DANCE IN GREECE TODAY by Megas Mentie & Tsintziloni Steriani

At first glance, dance in Greece seems to be thriving. There are several festivals that are well received by the public and host a wide range of performances by Greek companies, a fair number of which receive state funding and produce at least one performance per year. Participating in these performances are energetic and talented young Greek dancers, who do very well in foreign companies and teach in the everincreasing number of dance studios in the centre of Athens. At the same time, dance schools for amateurs are very popular and growing in number. A closer look, however, reveals that all the above are hanging from a thin thread, and this thread is the love and zeal shown by the dance community for their art. Most festivals spend the whole year agonizing about whether their next event is going to be funded; choreographers are forced to make tremendous compromises in relation to their work and dancers still work for a pittance, putting at risk their health and artistic integrity. And although, in practice, as shown above, dance seems to be surviving, on a theoretical level, its birth has yet to take place. It has made a timid entry into university studies, but there is still
no university department in Greece that can offer a degree in dance or a dance-related theoretical subject. On the other hand, the public has the opportunity to see a substantial number of performances, some good, some mediocre, some of low quality and interest. After the Olympic Games, Athens 2004, which were for various reasons a reference point for dance in Greece, we are, it seems, at a crucial turning point.
The artistic scene in Greece at the moment is complex and the abundance of its expressions and manifestations makes it difficult to give a detailed picture here. If we consider the 20th century to have been a century of borrowing, the challenge for the new century would be not to tag along behind but to develop a dynamic and original dance scene that would evolve in parallel to that of the rest of the world and especially Europe. Of course, this has been an aim for Greek art throughout its modern history, but today’s globalised cultural landscape renders it even more urgent. Reaching the end of the first decade of the millennium, it is difficult to give a thorough and constructive account of Greece’s contemporary dance status since there are two prevailing views: the nihilistic view that unfairly disregards any steps forward that have, undoubtedly, been made; and the romantically patriotic view that the dance scene has
veritably thrived over the past few years, as a result of the impressive process of rebirth that it has undergone. This last view is encountered mainly in retrospective texts read on the occasion of big cultural events, but it does not attempt a deeper analysis and does not employ criteria of comparison with the developments of dance worldwide.
The first view on the other hand, the nihilistic one, both rigid and unconstructive, derives from a pessimistic notion of Greece as an eternally inferior country as far as modern culture is concerned. Whether or not this last decade has been a period of prosperity, it remains an undeniable fact that any references apply almost exclusively to the capital, Athens, with Salonika (Greece’s second largest city) following as a dignified but limited contributor. This is wholly due to the failure of the state to create circumstances and incentives for decentralisation in dance; it is over-centralisation that has made dance initiatives from the rest of the country weak or non-existent. It should be said, though, that the same situation is true for virtually any cultural expression in Greece; decentralisation is a goal that the state needs to address urgently.

If dance for the stage in Greece has a limited history, the way this history has been recorded and analysed is even more limited. During the first three quarters of the 20th century, there were five or six important figures whose actions, ideas and research played a determining role in today’s dance scene. This short list of names contains the founder of the State School of Dance Koula Pratsika, the founder of the first prestigious dance company in Greece, Rallou Manou, the famous choreographer Zouzou Nikoloudi and others. Very often this generation of choreographers and teachers is referred to with a slightly exaggerated awe that is partly due to the strong respect felt for their persons by the newer generations and partly a symptom of political correctness. At the same time, though, we come across the other extreme, people who judge them very harshly, with a steadfast intention to demerit them. This last tendency, however, does not take into consideration the special circumstances of the Greek situation. It does not seek out the reasons for the country's artistic conservatism in its social and political
structures, but attributes it to the specific artist’s incompetence or lack of dance education. The weakness of critical speech in general is felt very strongly in the dance world and results in a situation where most criticism has a personal tone and the value of anything and everything varies according to personal opinion. An indicative piece of information regarding the level of critical speech for dance is that up until the 90s reviews for dance performances were written by the musical editors in newspapers and magazines; this also points to the very close relationship dance has always had withmusic in Greece, a relationship mostly of dependency.
