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Dance seedlings flower on stage March 27, 2008

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27-03-08_ndt.jpg  Dance magic. Jiri Kylian’s “Toss of a Dice”. Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon’s “Silent Screen”. The Nederlands Danse Theater at the Athens Concert Hall for performances on 27, 28, 29 and 30 March at 21:oo hours.

A dozen dancers gaze into space while their bodies stand motionless like Japanese symbols on stage. Susumu Shingu’s striking sculpture is suspended from the roof, conveying the feeling that we are facing the dancers of the future. That is choreographer Jiri Kylian’s «Toss of a Dice», but he has more surprises in store. The famous Nederlands Danse Theater is set to present a highly interesting program at the Athens Concert Hall until Sunday, starting tonight. The Dutch company, one of the world’s most acclaimed and popular dance ensembles, will perform choreographies by Kylian as well as by his younger colleagues Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon.

The Nederlands Danse Theater, especially its main section, NDT I, has visited Athens in the past. This week, local audiences will be able to enjoy its new face, meaning its new generation of dancers.

The program features two choreographies, one by Lightfoot and Leon and another by Kylian. Both premiered in the Hague in April 2005. Earlier in the season they had been forced to cancel a big tour in the Far East. To have an unpredictable, mid-season change is a nightmare for any artistic director; but on the other hand it can provide opportunities. So they decided to give their main choreographers an extended period of time, which in turn led to the program that it will be staged in Athens.

Lightfoot and Leon’s «Silent Screen» is inspired by silent cinema. Although there is no specific plot, the choreography is like a narrative. The music is by Philip Glass. As for Jiri Kylian, his work in general is inspired by Japanese culture. «Toss of a Dice» is no exception – here Kylian worked with Japanese artist Susumu Shingu, whose sculpture features prominently on the sets and has a direct influence on the stage and the dancers’ relationship with it.

Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali Street and Vasilissis Sophias Avenue, Athens.


“Tosca” at the Olympia Theater March 22, 2008

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22-03-08_tosca.jpg  A poster for the performance.

Yet another premiere of Puccini’s popular opera “Tosca” by the National Opera has created a marvelous feeling of anticipation among fans of the genre.

Last night at the Olympia Theater, the Chairman of the Opera’s Board, Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, and the Opera’s Artistic Director Giovanni Pacor were present when the curtain went up. Official guests were shown to their seats in the presidential box by Maria Karanagnosti. In the interval and after the performance, the foyer was abuzz with members of the audience exchanging impressions.

Seats can be booked by calling 210 3612461, or, for National Opera subscribers, 210 3623404. National Opera of Greece, Olympia Theater, 59 Academias Street, Athens. 

Related Links > http://www.nationalopera.gr

Exploring love in dance in Aphrodite’s loveland, Cyprus March 15, 2008

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The 8th Annual Contemporary Dance Platform > Mid-March marks the beginning of the dance season with the Annual Contemporary Dance Platform taking place at the Rialto Theatre in Limassol, Cyprus.

Three evenings, March 14, 15, and 16 will serve to showcase new works from local choreographers. In the eight years that the platform has been taking place it has gained respectability and stature in the local community and every year the organisers add a new feature. This year, the regular programme will be accompanied by a new programme entitled “Dance Throughout the Year” offered at the new Dance House Lemesos, allowing foreign festival presenters that visit a glimpse in to works that are created during the entire year.

The first evening will open with a performance by Dance Theater Interact with choreography by Victoria Fillipou Aristidou entitled “About Us”. The work is performed by three women Marina Kyriakidou, Arianna Marcoulidou, and Fillipou. Each woman is consumed by a different prop representing different stages and preoccupations in women’s lives. The piece is accompanied by a video created by Michalis Aristidou and Markos Panayiotou.

Milena Ugren Koulas’ new work “Nothing” for Jeunesses Musicales carries her signature choreographic style, however this solo has a slightly different air. She explains that the solo was a result of her boredom with herself, with having nothing to say, being emotionally and choreographically consumed and exhausted. In result the work is based on a simple ideal – a few effective motifs, linear floor and movement patterns. An exposed, vulnerable performer with a refreshing honesty, Ugren shows a bird-like delicacy and subdued aggression.

Showing work for the first time at the Platform is Aelion Dance Company with choreography by Alexia and Fotini Perdikaki and Maria Mavromichali. “21 minutes” is a work about relationships between genders and different understandings that may occur. Set on six dancers, the three choreographers and Marianna Dimou, Fani Efthymiou, and Suzanna Fialla, the piece is stylised, subtle, and feminine. It is a carefully choreographed dance that holds somatic expression at its core, intermixed with clever moments of theatrical installations.

