Greek Choreographer Papaioannou Directs Pina Bausch’s Legendary Dance Group

(Photo by Eurokinissi, file)

“If I had said no to this offer, I would not have been able to tolerate myself in my death bed,” choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou told journalists during a press conference at the Onassis Cultural Centre (OCC) shortly before the premiere of his new work “New Piece I – Since she”.

“New Piece”, which will be presented at the central stage of the OCC from December 18 to 21, is the result of Papaioannou’s cooperation with Tanztheater Wuppertal, late choreographer Pina Bausch’s legendary dance group. This is the first time since Bausch’s sudden death nine years ago that the ensemble invites someone outside the group to choreograph an original, full-length piece for them.

“The biggest difficulty for me was that, for the first time in my life, I had to work with a group of 17 people who had not selected me,” Papaioannou said. “With dancers that had previously worked with Pina, whom I had to ask if they wanted to work with me or not,” he continued.

Not all of them said yes, according to Papaioannou, but with the ones who accepted he created a work that pays tribute to the great Pina Bausch, and at the same time rejuvenates the legacy she left in contemporary dance.

Papaioannou describes the piece as “a series of balances, optical illusions and inventions of nothingness that will, hopefully, trigger an emotional journey for the viewers.”

Referring to “Café Muller”, Bausch’s autobiographic work with which she was first introduced to the Greek public in 1987, Papaioannou said that it is still haunting him in whatever he does. This is why, he continued, when he first started working with Bausch’s dance group “the first thing I did was to rummage through storage spaces in order to unearth the mythical chairs used for ‘Café Muller’, and create a story that gives them a new use.”

For “Since She”, Papaioannou did not stray from his usual manner of working with dancers, whom he tends to treat as co-creators of the piece. “Always, the personality, talent and emotional availability of the dancers provide the material, and it is on the basis of this material that the director needs to work,” he explained.

From their side, members of Tanztheater Wuppertal described their meeting with the Greek choreographer as an opportunity to get out of their “safe zone” and discover new tools. “It is important not to feel too comfortable. This, surely, is what Pina would want as well. She would always say we need to start every time anew and without certainties,” dancer Azusa Seyama told the press.