Given the difficulty of analysing the early and mid 20th century dance scene, the evaluation of what is called ‘the flourishing of dance’ that has taken place in the more recent history also proves problematic. The limited critical texts that exist are flawed by fundamentalism and have left choreographers and audiences at the mercy of narrowly subjective and superficial evaluation. This has made it difficult to spot promising and subversive choreographic propositions, when they were still in their infancy and to then financially and otherwise support their further artistic development. Also, it has led to – what I would call – an automated process that favours conservative and "safe" choreographic propositions; those that please big institutions and lure big audiences.
Let us not forget the claim that every development in the history of modern art was accompanied by an analogous development in theoretical reflection and writing. If this is correct, then we could, with a certain anachronistic optimism, assume that during the last twenty years there have been performances or choreographers that have had a seed of originality, but which, were unfortunately not appreciated or given the chance to reach fruition, owing to the absence of a theoretical framework for their creation.

For the year 2005-2006 the Ministry of Culture, the State institution responsible for dance funding, distributed the amount of 519.500 Euros to 31 dance companies. The highest subsidy amounted to 32.000 and was given to Mr.Papaioannou, the director of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Athens Olympic Games, and the second largest amount of 27 thousand went to two companies. From then on comes a list of about 24 companies that got between 15 and 21 thousand Euros and finally three small new companies that got 7.500 Euros. Apart from these private dance groups, there is the ballet company of the National Opera in Athens that has recently begun a process of radical reform, attempting to experiment with modern repertoire and give the opportunity to young choreographers to create dance pieces for the company. The
dance company of The National Theatre of Northern Greece also underwent a similar process a few years ago and made a big opening towards contemporary dance, but unfortunately, the lack of a specific policy left it exposed to administrative changes and commercial demands. The third company that is linked to a state institution is the Hellenic Dance Company, which resides at the State School of Dance in Athens. This group has been working on an experimental level for the last few years, but was only recently given official recognition, along the principles of well known companies for young dancers belonging to big European contemporary dance schools.
Attempting to pinpoint the most characteristic trait of the recent dance scene in Greece, I single out the impressive growth in the number of dance companies and the persistent lack of dance institutions, resulting in a greater number of small budget performances. This difficult situation arises from the lack of a specific cultural policy on the part of recent governments. With regard to dance, this has resulted in the difficulty of planning ahead, the misuse of what can only be described as the meagre funding set aside for dance, the problematic area of dance education and the very limited presence of Greek dance abroad.
During the first years of the new millennium, the dance world went through a phase of stagnation, as far as political will was concerned, owing to the concentration of interest, and of course funding, on the forthcoming Olympic Games, Athens 2004. The current Minister of Culture, has so far shown willingness to create an institutional base and allot responsibility to those closely involved, especially through the setting up of advisory committees. It seems that the Minister’s policy is to allow the dance field to selfregulate, both as far as managing its capital and mapping out its policy are concerned.
Last year, the Ministry of Culture announced the founding of a National Centre for Theatre and Dance, which will operate along the lines of two existing centres (for Book and Film). The bill for this centre was passed by Parliament in mid May, after a long period of negotiation and stalling. A great deal of hope has been invested in this institution, which will hopefully give the dance world the space to breathe that it has been denied for so long. Its aim is to put dance (and theatre) issues into order, and end the random and fragmentary moves that have up to now characterised the development of these two arts in Greece. It also aspires to play an important role in the planning and application of a national policy for dance and the theatre. The Centre’s domain of responsibility will span theoretical research, multimedia records of all dance related events, the appointment of committees in charge of distributing the subsidies
to dance companies and the promotion of Greek productions abroad. It will also support research into theatrical and dance forms, ranging from traditional and folk culture to that of the avant-garde, experimental and all contemporary creation. On the whole the artistic community of Greece awaits this new institution with eager expectation.
