A step toward an antiracist, interventionist action of dance
In response to the murderous, racist attacks against immigrants, the rise of action of the neo-Nazi party, ‘Golden Dawn’, and the rapid pace of fascistization of Greek society, the New York artistic dance collaborative Modern Dance Awareness Society and the artistic collective ELANADISTIKANOUME invaded the stage of Embros Theater to repeat once again the performance passTRESpass, which first took place in Kipseli market three years ago, in 2009. The same performance had been presented in Korinthos Antiracist Festival 2012.
Modern Dance Awareness Society and ELANADISTIKANOUME share a common philosophy of interventionist art, which optimizes the options of using physical and public space, as well as their common conception of the vital power of dance and performance, in the designation of the ‘Voice’ of the displaced and marginalized subjectivity. In sad times of fear and hate of the ‘Other’ – fed not so much from the ‘Crisis’ as an epiphenomenon but mainly from the implicit or explicit, obvious or subcutaneous, conservatism and authoritarianism that have been cultivated for many years in Greece – these interventionist performances seem like an invigorating shot in the arm against passivity and darkness. The generalized insecurity in Greece, which breeds the fear against anyone different from the country of origin, who is often pictured as an invader, unfortunately cultivates a ground for violent, irrational and inhuman attacks against anything that signifies weakness.
Reacting to the current situation in Greece, this performance came up as a collective, inner need to express the feelings of agony for an uncertain present and future, surrounding the life of the ‘immigrant’, the ‘stranger’ and the ‘different’ in the city of Athens, a life lived within borders, undoubtedly condemned and vulnerable, to violence and marginalization. The main protagonists were immigrants from different countries (Afghanistan, Tanzania, Senegal, Albania) who have been cooperating with Panagiotis Andronikidis (ELANADISTIKANOUME) and Despina Stamos (M.D.A.S) for many years. They are a group of highly energetic and expressive people who have been living in Greece for a small or a long time. Their life took a new meaning through active involvement with acting and dance. Apart from the immigrants, greek-american performers and greek artists like Vicky Nikolaou and Grigoris Serbis participated. Altogether, they co-produced an idiosyncratic, peculiar choreography based on their experiential and hermeneutical material.
The choreographic theme of the performance was built on the narratives of the performers, based on their description of their emotional worlds and their stay in Greece, and on their intense lived experiences of violence, racism and depreciation of the human substance, letting out their need for communication and not just for survival. These narratives were embodied through collective and abstract body movements and formations, as well as facial expressions that depicted the depression, despair and melancholy of the foreigner combined at times with expressions of emptiness, apathy and indifference. These embodiments reflected the moments and instances of our everyday realities in Athens which concern all of us who live in this urban environment and not just the ‘immigrants’. As the movements grew in tension and rhythm, every participant took a protagonistic role for a few minutes, offering his/her personal mark through movement and singing, releasing emotional stress. Apathy and poignancy coexisted along with surrealistic gaps that were prompting the audience to reflexivity. A very inspiring moment was the moment of somatization of the loneliness of a young Afghan who was carried away by the rest with indifference. The allegorical video near the end was very impressive, capturing the bodies of the artists lying down in nature with expressions of emptiness. The Acropolis on the background filled the atmosphere with vanity.
This performance offered to the Greek audience a view from the inside to the unseen affective experiences of the marginalized ‘Other’. On the whole, it was a performance with a pure psychotherapeutic dynamic both for the participants and for us, the audience. In the discussion that followed, we realized from the bright expressions and warm voices of the artists, how art can help a person to regain the unity and integrity of the self and reengage with the political, to build a bridge with the world in extreme periods of brutality and intimidation. Delighted, we left Embros Theater carrying with us a hopeful message: Performance art and its manifestations can intervene with frankness and immediacy in ‘here and now’ situations, thus it can be a powerful medium for the emancipation and the energizing of class consciousness and the political. This is more so in adverse sociopolitical circumstances, where the rhetoric of a threat from a non-human alterity, which finds a subject in a mass of faceless, dangerous and inferior ‘Others’, triumphs.
Natalia Koutsougera (social anthropologist)
“passTRESpass 2012” performance was presented in the 22nd of September 2012 in Embros Theater
A greek- american in Kypseli
(This was a greek movie in the 60s)
by Anna Damianidi
Despina-Sophia Stamos. Daughter of two Greek immigrants in the US.
Young, beautiful, a choreographer and a dancer. One day she sought a collaboration with the immigrant students of the **School**. Some interested people were found. Three young Senegalese men that displayed an experience in dancing, a charming young girl from Bangladesh and the never-smiling (so far) woman from Albania.
A few more Asians, Europeans, Africans. Not everyone remained until the day of the first show. Some left and some new people showed up. I watched Despina-Sophia teaching dancing and also teaching, to whoever was eager for the lesson, how to use respect and dignity when working with people who are reserved and worn-out.
I did not believe that she would manage to fit all these foreign people in a show.
If you asked me I could have found thirty reasons for which it would be impossible for her to liberate body movements of people that have every reason to be completely expressionless. For a girl to give her hand to an unknown young man from another continent; I thought it was impossible.
Despina made it though. During the Anti-Racist festival she presented the short show she had prepared with actors and dancers from our neighbourhood. Being an immigrant’s daughter as well, grown up in a city like New York, she seems to have developed a talent of approaching people from every culture, country and language and helping them find means of expression with their body, making them collaborate. Maybe deep down, all people have a common language but not all of us have found out how to use it.
And, during the show, the Albanian woman finally smiled!