Questioning the notion of authorship

Stella Dimitrakopoulou

12 April 2014


The first lecture video still: Stella Dimitrakopoulou

Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

My name is Stella Dimitrakopoulou. I am a dancer, performance maker and researcher. I grew up in Athens and I live in London since 2008.

What do you want to question with your current project?

Currently my project is my PhD in ‘Creative Practice: Dance’ at ‘Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance’. I like to think of it as a project; it just makes me want to do it more… Although the word ‘project’ has to do with projection into the future, which makes it sound like ‘never ending’ or ‘without specific ending time’- something that can be really scary, especially regarding a PhD! In my research I am looking at those works that question the notion of authorship. Within this framework I am looking at choreographic works that use pre-existing material (eg. reconstructions/reenactments, copying and remixes), as well as, collaborative modes of production in dance that question the idea of signature and style in a choreographer’s body of work. I am looking at artists such as Jerome Bel, Xavier Le Roy,  Tino Sehgal  (the so-called conceptual dance scene). I am also interested in younger choreographers, collaborations and collectives-  modes of production that are destabilising the notion of authorship. They may not be established in the contemporary dance scene, but often there is more potential there for destabilisation in relation to the established and institutionalised dance scene.

Is there a conceptual dance scene in Greece or in other countries but France?

Unfortunately, I am not really aware of the Greek dance scene. I have been away for a while and I can’t attend performances since I am not here.

Is questioning actually the process?

Questioning can be part of the process and/or the product. But a process is not always and only ‘questioning’, it can also be repeating, exhausting, experimenting with materials, playing etc…

Are you using the principle of improvisation?

I use tasks or structures that allow the use of improvisation for their completion.

Do you want your questions to become the audience’s question?

Not necessarily.

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

Yes, they are looking for something. Not necessarily a message, they might go to see something out of curiosity.  I’m actually  thinking of myself as audience:  I don’t look for a message, but I am looking for something.

Are you interested in the individual?

Yes, not just in my work. But I also think of the individual in relation to a collective or a group. I am also interested in collectivity.

I am a member of  the collective ‘Trio’ which was formed in 2009. The four members of the collective came together during the MA we did at ‘Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance’. We decided to work together for one of our MA modules, which led to our first piece ‘Trio’. The members of the collective are Elena Koukoli, Antje Hildebrandt, Michelle Lynch and myself:  all women, two Greek, one German, one American. We are all based in London apart from Michelle who lives in San Francisco. (

Do you have a specific method?

We have always been using pre-existing works, but still, that’s not something that we have decided that it is part of a specific method that we follow. For instance, in our piece ‘re-re-twothousandth-re’ (2011) we used choreographies from 2003, of different genres:  from Beyonce video clips, to Kathak, to Philippe Decoufle etc; totally different styles. We collected excerpts, edited them and made 3 films out of these materials. Editing was a way of choreographing. Then, in the performance, the three of us were onstage copying the movements from the edited-video which wasn’t visible to the audience. We didn’t learn/memorize/know the choreography we performed,  we were copying it as we were watching it. The same method was used for the creation of my film  ‘Frauen danst Frauen” (2011), a reconstruction of ‘Rosas danst Rosas’ by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. For the creation of this film, me and my mother are copying as accurately as possible the ‘Rosas danst Rosas’ video whilst we are watching it. []

Also, there is a method in the way that we deal with the distribution of the duties. This is very apparent particularly in our first piece called ‘Trio’. ‘Trio’ is a piece for 4 performers but on stage there is always three of us performing and the fourth person takes the place of the director. For the creation and the performance of this piece, all four of us were both directing and performing. Nevertheless, the person who takes the role of the director is not really the director of that section that we see being presented. The aim is to share all roles, rather than distribute the roles: you perform, you do the technical stuff, you do the marketing etc. We all try to do everything.


Stills from videos Frauen danst Frauen (2011), Rosas danst Rosas (1983) (Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker). Edit by Stella Dimitrakopoulou


Do you all perform in all the works?

Not always, especially since Michelle lives in San Francisco. She is usually absent physically but might be part of the work either though recordings or through Skype. Same goes for me, Elena and Antje, when it’s impossible to be all together. Also, when our piece ‘Another Chair Dance (2011)’  was performed in Athens I worked with two dancers from Athens, since I was the only one from our collective that could come here to perform the piece. I think that our works can also be performed by others, I don’t think there is any problem with that.

How would you term/describe your work? for example is it dance theatre?

Each work is different. I like to be open to the materials I use and the ways I work.

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

Yes, there is no rule against the use of language.  For my piece ‘without respect but with love’ (2012) I created a text that was a mixture of pre-existing texts from others (Laurie Anderson, Martin Creed etc) and my own words. Also in my work ‘The first lecture (a performance) or Play-Back’  I worked with the manipulation of language the meaning and the sound of spoken words.

Is text improvised ?

Both improvised and from references. We have also used text created out of other process. If you mean improvised on stage, during the performance, no, not up to now.

Are you an artist?


Are you a  good artist?

You are asking me now, so yes.

Do you like your work? Do you like what you make?

As in ‘Do I like all the work that I have done’? This sounds like asking a ‘Do you like yourself’ kind of question (as was your previous question)… I have a strange relationship to my work, sometimes I like it, sometimes not. As in asking ‘Do you like yourself when you look at yourself in the mirror?’ well, I have good and bad days..  Bottom line, this is not a yes/no question, I like my work otherwise I would have stopped doing it.  At the same time, if I considered my work to be perfect, I would also have possibly stopped making any. My work and my relationship to my work changes, it’s part of the process…

Do others like your work?

Some do.


The first lecture (a performance) (2011) Stills from video, edited by Stella Dimitrakopoulou


Are you happy with how you do things?

This is a bit like a psychological test … as in ‘How do I perceive myself?’ or as in ‘Am I satisfied or dissatisfied’ with..Let’ s not go into this.

Are you teaching workshops?

I teach dance in primary schools and higher education and I teach workshops for actors and dancers.

A few short questions about the elements of a choreographic work:

How do you treat the body in your work?

My work is not purely choreographic and it doesn’t need to address all of the choreographic elements. My work is not  even always on a stage… ‘Which body?of the performer? my body? the audience body?  The body is not expressing something other than what it is doing, in my work.


There are many different times. When I work with pre-existing dance works,  there is also their time, the time that those pieces were created. The audiences perception of time- that is also another time.  I don’t think of time as linear, times overlap…


Space can be the stage, the frame of the camera, the gallery space, the particular site of the performance -as in site-specific works…


Most of the times lighting design is minimal.


A stage is already set, other than the specificities of the space, the set is what is needed to be there.


Yes, in the sense that I think of what I am wearing.

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?


How has that affected you?

Sometimes I don’t go back to it cause I don’t believe in it anymore or I just need a change. Other times I insist in trying to do it. As in life…

What do you wish for?

Wish… A wish doesn’t entail an action. To wish is not to act. To wish for something to happen, is not very proactive. I wish many things, but this is not how I think most of the times. Wishing for something can be nice, light and dreamy, but not very active… I ‘hope’ more than I ‘wish’.


without respect but with love photo: Antigone Avdi




Stella Dimitrakopoulou