The Ministry of Culture has also announced another initiative concerning an ‘Academy of Arts’ – it may come as a surprise to some that Greece still does not have one. It had been announced that such an academy, which would specialise in music, theatre, dance and film, would open its doors to students in the autumn of 2008, after a test period of one year, but that was not the case. We can only hope that the bill will be passed by the Greek parliament soon, and that its test period will start this autumn. An academy seems to be necessary in that it will fill an enormous gap in the field of dance education, but – and this is its biggest drawback - it will not offer the equivalent of a university degree course.
Another move that is awaited with expectation by the Greek dance world is the designation of a theatre specialised in hosting dance performances. A few months ago, the ministry of culture announced it would allocate the celebrated Embros theatre in Athens, for this purpose, which is a step in the right direction but by no means an adequate one. At present, there is no theatre in Greece that is fully devoted to and equipped for dance performances that can offer opportunities to young people with no funding to make their first attempt at choreography.

The Greek dance scene, and every country’s dance scene for that matter, has certai distinguishing features that have to be taken into consideration in any attempt to make a historical analysis. For example, even though it has an extremely rich and diverse tradition of folk dance, Greece does not have a tradition in stage dance in the form that it started to appear in Europe during the reign of Louis XIV in France. Another distinguishing feature to consider is the great cultural heritage of the nation's ancient history, the Byzantine age and the folk culture of the last centuries. Modern Greek artists have responded to this historical weight in a variety of ways: some with apprehension, some with mimetic worship and others with a phobic denial or rejection.
The notion of ‘Greekness’ became a serious issue in all the arts during the first decades of the 20th century, and especially for the literary movement known as ‘the generation of the 30s’. The debate generated strongly influenced dance and prompted it to seek interesting collaborations with artists in other fields of art. At the same time though, dance was drawn away from the directions it was taking worldwide towards abstraction and radical, non-narrative forms. To quote two of the dance critic's, Natasha Hasioti’s,expressions, ‘pompous Greekness’ and the ‘quaint regionality’ that this search for ‘Greekness’ sometimes resulted in, still plague Greek dance today and keep it a captive of out-of-date and retrogressive ideas. Today, when the reflection on issues of tradition and history has been enriched with new parameters and subtle nuances, coming from the fields of anthropology, sociology and psychology, the notion of ‘Greekness’ could perhaps come to signify a fresh approach to dance, evolving into a contemporary aesthetic, far from stereotypes and introvert nationalistic ideas.
If contemporary dance worldwide is starting to bring back forms and approaches that 20th century modernism had exiled from art, then in our country it feels more like continuing along a well-known pathway than a return to something long-forgotten. I say ‘continuing’, because Greek dance did not experience the violent rupture induced by modernism, which has altered the standing of the contemporary artist, has shifted his point of view and enriched it with unforeseen parameters. We can safely say that Greek dance (with of course a few exceptions), never really gave up the narrative form, never really embraced abstraction to the extent that we could discuss a radical exploration of form and movement. Given however, the circular movement that characterises the evolution of the arts, during the last few years Greece’s orbit seems to have synchronised itself with that of Europe, so that as far as aesthetics and influences are concerned, our cultural fields seem to be in fertile communication with each other.
Influences from the European scene in general and especially the German dance theatre, and more recently the Flemish school, are easily observable in the work of many Greek dance companies. In many cases however, the lack of theoretical grounding and stimuli combined with the difficult conditions under which they were created still leave their mark, especially as far as content and dramaturgy are concerned.
For many reasons, including low budgets, many recent performances have been solo pieces or duets performed in highly visual and usually ultra modern spaces. According to dance critic Climentini Vounelaki, the ‘installation’ aesthetic has attracted many Greek choreographers during the last years. As it is a form that makes the human body the focal point, providing it with a surrounding that lends it meaning, one could say that it is less demanding as far as dramaturgical processing is concerned. This leads Mrs. Vounelaki to discern a ‘mood of isolation’, along with ‘a preference for form at the expense of meaning’. The paradox is that although the body is put under the spotlight, a ‘decline of the senses seems to be permeating and de-energising the dance scene, and leading it to a dead-end of ‘aesthetisism’’.
