Malleable bodies, hedonistic and razor speed fast movement

Andonis Foniadakis

3 August 2019



Would you like to introduce yourself?

Choreographer, former dancer and world traveller. As a guest choreographer, I make work for different dance companies and when the mood and inspiration strikes I also work independently with loved ones. I create and live.

What questions are you asking with your current project?

The next planned projects are with the Geneva Ballet- Philip Glass’ Violin concerto, the Croatian National Ballet- Bolero by Ravel and other commissions from Bale Da Cidade Sao Paolo and Hong Kong Ballet. The commissions are often new creations or sometimes companies buy previous works of mine. I use different choreographic languages depending on the group. I don’t have a specific formula, I evolve the work according to the group. I explore different themes and questions. If it’s a musical work that already exists, I create a choreography on the music, a parallel choreographic score. My particular style or language is more in relation to the degree of difficulty and abstraction in the body-music-choreography relationship mostly in twenty-minute pieces. My main focus is how the moving body can move and how it can also mobilise. What stimulates it and what makes it pulsate.

Do you want your questions to become audience questions?

I can’t possibly be inside the mind of each audience member, but I believe that, for the general public, dance speaks first to emotion and then to logic. Movement first moves you as an image and then sensitises other parts of the intellect. I find that this problem stems from professional dance critics who believe that for each work there must be a specific goal that is also articulated. I revise this, because I believe that the particular way of writing dance and the sensitivity towards movement of each artist is already their specificity. The audience is often manipulated and led by those who hold the reins of communication. The most important thing for me is whether the artist has something to offer, if one is consistently invited to create works. I believe that  audiences are intelligent and have their own instinctive reason. I present my work to very different cultures and I get a warm response through audiences’ applause, a very generous response from people.

What does it mean for you to produce work?

Production means everything: from the first feeling, idea, research and question to the very last detail- like the movement of a dancer’s finger or the light of a scene. Production holds inside it the whole process: from how the piece gradually takes shape over months of rehearsal to how it communicates with its audience. You definitely need others. You can’t do it all yourself. The responsibility of producing work is a responsibility in relation to everyone you work with. It is also important to keep the element of surprise. It’s not just about making the project a success, but also about the cracks in the process that can take it where you least expected. Of course it takes a lot of organising to make this all happen. The product in our artform is never really finished, it is a live art. The same material, if sculpted with different parameters, such as a dancer or a different choreographic approach to a pre-existing work, everything changes. And these changes can affect the next productions. Production is a domino effect. It is an exciting process, it’s not only a matter of expression. 

What is your strategy? How do you start your research? 

Especially in my own projects I prefer longer works, not twenty-minute pieces. My strategy is the conversations with people I trust, the commission of a dramaturg for materials, the physical research in the studio on my own that I did in my early career. Now I trust my way of working and my philosophy of movement. I start by working in the studio and let this lead me. If at any moment I feel that something else needs to be done, things might also become undone along the way. I like to leave this space for change. Research supports me psychologically, because I have come with something prepared, otherwise I could undo everything. In my own projects that are not commissions, I like to bring dear people together, a group of people that want to work together. I do not have a company of dancers. My dance company ‘Apotosoma’ is based in France as a legal entity, but it is rarely active because my schedule is mostly full with commissions.

Do you have a specific method?

In the case of commissioned works, I start with a workshop for one or two days in which I meet the dancers, ‘listening’ and observing their physical abilities- in movement, in dynamics- and their creativity when they bring their own materials and ideas. Then, during the creative process I try to stay relaxed so that I am not afraid to really explore the work. After all, I am not only a transmitter, I remain open to an exchange with the dancers. I like to take risks. There is no specific formula, there is a thinking process.



Do you consider yourself funny?

No, I don’t consider myself a humorist. I might have a dark humor or camp humor in my works, at times.  I’m more interested in the angst of the human condition, how there is a body, an organism trying to breathe, trying to survive. I haven’t made choreographies that are carefree, mostly they have a physical and existential gravity and I recognize elements of eroticism more than elements of humor in my work.

Are you interested in text in your work?

I have used texts that are part of the soundscape or are spoken, as in the case of certain excerpts by Jean Cocteau’s ‘Les Enfants terribles’, albeit used in an abstract manner.

Are you an artist?

Yes. I exist as an artist and I am in an art industry that wants to name things. Even during our education, we are trained to think of ourselves as artists. There is a tantalizing mood in the way I decode things, my way of being is sensitive and I process things in my own way. That’s probably how others might label someone an artist. In any case, I prefer to be named a choreographer rather than an artist. I sometimes photograph, paint or work with images in digital collages or video, but I don’t present or exhibit this part of me. I it is as a choreographer that I can offer something with great clarity. 

Are you a good artist?

Are there good artists and bad artists? In this mode of thinking, I would say that I am a good artist because there is quality in my work. After so many years of working, I have a good product, but still it is a totally different story how the public receives the work. I now understand what I do more- how, why and its goals. It is information, knowledge and materials that I have worked out over the years. One practises their own self-criticism over a lifetime, so that one can draw certain conclusions at some point.

Are you happy with the way you do things? 