The second evening of the festival will open at the Dance House Lemesos with two works. Milena Ugren Koulas will show “While Walking” at 18:30, followed by “Heart Time” a work by Lia Haraki and Machi Demetriou Lindahl. Ugren premiered the piece last year at the Platform as a trio and has reworked it into a solo that she has performed at a number of European festivals. Haraki and Lindahl showed their work at the Dance House in November as the first official performance in the space. It is a wonderful alternative dance theatre work exploring different ideas and shapes of love in moving, funny and poignant ways.

Four companies will present work at the Rialto on the Saturday night, starting with Evie Demetriou’s work “Give Me Not” for Omada En Drasei. The duet between the choreographer and Victoria Fillipou Aristidou focuses on the emotional impositions present in a relationship. This is literally represented by props, which form a pile that is passed between the dancers or placed on each other, which in turn forms an obstruction for them and on them. The partnering begins with a gestural conversation that develops into physical partnering that involves manipulations, lifts and throws, falling and sliding.

Echo Arts will present choreography by Arianna Economou “If Not for You” for four performers. Performed by a mixture of trained dancers and non-dancers the work is an exploration of sound, spoken word and movement with text written by Pantelis Georgiou for the particular performance. As usual Economou’s work will involve a multi-disciplinary approach based on improvisation and experimental choreographic methods.

After last year’s absence, Chorotheatro Amfidromo will show a new work “So Close, So Far” by Elena Christodoulidou. Judging from her description of the piece, the work explores a loss of memory in a person and its affect on the ageing mind and body.

Closing the evening will be Elena Antoniou, a performer we’ve been watching for many years, but this year’s offering is her first as choreographer. Her work “This is what you Get” created in collaboration with Polys Peslikas serving as an artistic advisor, is an everyday love story – a meeting, development of a relationship, and its possible failure. The work combines dance with theatrical installation moments, introducing “other” characters with props and lights. A great selection of music accompanies the solo allowing Antoniou to vary technical dance movement with stylised social dancing and her great ability as a theatrical performer.

The last evening will also begin at Dance House with a short dance video “The Only On(c)e” by Christodoulos Christodoulou at 19:00, followed by a new solo “Body Memory 1. Angel” by Machi Demetriou Lindahl.

At 20:30 the last evening of the platform will begin with a performance by Chorotheatro Omada Pente with “Threefold” by Roula Kleovolou. Set on three dancers – Chloi Melidou, Arianna Marcoulides, and Milena Ugren Koulas – the piece seeks to explore the ideas of borders. Borders are interpreted literally and metaphorically, by props, lights, movement, choreographic patterns and the spoken word. Kleovoulou’s work is straightforward, simple and effective which allows her to convey her emotional and psychological ideas.

Alexandra Waierstall’s new work “Terminus” will follow. It is the final installment in the trilogy of works entitled “A Human Study”, which began with a solo “Affect” shown at the platform two years ago, then followed by a duet “Between” presented last year. Waierstall’s has found a clear choreographic voice in the last few years beginning with “Affect” so it will be interesting to see how this piece with the magnificent Evangelia Randou, Christos Papadopoulos, and the choreographer herself will develop from the previous works. As a continuation of the duet “Between”, this piece will show an opposition to the calmness and quiet tension shown there by introducing a clash between characters.

The evening will finish with works by Athena Christodoulou for Soma Dance Company and Elena Kyprianou, a first time presenter at the Platform, for En Choro. Both women will present solos. “Utopia” combines dance performance with a video installation. In her solo Christodoulou examines ideas of performance, exposing oneself as an artist and a person whilst trying to hold on to the magic of creativity and performance.

The platform is a good opportunity to see how contemporary dance in Cyprus is developing. It offers an overview of the choreographic and performance level available in Cyprus. Most pieces premier at the platform and continue to grow and improve in the following performances.

An exhibition showing photographs by Christos Avraamides and drawings and video by Horst Waisterstall at the nearby Artstudio 55 will take place alongside performances. The platform is a popular event so make sure you book your tickets early.

Related Links > http://www.rialto.com.cy/

Agnes Baltsa to perform Rossini at the Megaron March 14, 2008

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“L’Italiana in Algeri” opens tomorrow at the Athens Concert Hall’s Alexandra Trianti Hall

At the Athens Concert Hall, Gioachino Rossini’s “L’Italiana in Algeri” has been revived by Diana Kienast, based on a landmark 1987 mise en scene by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.