Over the last few months a small number of young people who have done theoretical studies in dance abroad have undertaken a significant initiative in collaboration with certain choreographers and the Isadora Duncan Dance Centre in Athens, to bring forth the role of dramaturgy in the contemporary creative process. Through seminars and a formal meeting on this subject, all interested parties had the opportunity to come into contact with some of the most influential practitioners in the field of dramaturgy in Europe.

During the ‘80s, the mediocre quality of dance performances in Greece was attributed mainly to the dancers' technical and interpretational weaknesses. However, this is not the case today; indeed one could claim almost the opposite. On the whole, Greek dancers today undergo rigorous training, which equips them with a high level of technical and expressive ability. Many, having completed their main training in Greece, go abroad for post-graduate studies or to start their career. Over the last few years, many Greek dancers have joined prestigious foreign dance groups in Europe and America, working for choreographers like William Forsythe, Wim Vanderkeybus, Jan Fabre and Pina Bausch, to mention only a few, and thus creating important links of communication between Greece and many other countries. As the big companies, both abroad and in Greece, grow older, many dancers strike out on their own, to create their own groups from the position of choreographer. Their long experience is thus channelled into their own performances usually in the form of a rich movement vocabulary, wide-ranging in historical references and new influences.
During the 90s, and as the number of dance companies and performances grew dramatically, the lack of male dancers made itself felt. Coinciding with this lack, the wave of refugees from Albania reached a peak and also left its mark on the Greek dance scene. A substantial number of male dancers, who had studied in the State Academy of Dance in Albania, appeared on the scene, giving dance a small but, at that time, very much needed impetus for the next few years. Today, the situation seems to be changing fast as the number of male dancers is continually increasing and the age at which they begin dance is decreasing. Two phenomena are quite indicative of these changes: firstly the definite rise in the number of applications made by young boys for professional dance schools, and secondly a substantial inflow of men into dance from other areas of artistic expression, like the theatre.
I would like to say here that the gender issues arising in connection with dance in Greece are of great interest, as it is country with a strong patriarchal tradition within the family and other social structures. The feminist movement, although it existed and, in some instances, was quite active, did not manage to make a significant mark on the history of the 20th century, or provide a point of reference for arts and culture in general. This is a very complex question, which cannot be sufficiently addressed here.
The truth is that everyday life is difficult for the Greek dancer, both male and female.
The majority of dancers are very poorly paid; they work without insurance and have no financial support between projects. In order to survive in their field, they are obliged to have two or three jobs simultaneously, and make their daily programme as if it were a puzzle that needed to be solved in order to incorporate rehearsals, teaching, performances and (if they are lucky) a class for maintaining their own fitness. It is obvious that this life style has repercussions on their performance and often takes away the joy and contentment of creation. At the moment, there are about seven or eight dance companies that pay their dancers respectable wages, in most cases thanks more to the institutions or production companies with which they collaborate, than the state subsidies themselves. But generally, the contribution of dancers to the development of dance has not been adequately acknowledged in Greece, even though their role is continually upgraded in contemporary choreographic processes.
The situation for Greek choreographers is not much easier. In 1999, choreographers organised their first union, mainly with a view to pressurising the state into satisfying some of their demands, rather than functioning as a labour union. Today, it has seventy-five members and has successfully secured government funding for the ‘month of dance’, a festival presented later on in this text. Dance companies generally consist only of the choreographer and his or her dancers and are seldom organised in a manner that would free the choreographer from managerial work. This means that many choreographers have to do literally everything within the production of their piece, resulting in the first compromises in the quality of their work. In most cases, therefore choreographers are in the difficult position of not being able to offer what they would like to their dancers and collaborators, but are obliged to proceed with the
production of their piece, since their only other alternative is not to work at all. The adhoc nature of relations within the field of dance is reinforced by the fact that it is difficult for choreographers to organise auditions, since no funding is available for this, so in most cases they choose their dancers by watching other choreographers’ performances.
In the year 2004, the Olympic Games, gave many dancers a financial breather, as great amounts of capital were allocated for the Opening and Closing ceremonies. At the same time, many dancers and choreographers had the opportunity to work for various peripheral happenings that took place in Athens and other cities, which were aimed at enriching the ‘Olympic experience’.

