Inbetween power structures and physical translations

Artemis Lampiri

24 November 2015


META photo: Stavros Petropoulos

Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

My name is Artemis Lampiri, I am 31 years old and I am professionally involved in the field of dance through different roles like most of the dance workers: I a dancer, a choreographer and a teacher. It has been three and a half years that I live in Greece again. I was studying and working in Holland before (two years in Arnhem and three years in Amsterdam).

What do you want to question with your current project?

I am currently working as a dancer in a show for children co-directed by choreographer Antigone Gyra and physical theatre director Yiannis Ikonomidis: “ A fish of my own” in Theatre Roes in Athens. I am pausing as a choreographer at the moment, I am in a suspended mode, still recovering from the last production “Me on top” which was part of the Young Choreographers Festival in Stegi, Onassis Cultural Foundation. It was a dance piece dealing with power, authority, dominance in interpersonal relationships and its social implications. There were 5 performers, going through different roles and entering relationships: mother/child, man/woman, friend/ friend, employee/boss.


I was inspired by an experience 1,5 years ago in Germany while working on a school workshop.  I was part of a project which was held in Germany by the organization perform[d]ance, in which together with 7 more choreographers, we worked with teenagers. This project was mandatory for the students of the school. Within this project there was a very specific chain of command, how things were done. I began to observe how this specific process created power structures and also how these can also work the other way round. How the ones ‘below’ shaped the roles of the ‘above’. Teenagers can be manipulative at times. That is how this idea came to me, you can never be a boss unless you have employees. During the process of creating ‘me on top’ we played several behavior games (role play). There were times I was really surprised/shocked by the reactions, amongst us. Despite being within a safe environment, we did get scared of each other at times. The question is how far one is willing to go when they are in power. Or when confronted with a situation you cannot escape from (for example when someone is ill in the family), the weakest is the one defining what happens. The seemingly least powerful is ‘on top’ dictating/controlling/affecting time and emotions of others. We created a spatial system based on a  rhombus. No one could exit this space and depending on who is on which cusp of the rhombus, different power structures were activated, which defined the movements of the whole system. Each performer ruled the system in a different way. Our research dealt with use of space: different pathways, and different rules. For example, if one was in the center and stopped, everyone had to stop, and then they became the authority.

Is questioning actually the process?

It was the first time I chose to do something which was narrative and based on role analysis. There were specific characters represented. I am not sure I would do something similar again. At the time, I felt like trying out something which is based on reality and can be more accessible. As a spectator myself, I prefer to watch dance shows which are very specific within an abstract domain. I always wanted to start from something specific, so I decided to try and create something like that. This was in contrast to other works like ‘Inbetween’, which was the first dance piece I created upon returning to Greece and had a really open theme, exploring the notion of in between. I learned a lot of things during the last production ‘me on top’ but I don’t think that this is the area I am really good at (at least for the moment). I think that when there is a clear narrative and (as I always do) clear images and movements, it can become too obvious/clear overall, or too predictable as a whole.


Me on top photo: Stavros Petropoulos


Do you want this question to become the audience’s question?

Yes, as humans we all share some questions, but for dance in the 21st century, this is less relevant. I am not interested in creating questions to offer to the audience. My concern is that people can feel they relate to what they are watching. Primarily and most importantly I am interested in a kinesthetic response, watching the audience move ‘with’ the dancers as they move in space. Any physical reaction, even getting dizzy or closing your eyes is welcome. The emotional, intellectual reactions come next, ideally they surface the next day.

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

This really depends on the audience, for the general public it can be different. The dance audience consists mainly of other dancers and artists and I don’t think they have a particular need for a message. Most people need to see something graspable, it is part of human nature to make sense and make connections, for others one line in space can be sufficient.

Are you interested in the individual?

Yes, very much so, I am interested in working with other people, collaborating. The final product is ultimately connected to the particular group of people that created it. The performers influence and shape the work in many ways: technical level, physicality, movement language and personality. Most contemporary choreographers work with the dancers, rarely one uses the copy –paste mode of creating movement themselves and teaching it. Working with a group is bound to be more ‘clever’, more minds at work produce a better result than only one.


Me on top photo: Stavros Petropoulos


Do you have a specific method?

Not really, the method depends on the subject I am working on. At the same time, I use certain tasks in in all of my works, like physical exhaustion. The only common thread between the works is myself and parts of the process. It is not that same performers assist a common element between pieces with their own movement language. First, I locate in my own body a physical translation of the subject I am investigating. For example: loss or emotional pain translates into my sensation of my ribs on the left side pushing further in than on my right. Then I find a movement task which produces the same physical response to the dancers bodies. Finally when the physical reaction has been produced on the dancers’ bodies , I see how it relates to the emotional starting point. In brief, I am interested in the physical impact of an emotion (of an emotional state) which I create without necessarily mentioning the emotion during the process.

How do you start this research?