At this particular point in time, I wish there was more help in the organisation of things, from an office or a person taking care of the volume of work. Then I would have more time to organise, think and choreograph. I would love to work with a producer who knows the work in depth both artistically and production-wise. Right now I’m doing a lot of production work that is not in my purview. I also had to do all this at the beginning of my career and I learned a lot from it, but now I know exactly what I want and how I want things done.

Do you have a specific practice?

Three or four years ago, I used to do a daily class, using my own technique. Now, I mostly go to the gym and dance with the dancers in the studio. We focus on how to move more with the bones and less from the muscles and looking for a sense of flying. We work on fast speed and breathing and how fast paced movement can become a new reality. How to shift the sense of time so that movement is less tiresome or inconvenient. We work with different tools in order to explore stamina and how to become more three-dimensional. This has been the basis of my language. I do have my own movement language, it is fluid,  flowing through different shapes and forms, with sensuality and alertness that aims to introduce another reality rather than movement that implies something. The state that emerges is the constantly changing energy and the sense of movement. I am not interested in linearity. I am interested in movement that is captured as a spectrum, as an aura leaving behind a velvety memory.

How do you archive your work? 

Videos of rehearsals and performances. When I re-do a piece, I study it mostly from the video but even without it, I could recreate it.

Do you believe in less is more? 

For me, it is better to believe in whatever is necessary and appropriate in order to accomplish what you have to do; for life, for dance. With less or with very little you still have to do what you have to do to serve your purpose. I believe that if you blindly follow a motto or theory you can be missing out on opportunities and possibilities. I say this with conviction because I was attached to different theories in the past and they were all eventually debunked along the way. It is all about doing the job you have to do well, smoothly and accurately. 

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

I like many art forms and sciences yet none with enough passion to consider it a big influence on my work. I like cinema and photography. I’m not a fan of one particular photographer, though. I’m like a child, I receive multiple stimuli, from the things I encounter whatever is strong enough is captured in me; music of course, but also fine arts or biology other times.

Are you using technology in your work? Are you using technology in your work?

Only video, when the aim involves an idea that absolutely needs to be done in this way. I am all for live art, live performance, I am a craftsman. The body is first and foremost a raw material. I focus on how the body can say it all.



How do you treat the body in your work?

Like plasticine. Being malleable, with no sense of limit. Breathing. Even the hardest thing should look easy. Even if it is complicated, it should look organic with an erotic dimension, extroverted. And executed with a sense of interiority; it can be skilful and still come from the heart. I don’t just want it to be pretty. The dancers’ state of mind, their joy, eroticism, pain even- can render beautiful something that is not. Athletic bodies. Everything flows and has a sense of being dynamic. Without force, like Martha Graham’s steel bodies. The kind of movement I work on is serpent-like, hedonistic and fast. I call it razor speed- so fast it doesn’t hurt.

Do you favor / create a technique?

Release technique by Trisha Brown, with the playful joints. Saburo Teshigawara’s technique which stems from Butoh, with a breathing body, without form, with perpetual movement that is based on breath; the only way with which movement can seem so smooth. From his technique, I’m also interested in repetition and fatigue, meeting the point where one loses their limits. There is a kind of disembodiment with fatigue, a release, a way of finding control through losing control. 


Time in my work is shaped by tensions, pauses and very intense rhythm. There are also micro-vibrations, micro-breaths. The dancers feel micro-breaths, small syncopations in the flow of time. And moments of counterpoint – a pause, the silence. Rather than the organic pulse of calmness-intensity-calmness I do the opposite: intensity-calmness-intensity.


I treat space playfully. Everything is mostly loud and designed frontally towards the gaze of the spectator. Unless there is a set design that requires that defines the design of space otherwise. Usually in my choreographies there are more than three people on stage. The basic architecture in my work is the shrinking and expanding of space. I am playful with the number of bodies their relation to space, the body as a unit and the spatial and kinetic dimension of the body.


So far I have not created performances based on the lighting design. Light doesn’t concern me so much, it is another element that gives another perspective on the work.


If a set is to become an integral part of the choreography and also dramaturgically, rather than it just being there as a decor,  you have to base all the research on the set. This requires a lot of time. In  ‘Bolero’ I’m choreographing next, we’re going to work on trampolines. And this choice is vital to the choreography, I’m interested in the bounce, it’s not just a set, it’s part of the choreographic action.


I find it difficult to communicate with a costume designer and feel that they really understand, when I only have the concept of choreography in my mind. I work with Tasos Sofroniou who has been a regular collaborator for the last decade. By now we have created a common aesthetic. I do remain open to new stimuli though. I enjoy the more casual pedestrian aesthetic of the last decade but I am also interested in the more theatrical type of costume when it suits a piece of work.



Do you feel you have sometimes failed; 

Yes, it is exactly when I have failed that I would have preferred to have made other choices. But what failure is, depends on the perspective. There are pieces that I didn’t think were very good that had great reception and vice versa. It is subjective. At times, I’ve made choices that have had a significant impact on the final outcome.

How did that affect you? 