All the Festivals presenting here are financially supported by the Ministry of Culture directly or indirectly through local authorities. Some of them were also initiated by the State. In addition all of them are supported by private sponsors.
The older Festival in the country is the Hellenic Festival, formerly Athens Festival, which was founded in 1955 by the Ministry of State. It is an artistic festival, not exclusively orientated toward dance, which at the beginning had an extreme contribution to the cultural life of the country. Until the ‘90s this festival was the only organization presenting the international scene to the Greek audience. Concerning dance, major international companies, ranging from ballet to modern and postmodern dance have being presented (such as Maurice Bejar, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Pina Bausch, Bolshoi Ballet, Opera de Paris et.al). Greek dance was presenting selectively and the choices included mainly ballet (the National Opera) or folk companies. An artistic crisis was obvious during the ‘90s leading to radical changes in the organization almost ten years later. In 2006 a new phase started for the Festival, more attuned to worldwide contemporary developments, and with an innovative philosophy which attracted
younger audience. Contemporary dance, from Greece and abroad, has now a central position in this context. The Festival not only presents major contemporary dance productions, but also, through its particular multidisciplinary avant-garde philosophy, reveals the importance of dance within interdisciplinary contexts. It uses a variety of venues in Athens, from the prestigious Odeon of Herodes Atticus to a former factory in Peiraios street and the Benaki Museum, and it, also, organises educational activities. www.greekfestival.gr
The Kalamata International Dance Festival (KIDF) is the first international festival dedicated exclusively to dance in the country, and it is also, the institution which by its actions redefined the role of a festival in the country. It came into life in the spring of 1995 with a profile “open to a diverse range of dance styles and far from the logic of exclusion… In its programme co-exist Greek and international companies, while seminars, workshops, lectures and parallel events also take place”. (Programmes of the KIDF). It is organised by the Kalamata International Dance Centre, an initiation of the Ministry of Culture, and uses diverse venues of the city of Kalamata, from the Castle amphitheatre to a school gym. The KIDF has presented acclaimed international contemporary companies, many of them for the first time in Greece. It is the Festivalwhich introduced Trisha Brown, Twyla Tharp, Meg Stuart, Wim Vandekeybus, JeromeBel et.al to the Greek audience. It has also supported Greek dance production by commissions and co-productions, an arts policy unknown for a Festival in Greece of that time. It was also organised during the Festival educational activities, with foreign teachers and workshops with the artists participating in the Festival. www.kalamatadancefestival.gr
The Athens International Dance Festival, founded in 2002, is organised by the Cultural Organisation of the Municipality of Athens and it is focused on contemporary dance from the national and international scene. This Festival, also, has made the decision to build its reputation on presenting artists for the fist time in Greece. Its venue is one of the most interesting sites of Athens, the old gas factory which was restored into a cultural site named ‘technopolis’ (city of culture). It also gives opportunities to younger artists to present their work, while it organises dance seminars and parallel events.
VideoDance festival started in 2000, as part of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Soon, it widened up to include more experimental films on movement and the moving image. The main festival consists of films from all over the world presented in thematic programmes, while retrospectives like those on the works by Maya Deren (2003), give the Greek audience an opportunity to contact the first attempts of the experimental non-narrative cinema which use movement as its main source. www.filmfestival.gr/videodance
The Dance Festival of the Association of Greek Choreographers, started in 2002, as an action organized by the Association of Greek Choreographers and supported by the Ministry of Culture. It is an annual event presenting exclusively Greek companies in several venues in Athens. In addition, trying to support the promotion of Greek dance abroad the Association initiated in 2004 the Dance Platform. This is a showcase, organised biannually in collaboration with the Athens Concert Hall, aiming to present Greek dance to foreign promoters and critics. Finally, the Association organises the Dance Panorama, a condensed presentation of short versions of productions, aiming to familiarise the general public with the choreographic production of the country.

