The choreographer and director Apostolia Papadamaki is definitely one of the most prominent choreographers in the Greek and international arena. She is a pioneer, imaginative, creative and persistent person; a dance diamond that is constantly reinventing itself, in an interview - guide for mental balance and human development.
By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
Pioneering and daring, she made her first underwater dance performance in the world, the Drops of Breath / 2015, at Cape Sounion under the Temple of Poseidon, with the participation of 3 disabled dancers and children! It took two years of preparation during which she developed along with her team a know-how for underwater dance that hadn’t existed before.
The audience watched the show underwater with diving equipment or on the surface of the water with masks or on land via a giant screen.
"In our general rehearsal, there was a big storm which lasted two days and that’s why our premiere was postponed with tremendous difficulties in changing and coordinating a new release date. But in the end it actually happened and with great success, although we were all introduced to the power that Nature bears and how small and weak humans are when dealing with it".
The first overnight interactive and participatory performance Anamnesis / From Darkness to Light / 2018 was also memorable and pioneering. It took place at an archeological site, the Temple of Apollo Epicurius in Peloponnese, at an altitude of 1300m, literally "in the middle of nowhere".
"We were in awe since the show took place during the Full Moon and 800 spectators had come from all over Greece to watch it - 50 of them stayed overnight as the show progressed until dawn. It was unbelievable how passionately and joyfully 800 people took part in the show along with the dancers - it was like an old and at the same time modern event of collective memory or even better a recollection of our common connection with the place and with the expression of archetypal emotions through movement and music".
During the performance Anamnesis / Ancient Zone at the archeological site of Alexandroupoli, under the full moon of August 2020 and in Covid conditions, they managed to maintain safe distances but at the same time to create a walking and participatory performance that was much needed by the people.
"In the beginning, the spectators were very hesitant but with the incredible interpretation of Yannis Stankoglou, the voice of Maria Papageorgiou, the music of Tryfonas Koutsourelis, the amazing beauty of the archeological site and the participation of children from the place, the spectators and the rest of us became a large group of people with a common vision. It was very moving”!
In 2016, Apostolia founded the Happiness Retreat which is an "umbrella" under which it houses her teachings: "People who are not necessarily professional dancers or actors but seek to connect with themselves through experiential practices of self-knowledge, through art and connection with nature, come here from all over the world".
What is dance for you? Expression and creativity?
The highest expression of universal harmony; the absolute relationship with the mystery of existence; the joy and beauty of life. For me, dance is everything; nature, the universe, the body, the emotions. All these are a continuous dancing flow of life in the music of the soul.
What were the biggest difficulties you faced and how did you overcome them? What have you sacrificed for this?
The first difficulty was that until I was 21 I had no training in dance. I overcame that with very hard study, imagination, adaptability and faith. The second was that I had no money from my family to study. I overcame that too, working in different work environments, both in Greece and abroad, from bookstores to bars, because I always had in my heart the goal I wanted to achieve: to become an artist. The third big difficulty was my divorce when my son was 4 years old and how I would combine motherhood with art work. I think I never got over that. Sometimes I had to sacrifice motherhood for art and sometimes art for motherhood. I could have done some things better. Now I have reconciled with all my choices.
How many more hearings, readings, trips, contacts must a person have to excel in a field of art?
As much as one can, but at the same time having some quality time for them. I believe that an artist should constantly learn, be constantly trained and take risks at all levels in order to evolve. During my personal and artistic career I was trained in spiritual, physical and energy practices. I learned, by being autonomous and free, diving, guitar, percussion, song, survival in nature, mountaineering, meditation, yoga, martial arts, self-knowledge techniques…. I am learning non-stop. I love to travel alone and meet people who have a very different attitude or culture compared to mine; it broadens my mind and my soul. In recent years the rehearsals for the preparation of my works are done outside, in the natural environment, like parks, hills, squares, beaches. Contact and exposure to nature, regardless of the weather, is my best teacher.
Were there any people mentors for you, people that you were inspired by?
The teacher of Art History at the State School of Dance, Martha Christofoglou. The director Lydia Koniordou with whom I collaborated for 17 years. The Belgian artist and director Jan Fabre with whom I collaborated for 8 years. The spiritual teacher and musician Amit Carmelli. My parents, my sister, my partner, my son and my friends.
Can humans change and find themselves over time? Do you think that we ever discover our truth? Can we stand it?
The journey of life is a journey of self-knowledge. The greatest "gift" we can give ourselves is to fill in the parts of the soul that we lack, those with which we are not actively connected. Only in this way can we fulfill what is right and "perfect" in the sense of our life purpose, which includes truth, freedom, authenticity, love and abundance. We are constantly fighting ourselves. We abuse ourselves with our thoughts. This is what we have learned from childhood, as the way to live. We believe that someone will be found to "save" us, to recognise us, to love us and to honour us. We believe that someone else is to blame for our problems or for the desires that we cannot fulfill. When we see the truth face to face, when the walls of illusion "fall" and we realise that we ourselves, our thoughts, our actions, determine our lives, then we are usually shaken; truth hurts. But then we have a real opportunity to free ourselves from all our darkness and fulfill our purpose in this life.
Body and mind, body and soul; relationship and connections?
They are interconnected. One affects the other. One nourishes and evolves or destroys the other. I personally start from the body to purify the mind, to develop it and nourish the soul.
Who is Apostolia Papadamaki
Born in Thessaloniki, she graduated with honours from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the National School of Dance. She studied choreography in New York with a scholarship from Onassis and B&E Goulandris foundations. Awards: Rallou Manou, Bagnolet (France). She has choreographed and directed great shows such as the Opening Ceremony of the Athens Paralympic Games 2004, the opening ceremony for the presidency of Greece of G. G. Nea Genia (2005) and she is well known for her innovative and unconventional ideas. Her works have been presented in over 40 International festivals around the world but also at the Athens Concert Hall, the National Opera, the Athens Festival and elsewhere. She has directed operas and has choreographed for the theatre for 20 years, mainly plays that were presented in Epidaurus and on the main stage of the National Theatre. She has served as Chairman of the Board of the National School of Dance and as a member of the Board of the Athens Concert Hall, the Centre for Ancient Drama, the International Theatre Institute and the Network for Theatre in Education. In 2013 she was a member of the artistic committee of the Dimitria festival in Thessaloniki. At the same time she was actively involved in the creation of a strong dance community in Athens and the cultural exchange between Greek and foreign artists through European cultural programs for the implementation of which she received the most positive comments from the directorate general X of the EU.