This year is a landmark for the famous Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa as it marks an anniversary: In 1968, she made her first appearance as Cherubino in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” at the Frankfurt Opera House. That was the beginning of a great career. Her collaborations with top maestro Herbert von Karajan, who described her as the greatest dramatic mezzo-soprano of her time, and her numerous performances of “Carmen”, mostly alongside Jose Carreras, are just some of her many great moments.

Baltsa has a special relationship with Gioachino Rossini’s opera buffs, having appeared in leading roles in his “Barber of Seville”, “La Cenerentola” and “L’Italiana in Algeri” – the latter of which she is preparing to perform at the Athens Concert Hall. Tomorrow, as well as on March 17, 19 and 21, the Alexandra Trianti Hall will host “L’Italiana in Algeri”, in a production in which Diana Kienast will revive Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s historical mise en scene. Ponnelle’s 1987 production featured Baltsa and Ruggero Raimondi in the leading roles under acclaimed maestro Claudio Abbado. Ponnelle also left his signature on the sets, lighting and the costumes, as the great artist viewed the staging of the famous opera as an entire work of art.

13-03-08_agnes_baltsa.jpg  “The role of Isabella is one of the greatest roles of my career” said Baltsa at a recent press conference. “But every time feels like the first time. It is like a wager with myself, to see how my voice has changed through the years. Rossini demands great vocal discipline”.

“L’Italiana in Algeri” premiered in Venice on May 22, 1813. It was the first opera, along with “Tancredi”, that earned Rossini international fame. Based on a libretto by Angelo Anelli, the opera follows Elvira’s romantic adventures at the palace of the Turkish Bey of Algiers. It has a craziness highly indicative of Rossini’s comic operas.

The Athens Concert Hall production will further feature baritone Lorenzo Regazzo, tenor Mario Zeffiri, baritone Renato Girolami and soprano Vassiliki Karayianni, who recently performed in Rossini’s “Le Compte Ory” with the Greek National Opera, among others. The Athens State Orchestra will participate, under the baton of Antonello Allemandi.

Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali Street and Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7282333.

Related Links > http://www.megaron.gr

Athens pulling on its dancing shoes March 10, 2008

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The Griffon Dance Company is staging “One Flesh”, choreographed by Ioanna Portolou, at the company’s studio in Plaka every weekend until the end of March.

With spring almost upon us, the Athens dance scene is slowly emerging from hibernation. It won’t be long before the well-established dance festival by the Association of Greek Choreographers takes place once more. Major foreign dance companies including the Nederlands Dans Theater and Diversions of Wales, are expected to perform toward the end of the month. Yet right now the spring’s first shows are being held by two local dance companies.

Well-known choreographer Ioanna Portolou and her Griffon Company have this time chosen their studio in Syntagma Square to stage their latest production. Portolou never ceases to amaze the audience with movement inspired by gestures and reflections of daily life as well as special musical choices and interesting clothes. “One Flesh” staged every weekend until the end of March, was inspired by the wedding ritual and explores the concept of that union of lovers. How can two people become one peacefully? To become one, must the other person exist or must they be made to disappear? What is the “male” role and what the “female”? In that role-playing game, what belongs to which parter? All these questions are explored in the performance.

Equally interesting questions and suggestions are sought by the newly founded Angeloskoni Dance Company, which will stage Angeliki Papadatou’s “Fotosoma” from March 15 to 18 at the Ledra Theater in Plaka. The production is a joint collaboration by the Athens School of Fine Arts Photography Workshop and Very Special Arts Hellas. Photographers and dancers, some with disabilities, meet on stage and try to find their own identities using the visual and aesthetic perception of their bodies as the starting point.

What is our true image? How do we perceive ourselves? How do others see us? These are definitely ideas well worth exploring.

Griffon Dance Company, 23 Apollonos Street, Syntagma Square, Athens, tel 6932436034.

Ledra Theater, 12 Kekropos Street, Plaka, Athens, tel 210 3245969.

Mamma Mia! soon to be here March 7, 2008

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On the eve of her wedding, the daughter of a tavern-running Englishwoman who resides on a Greek island embarks on a quest to discover the identity of her father. She invites three men from her mother’s past back to the island, which they last visited 20 years ago. Named after ABBA’s all-time classic “Mamma Mia”, Catherine Johnson’s hilarious tale of love and friendship that has mesmerised over 30 million people since its London premiere in 1999 makes it to Athens in May for 24 shows.