The history of contemporary dance in Greece can be assumed to begin with the foundation of the first professional dance school by Koula Pratsika, a key figure for contemporary dance in Greece. The School was first founded in 1930 as an amateur dance school and it acquired the status of professional in 1937. In 1970, Koula Pratsika donated her private school to the Greek State, and thus, in 1973 the only State School of Dancing in Greece started to operate.
Dance Education in Greece is orientated towards training dancers, teachers and choreographers, meaning practitioners. Students in all professionals dance schools are accepted after their graduation from secondary education, meaning that they are at least seventeen years old, unless they choose the dancer’s degree. In this case they must be graduates of Gymnasium, meaning around fifteen years old. The majority of professional dance schools (seven in Athens and three in Thessaloniki) are private institutions, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, and they operate based on a curriculum similar to that of the State School of Dance (1983). The curriculum includes both practical and theoretical subjects, however, its application varies according to the philosophy of each school. It is almost clear a division between private schools which in their majority seem to represent a ballet orientation and the State School which has amodern dance philosophy (Lyra, 1992:19)1. There are, of course, exceptions to this division, as for example the Rallou Manou Professional Dance School, which had a historical connection to modern dance since its foundation (1951).
Undergraduate or postgraduate dance degrees in an academic context do not exist.
There are however dance subjects taught at a University level, usually in Theatre Departments, and dance anthropology, focusing on folk dance, is included in Physical Education and in Musicology Departments. No sufficient structure for studying dance theory, history or criticism exist. However, a dance major on folk dance in provided by the Physical Education Department, and it is expected a new named award in choreography from the Theatre Department in the University of Peloponnese in 2008.
As far as the vocational training is concerned, the curriculum content, the structure and operation of dance education in the country seems outdated and it has raised a 1 Lyra, Anastasia. 1996. Valuable dance or dance of value? Dance. Vol. 21. Jan-Feb-
March. pp. 49-51 controversy. Many articles have commented on the problems regarding a discrepancy between the knowledge provided, the examination system, the needs of a professional career, and the current developments internationally, but most importantly, on the need to re-examine the aims of dance education, or even of education in general (State
School of Dance. 1992; Lyra. 2000; Xassiotis. 2001; Vounelaki.1996)2.
After the ‘80s many graduates, dancers and choreographers have studied abroad bringing new knowledge and experiences to the country. It can be noted a domination of the USA during the ‘80s and the early ‘90s and a European preference nowadays.
There are three institutions which support postgraduate dance studies abroad through their scholarship programs: the Alexander Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, the Scholarship Institution of Koula Pratsika and the Greek State Scholarship’s Foundation.
The Fulbright Foundation is also supporting artistic activities abroad, in the sense of career development rather than education. Despite the problems regarding thesescholarships, for example the criteria for a successful candidate are the same regardless if the studies are on practical or theoretical level, their contribution to dance developments is undeniable.

In this section will be mentioned only those venues which present dance independently and not as part of a festival. All of them are in Athens. In other cities the situation regarding the venues is almost the same, adding that presenting dance is extremely rare.
A major problem for dance is the absence of a theatre especially for dance and dance studios for rehearsals. There are some small-scale theatres, which regularly present dance in their venues (Theseion, Roes, Altera Pars, Chytyrio et. al). Gradually dance started to be presented during the whole year, albeit irregularly, and in a variety of venues, 2 S State School of Dance, ed. (1992) ‘Professional Dance Education in Greece’.
Proccedings of the Conference (19-20 Oktober 1991). Athens: State School of Dance. Lyra, Anastasia. 2000. Dance Education and reformation. Choros. Vol. 37, Spring pp. 10-1 9 Asiatic, Natasha. 2001. The (much afflicted) Dance Education in Greece. Avgi. February, 25 Vounelaki, Klementini. 1996. Dance education in crucial crossroad. To Vima. Dec, 1, multiplying the conditions under which dance can be presented, and reaching a wider
audience. A few months ago the Minister of Culture announced that theatre Embros is going to be used as dance venue, and this prospect is long awaiting.