I admit to the fact that I never go to the studio on my own, I lack the discipline of actually being there alone. My research can be taking place in an elevator or in the studio working together with the dancers. I am quite active when I am rehearsing. I use my own body to research and filter through what we are working on. I am interested in exhaustion, some of the tasks I practice together with the dancers.

What is your strategy?

After completing my dance studies, I did a Masters in dramaturgy which gave me useful tools with regards to the communication of my ideas to the audience: how to make something clear, how to evoke the reactions you wish, how to link what you do to the time and place you live. The point is to open up to your surroundings instead of isolating the work microcosm of your own, absorbing different stimuli and translating them into a dance product.

Do you consider yourself funny?

In the last three works there are some moments which I find funny.  I don’t give too much weight or develop these moments. It is quite funny how younger people laugh out loud and express themselves freely during the show while others recognize the humor but keep quiet not allowing themselves to laugh during a dance show. At the same time I don’t consider my work ‘heavy’ or dark.

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

Yes I am interested in working with texts but not exclusively on the content. I could use a poem but work on the rhythm of the text, on an image, one word, or the punctuation pattern. This work can deliver movement phrases similar to speech. I am inclined to dances which can be ‘read’ whilst avoiding verbosity. The texts are only used during the creation process, there is no speaking in any of my works. Maybe there will be in the future. The very special fact of our art-form is that dance can exist beyond logic, unmediated by language as we think and speak it. I believe that each one of us ‘articulates’ what they see with their own ‘words’, so I prefer to leave this space open.

What does it mean to produce work?

I don’t completely understand either…. I have not managed to enter into research, for the sake of research only so far. I guess I am a genuine occidental representative in that respect. In order to enter into research, I need to have a goal and that goal is the finished product. Part of producing is proposing work and fees to potential partners, something which has become increasingly difficult. It is rare to be able to afford the cost for the rehearsal period and if one expects all of the budget to come from the box-office, one needs to make sure that what one creates conforms with the interests of the general public, not only relevant to ones artistic needs.

Would you say your work is Greek?

Yes it is. Not because I use Greek music or directly recognizable elements from my culture. My work has been influenced by my studies abroad,for sure. I get the feeling that  my work is more pertinent to a Greek audience than one of another country.

Can you identify or recognize a Greek dance scene?

I am happy to say no, not yet. I say this with joy because I feel it is very recent development, from 2000 on. The choreographers are trying to develop their own language, with Greek elements, not hiding the ‘Greek-ness’, not being ashamed of the specific nationality with regards to non-existent dance history, like Patricia Apergi and Iris Karayan. In Greece, we missed quite a few of the stages of contemporary dance development. We were directly exposed to a wide range of dance when it came from abroad. In the past, there were strong influences from what one saw, for example a choreographer would create a ‘copy’ of Belgian type work. Eventually more choreographers chose to study abroad doing M.As engaging more in dance theory and research and reflecting upon their medium. This recent development of the Greek dance scene is linked to choreographers studying and working abroad, dance studies curriculum changes but most importantly it is linked to opening up your mind, seeing more dance and also processing all of this information and incorporating it in one’s work. Ultimately it is all about how a dance work relates to the world we live in. In the previous generations, a lot of choreographers would deal with dance in a pure dance-related microcosm, while Dimitris Papaioannou would observe and transform contemporary life into dance (through his fine arts viewpoint), creating works accessible and relevant to the world, as well as of high artistic value.


Me On Top photo-Stavros Petropoulos


Are you an artist?

No, I am a worker.

Are you a good artist?

I work hard and I like to work hard.

Do you like your work?

Yes, lots. It sounds a bit silly but I get great pleasure out of my work in all its manifestations: performing, choreographing, and teaching.

Do others like your work?

I hope so… Yes… I guess since I continue to work… some definitely like my work.

Are you happy with how you do things?

Yes, on one level. I cannot overlook the harsh reality of working in dance in the present moment. I would definitely prefer to have the luxury of time needed to live, rather than spending every minute for surviving. We need some time of this time, of low or no productivity, it is about living.

How would you be happy?

I would like to have a child, a partner, a venue that wishes to present my work and offer me work- each year. All are ongoing desires and all about duration…. These would cover all of my needs, for now….

Are you working on a particular topic? If all of your work is ultimately about one subject/ one question, which would it be?

The beginning and the end of movement and a strange fusion of reason and instinct.

Are you using the principle of improvisation?


Is your work set or improvised?

Mostly set.


Me On Top photo-Stavros Petropoulos


Do you have a daily practice?

I need about one to two hours in the morning. Seemingly the least productive hours of my day with coffee, cigarettes and laptop, it actually is one of the most productive hours for me.

What do you think about solos?

I once created a solo during my studies. None ever since, although there is a thought about creating one next year.

Are you also the performer?

This future solo I am thinking of performing it myself, but I might drop this idea and work with a dancer. I find that there are really good dancers who can maybe perform this better. So far in my work, I was performer also only in META, which was an overwhelming experience for me. There are so many things one needs to take care of for the show. I am a control freak and it is really difficult to overlook the details of what is going on during the show. It was really hard for me to stop the brain of the choreographer going while performing on stage.