A global smash hit that has played in 160 cities over the last eight years, grossing over 2 billion dollars in earnings, Mamma Mia! owes a great deal of its success to its soundtrack, which features ABBA pop chart-toppers “Dancing Queen”, “Knowing Me, Knowing You”, “Money, Money, Money” and “The Winner Takes It All”.

“Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson’s tunes wrote history in pop music. Our production wrote history in the musical theatre genre,” Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd points out.

Currently playing in London, New York, Las Vegas, Spain, Germany, Russia and Korea, the work’s Athens production is part of an international tour that has visited 22 countries since 2004. Ulvaeus, who was present at a February 19 press meeting, said that Greece is the ideal choice as the work’s protagonist Donna is a characteristic persona on every Greek island. He said that the work’s lasting appeal can be put down to a constant effort to keep it up-to-date and to include references to the country the work travels to every time.

Asked about the chances of witnessing an ABBA reunion in the near future, Ulvaeus said: “Who would want to see four 68-year-olds on stage?” He added that he is still surprised by the group’s lasting success over the years and referred to ABBA’s costumes as “an expression of bad taste at its height”, which nevertheless was in accord with the Eurovision contest dress code and the glamorous 1970s.

The Greek show of Mamma Mia! comes shortly before the official London launching on July 1 of the film Mamma Mia! starring Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan and partly filmed in the Sporades islands, Greece.

Mamma Mia! > Badminton Theatre, Alsos Stratou, Goudi, Athens for 24 shows starting May 6. Tickets range from 20 to 85 euros and are available from Virgin Megastores, Ticketnet, 46 Kifissias Street, Athens, tel 210 8840600. Credit card reservations on 210 8840600 and www.ticketnet.gr

Operetta journey to heart of Athenian Belle Epoque March 4, 2008

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“‘Thymisou ekeina ta chronia” – “Remember those years” – returns to the Athens Acropol Theater. Audiences are flocking to the Acropol Theater for a production featuring works by Theofrastos Sakellaridis.

Four times a week taxis and private cars drop off their passengers on the Ippocratous sidewalk: well-groomed ladies and gentlemen somewhere in the over-50s age group. Clad in their felt hats and pearls, this almost-exiled-from-Athenian-nightlife world swiftly takes its place at the Acropol Theater this season, for a tribute to Theofrastos Sakellaridis (1883-1950), the so-called patriarch of Greek operetta.

Not unlike a high-school reunion, from Wednesdays to Sundays the most homogeneous public to be seen at an Athenian foyer has been passionately supporting the Greek National Opera’s most popular production this year. Performances of “Thymisou ekeina ta chronia” (Remember Those Years) run to April 20.

Following a break last year, the operetta is back in the National Opera’s repertory. And what a comeback it is: “Thymisou ekeina ta chronia” is a highly satisfying medley undertaken by musicologist Lambros Liavas, who put together the show following elaborate research on both a historic and music level.

Developed from scratch, the production is based on a dramatized narration-guided tour undertaken by the composer himself (interpreted at the Acropol by Michalis Mitrousis), who is accompanied by two of his muses, namely Marika Kotopouli and Afroditi Laoutari. On stage, the story is told backward, with Sakellaridis appearing on New Year’s Eve in 1950, just prior to his death, before going all the way back to the heart of the Athenian Belle Epoque.

At the Acropol Theater, the operetta’s dynamic comeback is based on new terms. The requirements here were straightforward: What was needed was a new point of view, far from the kind of approach that treats operetta productions as if they belong in museums.

Hence the involvement of Liavas and choreographer Apostolia Papadamaki, the latter invited to participate even though she had no prior experience in this particular artistic genre.

“I had never been to an operetta production before,” confesses Papadamaki. When asked, however, she agreed without too much hesitation. To begin with, her decision to join in had a lot to do with the presence of Liavas, with whom she worked on the production’s direction. Another reason behind her decision is that she tends to perform well when entering unknown territory.

“Staging something postmodern in Athens right now does not seem like a real challenge to me,” says Papadimaki, adding, “I enjoyed working on a project that targets an audience which is being offered very little in terms of nightlife.”

At the Acropol, the new wind is blowing discreetly with modern, minimalist tendencies in the settings, lighting and costumes, while the orchestration flirts with jazz and swing. Papadamaki sought to strike a balance between the old and the new, as opposed to pursuing a subversive take. And she cannot hide her satisfaction given the slight drop in the audience’s average age. Will the first emos turn up next year?

Greek National Opera, Acropol Theater, National Opera New Stage, 9-11 Ippocratous Street, Athens, tel 210 3643700.