels, while in the solo “A room of her own – [action] 34” there is a big tree log onstage. The dialogue with the set created different images (womb, mother, fighter and other images emerging for the audience) through symbolism.

So since this last production, my question and concern is how to continue choreographing for Prosxima – since I refuse to create work without paying people, especially the dancers.  I have thus been limited in creating and I am still looking for alternative ways of financing my work (which I haven’t found yet).

I am also working as a teacher and choreographer at the seminars organised by Onassis Cultural Centre for a mixed group of people with and without disabilities. These workshops started under the Unlimited Access program and during the unlimited access festival in February 2014, I choreographed the work “The Flight”. This was for 25 performers featuring people with and without disabilities, professionals and people whose first venture into dance this was.

These workshops are still going on gladly. After this experience, I felt that I would really like to make work with people with movement disabilities. The participants of these workshops have different levels of disabilities. It is a really diverse group and this is what I found extremely interesting: how this totally mixed group, worked together with such integrity and congruity.

This year is the 20th birthday of Prosxima dance company and I have been thinking a lot about how this dance company evolved. The first decade, it operated as a collective of several dancers and choreographers. The second decade my investigation was concerning the body as an embodied message carrier, using practice as research method. This resulted in the [actions] series. I feel now that this period is completing itself too. It has been already a year since I choreographed for Prosxima and there are lots of questions hovering in the air. I need to readdress and redefine a lot of things in and about my work.

For the past two years, the refugee crisis in Greece has surpassed me. The past two months I am working with assisting with anything I can do, whenever I have time. I am working with other people on this, collecting food, clothes and distributing them. This huge humanitarian crisis inflicted a kind of numbness and I couldn’t do anything for a few months. I believe that this period of not making work, not engaging in practice, will prove itself very fertile in the future. I am really curious to see where it will lead me. It is actually the first time, that I am offering myself the opportunity of not making, not composing. It is not easy nor pleasant for me, but I am sure it will bring something new to my future work.



Do you consider your work Greek?

Yes, especially if  I were to connect this question to the last piece I made. I live here and I create here, so I guess my work is Greek. The particular characteristics that make it Greek are not obvious to me. We are nevertheless influenced by the place we were born or grow up, we are not and cannot be isolated or secluded, ever.

Is there a Greek dance scene? Do you recognise specific characteristics?

Yes , there is definitely a Greek dance scene and continues to be- with  significant presence both in Greece and abroad.  I don’t know what the common characteristics of it are, though. I am well aware of the works by most choreographers and I think I could recognise the work of someone I know.  I think that common characteristics would be  regarding the way things happen rather than the what. They would relate to the kind of folly (madness) that Greeks carry, the way they dive into projects even without production money, funding schemes or anything priorly given. The fact that there is a Greek dance scene still existing during these times, also has to do with this. The way Greek artists are motivated into creation is more of a common characteristic, than the actual  products of dance. There is great variation of the individual dance works, there is a wide range of differences between creators so maybe this is the common element in the Greek dance scene, this diversity.

A lot of questions arise with this question: What is it that accurately defines the Flemish, Austrian or French dance scene? What determines these? I don’t know, I need to think about this. Maybe the way you relate to, address or confront something -this is what is Greek? Maybe it is a feeling,  an ambience of things rather that the actual movement language proposed in each piece.