The protagonist of the dance theater that changed the modern dance in Greece but also the woman who made the most successful transition from dance to theater and cinema, describes the two sides of ballet: the creative one of brightness and beauty and the dark one of rejection and extreme physical suffering. Elena Topalidou talks about the importance of discipline and talent, competition, the future of dance in our country and the justice that defines ballet because despite what it offers, at the same time, it has its requirements…
A "special case" in dance and theater
By Xristina Katsantoni
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
Elena Topalidou was a protagonist in the performances of the OKTANA group for several years, switching to theater and cinema and becoming a favorite choice of top directors, who entrusted her with important roles. Elena Topalidou is a "special figure", much more than a dancer who dances or an actress who plays. She is an outstanding figure, who expresses herself through her body and speech. She can’t be categorised and when she is on stage, you can’t take your eyes off her.
In another life, as she says, she could be a ballerina, dancing on a music box. The image of the ballerina moved her as a child, before she even realised how difficult it would be to try to reach that. Today, as an actress who has remained a dancer in heart, she has reached a solid philosophical conclusion towards it. She knows that she could never take dance, especially ballet, out of her life, even though it is, as she says, "pink and black"; bright, but also dark.
The first experience with ballet
The bright side of a ballerina, the pink and girlish, was the one that enchanted Elena Topalidou in her childhood, when at the age of 9 she asked her parents to enroll her in the dance school of Elena Vakalopoulou, which had opened in her neighborhood in Chalandri.
Ballet for her back then was just a joy. It was pink and girly, full of tulle and lace. She later discovered its darkness. The fact that from the inside, ballet has a lot of trouble and pain and there is darkness in relation to the confrontation with failure. As she says, it is very high and you are very low, but it doesn’t matter, because it is nice to try to reach something high and make that effort step by step.
Studies and meetings
The first time she got scared with ballet was when she was still a high school student, making a trip to a seminar in France. She found herself in front of very advanced ballerinas and decided that dancing was not for her. Upon her return to Greece, she dropped out and devoted herself to school and the Panhellenic Exams led her to the department of Mathematics of the University of Athens. At that point, Elena Topalidou realised that what she really wanted to do was dancing. Her soul and body were devoted to dancing.
She returned to the ballet hall, managed to catch up and make up for lost time, took exams and studied for a year at Despina Grigoriadou's school and then at the National School of Dance. There, she met Konstantinos Rigos, who after their first meeting made his intentions clear: he would take her under his protection.
After graduating from school, she collaborated with Dimitris Papaioannou and Konstantinos Rigos, with whom she continued at the OKTANA dance theater and the National Theater of Northern Greece with great performances, which led modern Greek dance to discover new ways and aspects.
A new beginning
And then she felt that "darkness" absorbed her. She stopped liking her dancing. The daily agony of the rehearsal, the performance, the unceasing effort to reach the elusive, accusation and punishment of herself every time she was not successful, gave birth to the need to give it all up and start from scratch.
She stopped dancing completely, changed city, status, habits and found redemption through theater and later cinema. She started as a "special case", a dancer who can play and evolved into the protagonist of great performances and directors (such as Lefteris Vogiatzes, Michail Marmarinos, Giannis Houvardas ...). There are many contradictory roles and award-winning performances in her assets.
Reconciliation with dance
Today, confrontations with art continue for Elena Topalidou, who is still testing herself in different challenges, sometimes playing, sometimes dancing or teaching ballet to her students at the Greek National Opera.
Her relationship with dance regained its bright color, and every day starts with a choreography - prayer, which she performs in the kitchen of her house before the sun rises. As for her relationship with ballet, it remains close and special. Like that of a tuned ballerina, dancing endlessly on a piano.