Failure is linked to criticism. I felt the sense of failure from reading bad reviews, written by people who couldn’t connect with the work, but still the work continued and it was bought by companies. Failure is a text published. But if we could have a conversation with the critics…maybe we could start engaging in a dialogue. 

What do you wish for?

To find a way to communicate with the new generation of artists. To have immediacy, understanding and contact with young artists, to have the tools to capture and share with them my sense of physicality. To be able to convey what I want to the younger dancers. I hope that the time will come when I will find all the necessary tools for this. I also wish comfort to all artists; financial, practical and a calmness; not to be so tormented both mentally and practically all the time. I wish this to everyone.

How did your relationship with working abroad begin?

This came about through being daring and lucky. I needed and had both courage and luck. In the early 90’s I left Greece. No internet, not the kind of universality that we live in now. I went to Lausanne in Switzerland, at Maurice Bejart’s school. This was very important for my education. Leaving home was then like going to another world, heartbreaking and scary, now things are very different. After my studies I stayed in Switzerland and now I’m here and there and everywhere. The good thing with dance is that it is ‘universal’ work. I’m everywhere and nowhere. Working abroad doesn’t mean much anymore. It’s not like I immigrated -which used to be a big deal, a new country, starting a new life. How can you make a life somewhere when the art of dance itself makes you move all the time? 


Do you consider your work Greek?

Dance is not some country’s work. Of course there are countries from which a specific school or genre of dance emerged but dance belongs to all of humanity. Although the work of artists in Greece at the moment is amazing. 

Is there a Greek dance scene? Can you identify its characteristics?

In Greece, dance has a relatively short history. In France, dance has a much longer history from the royal ballets of Louis 14th all the way to postmodernism that sprang from classicism. With regards to a dance scene, there are certain artists, Greek minds and spirits that give rise to local nuances perhaps, but choreographies are mostly based on repeating established motifs from artists abroad. There is no Greek dance scene and I don’t find it useful to discuss whether there is one or whether it will be somehow formed. The question is whether an artistic force can be created in the dance market. At the moment there are only exceptions, depending on some inspired people. It seems to me as if many works are just putting together ‘logos’- tried and tested elements done before. I can’t name any specific Greek dance maker that I could say inspires me. Dance, education, mobility; I don’t see anything specifically Greek about these.  On the other hand, here we are in this country, right now, with our specific troubles and problems and that is interesting in itself. Lately, Greek dance appears more in the international market. There are certain inspired makers absorbing elements from everywhere and it is good thing, injecting ourselves with influences. Perhaps a next generation of makers can start from here and go global; that would be a blessing. For this, we would need something shocking, creating the appropriate contradictions, like having a modern movement and its counterpart. I wish there were some coexisting antitheses contradictions or something to provoke this. For now there is some modern direction, one that lacks scope and momentum, a bit subdued, not extroverted enough and certainly not grandiose. Dance productions for 200-300 spectators, that size of production only. Production funding from the ministry of culture is around 10000 euros. The artists can’t go further than that level really. How would it be possible to take a step further? In commissioned works I get the chance and challenge to choreograph from 3 to 100 dancers. The point is to have challenges. Here, at the moment, there is a certain situation and that’s how it will go. One has little to look forward to. If there would be an equivalent of the Avignon festival here, perhaps? When one is faced with a performance venue like the Cour d’honneur du Palais des papes, one knows it cannot be a performance with only three dancers there. I find that the problem with the Greek context and conditions for making dance is the whole system: education, funding, presenting, free market, etc. It is not the artists. Throughout the years I have been in many different levels, creating in very different circumstances, across the whole palette, in a public institution, in festivals. I might not be living in Greece all the time, but I’ve worked here and have my own experiences. As a kind of ‘passerby’ perhaps I am in a lightweight position to see or judge things here. Dance is doing well here, the way it is and accordingly to those who manage the available money for dance. We have the kind of dance of those who hold the power in Greece. That’s what they can do, that’s what we do. That’s it. That’s the kind of mediocracy I’ve experienced. 

Why does your work, your team, matter?

I love dancing very much. And I have already paid a price for making my work, adding something to the socio-political context. It had caused me a lot of pain. Because I never want to make something to just get it over with. I do sometimes have to work under the radar to make something really work. You have to find a way to get things done, according to who you are and your way of doing things; because these are what define you; without getting lost or making too many concessions, to stay at your level. It’s about doing what you think needs to be done. Only in this way can an artist leave their mark, an imprint that matters. So that one can look back and be happy with their mark. I’m forty-eight years old and I have many projects coming up that I have an appetite and the ability for. Keeping your personality and the way you work intact, that’s one’s ‘passport’. I love dancing very much. I prefer to see things done right, things that love the artform of dance. I am afraid that we seem to be after the ‘thing’ that has more publicity, media-coverage and is sold-out. Does it have artistic value though? I say that I love dance. I don’t mean the trailer of the performance or the number of spectators nor the costumes. There are shows that are excellent and haven’t had commercial success. Sometimes there is a mediocre show that is sold out. I feel like we are loosing the essence, the virtual is taking over. I’m a craftsman and it takes a lot of effort to do what I do. It has to be unique and with a lot of work that is its identity; and this is not created by a poster or a trailer.