The prestigious Athens Concert Hall started its activities in 1991, as a concert hall. The expectations were great due to the international standards of the building and the lack of any other theatre appropriate for music concerts. Symbolically, the premiere of the Organisation was on 25th of March 1991, relating the festivities for the new theatre with the National Day. In 1993 the Athens Concert Hall started to present international dance companies and, in April 1995, commissioned works by Greek dance companies.
By now, the programming of the Athens Concert Hall has managed to built for itself a conservative profile, presenting dance companies with international reputation, without however fulfilling the expectations it arose at the beginning. The National Opera House is the venue exclusively used by its company, and that is the case with the venues of the National Theatre of Northern Greece.
From the mid ‘90s onwards, many dance companies started to create their own studios and organise workshops with international artists trying to open the communication channels between Greece and the international dance community. In addition, many new studios started to operate, providing open classes to professionals and amateurs and organising seminars with distinguished artists. At last, I would like to note that there is now a generation of new teachers, exposed to international conditions as dancers, who are transmitting their knowledge. It is also worth noting that Greek choreographers themselves rarely teach (technique or repertory) or curate workshops.
There is also a great gap to choreographic research and support. The Isadora and Raymond Duncan Research Dance Centre in Athens started from 2002 to develop actions into this direction, which are further intensified when it became associated member to IDEE. Finally, despite all efforts, there is neither a dance library, nor a videodance library in Greece.

One of the greatest difficulties that Greek dance faces today is its diffusion, by which I mean its communication with its audience. In 2005, a Greek arts magazine called ‘Highlights’ conducted a piece of research regarding the Greeks’ cultural behaviour. It showed that dance as a form of expression ‘highly expresses’ 48% of Greeks, a percentage that decreases as we ascend in social class and level of education. This shows that Greeks on the whole express themselves through the body, but mostly in social events such as going out in the evening, traditional festivities and religious celebrations like weddings etc. However, 71% never or seldom goes to dance performances. When the participants were asked to mention a contemporary choreographer or dancer, Mr Papaioannou (the choreographer of the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games) came fourth in order, following three choreographers of the unmistakeably commercial dance scene. Regardless though of these statistics, the artistic circles have an unquenchable thirst for new and original performances and artistic propositions and respond with great eagerness and enthusiasm to the choices made by big dance festivals, ensuring in most cases their financial and artistic success.
Dance recently came into the spotlight with a television series that hosts a big dance competition and has its roots in American television. The words modern and contemporary dance had never before been uttered with such frequency on Greek television. Unfortunately, the nature of the game made it impossible for it to enlighten Greek audiences as to what contemporary dance really is today, leaving in its place a commercialised and stereotyped taste of the art form. Generally, the Greek audience’s perceptions of dance range, from traditional and popular Greek dances to latin, the tango, rock and roll and recently hip-hop street dancing. This wide field of interest insures great success for big commercial dance shows or musicals and companies like the De la Guarda group, Stomp, dance on ice etc.
As a result of this situation, production companies show little interest in supporting dance. In other words, most dance companies rely almost exclusively on state subsidies and in some cases on private sponsors, which of course subsequently have a right to be advertised in the programme of a performance. The conditions under which sponsorship in the arts can occur are quickly changing, as the laws concerning it are currently being revised. The Minister of Culture has already shown his good will, by removing the ‘thorn’ in the first draft of the bill. He agreed that sponsorships that amount to less than 30% of a business’s profit, are 100% exempt of taxes. According to Colin Tweed3 ‘it is heartening news that the Greek government are now seeking to improve the tax legislation that will encourage partnerships (between business and the arts) in Greece.[…] The challenge now […] is to take full advantage of these changes todevelop a momentum that will see a new paradigm develop in Greece.’
To conclude I would like to say that dance in Greece is very much alive and actively seeking inspiration. It is yearning for support and theoretical guidance. Beyond any doubt, it owes its achievements to the devotion and self-denial of the people who serve it. With only a minimal income, insecurity and uncertainty on offer, dance relies on the zeal shown by its devotees for the art that found its muse in the name of the ancient Greek Terpsichore. We can only hope that in the future she will dance in sneakers, or bare foot again, proving that dance, like all the arts moves forward in spirals.

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