So why does company, why do companies such as yours matter? Why does your work matter?

I have founded a dance company named MAN, in 2013. Most people know my work under my name rather than the company name. The name of the company refers to MAN, as in human – it was a decision I made really quickly. It doesn’t matter. I don’t think I am changing the world. Our profession is somewhat narcissistic, both as performer and as choreographer. Choreographers vanity is thinking that everyone cares about that what you make, performers have the vanity of exposition. Both the mind and the body are exhibited. As a teacher the sense of offering is foreground, it more immediate. The last three dance works I have created with musician Alexandros Karadimos (guitarist), then Dimitris Tasenas (singer) joined in. These two musicians work with a mix of live sound and with electronic music, sometimes the music is created live, but the musicians are not onstage. In all of the works I have created so far, Candy Karra has performed, Konstadinos Rizos has been in two of the shows (now he has gone to Montpellier to study choreography) and Ioanna Heitzanoglou in a few. There is a core group of people with whom we feel as a dance company and that matters.

Do you create scores?

No, not really. In each piece I make there are at least two notebooks for my thoughts and notes. They prove useful when I need to restage a work, they help me remember. I primarily use my memory, I don’t use video in rehearsals. I just keep the materials and ideas that stay with me, in my memory.

How do you archive your work?

I only have videos of my work , I don’t have a portfolio of any sort.

Do you believe in less is more?



META photo: Stavros Petropoulos


Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

There is not one art form that exclusively influences me, I like to be have a broad area of influences. I have never been influenced by a painting either…. I ‘d say it is more about logic the way influences work on my concepts and ideas. Sometimes before going to the first rehearsal, I watch videos from choreographers I like. For example Mor Shani from Israel- with whom we studied together in Holland and he is now very successful there or I watch ‘Ya Panda’ by Dimitris Papaioannou. I don’t use similar ideas or anything of the sort, it is about revisiting choreography as an art form at work. I sometimes take one concept, one word I Google it, and use three phrases I find in the search or by chance the first 25 things on the Google page. I also work with images-not necessarily with people or bodies in them, it can be a picture of an object- I take these in the studio and I try to ‘move’ them. The next creation will be on the idea of the END, endings, but not in the sense of death. A show ends, this interview will come to an end….

How do you treat the body in your work?

I treat the body (also) as space and as the familiar connection with the spectator. We all have a body. The body is my work, this is what I deal with and it is also my primary tool. I am interested in its form, shape, rhythm, everything, but in each dance piece the bodies are used in a particular way, according to subject matter. I could never add some movements or a section from one piece into another one, there is a specific way of moving according to the subject. Embodying the notion we deal with.

How do you use the following elements of a stage performance:


I am interested in creating an extension in time. Most of the works I have created have no ending. I am interested in the ongoing, perpetual and continual as if something could last forever. Since we found this movement language and managed to create this world, I wish to let it carry on being after……Conversely when it comes to the process of making, duration is restricted and specific, I am very precise whether I want a task to last for five minutes or an hour and a half.


My favorite creative relationship is the one with space! I profoundly appreciate its potential, it is how I ‘read’ things, I see spatial lines, directions of movements and I believe that narrative can be captivated solely in the use of space. The spatial choices I make, are the only un-negotiable choices within the creation.


With the lights or the lighting designers? I think of the dances without any lights. In fact some parts of the piece work better for me in simple /uniform studio lighting. I sometimes prefer things ‘naked; rather than dressed, I am referring both to the idea of costume and set. I have collaborated with a lighting designer for only one work, mostly I create a simple lighting plan myself.


I have never used set design. I sometimes have set ideas which appear before starting the creation, but then they fade away. I am so captivated, fascinated with the body itself, I never arrive at creating a set for the dance. I have sometimes used objects though, props in past works.


I don’t feel I have really succeeded in finding the absolutely appropriate costume for the work. You find yourself at a point just taking the decision, making a choice between the 2-3 options of costumes proposed. The one time I collaborated with a costume designer from the beginning, we made a choice directly linked to the concept of the work.


During rehearsals I use different bits of music I find. I like music it helps the rehearsal process. In the last creation the musicians (Alexandros & Dimitris) sent me some sounds with which we worked with from the beginning, while we developed things in parallel. I find it really helpful and inspiring for both parties that the musician comes to rehearsals and we develop things together.

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

Goes without saying. I don’t think the last work I created was the best one of all the ones I have made. Some pieces work better than others as some things in life work better than others. I have also failed in my exam for the proficiency diploma of English as a foreign language ….

How has that affected you?

It hurts. Process/failure/shock/hurting/my eyes and all. After all that you can see what you can learn from it all. You never cease – under any circumstance- to accept your human nature and you carry on.

What do you wish for?

To be able to carry on with my work. To only work on my work (rather than any job) and to have other people dealing with the production, finance, website, accountants etc. – that would be very nice.


Inbetween photo: Spiros Andreadis



Artemis Lampiri