BROOKLYN – No matter how brilliant the performers and spectacular the productions, modern music and dance lives and dies, especially in America, by the energy, passion, and imagination of its presenters.
On May 6 Yorgos Loukos, the artistic director of the Lyon Opera Ballet, a leading force in contemporary dance, was the featured speaker in a discussion about dance at the Hilman Studio of the Brooklyn Academy of Music co-presented by BAM and the Onassis Cultural Center NY.
According to the program, under Loukos’ direction the Lyon Opera Ballet “has welcomed an incredible diversity of choreographers.” He has forged strong ties with international lovers of dance, including the United States .
Loukos began dancing in 1972 with the Theatre du Silence. He experienced the thrilling period of political and artistic upheaval of late 1960s Paris, but his outside-the-box thinking was also stimulated by studies in Architecture in the University of Paris and philosophy at the University of Aix-en-Provence.
During his onstage discussion with Jennifer Homans, a dancer and dance critic, he wondered out loud about the roots of his relationship with artists and audiences in America, referring to developing his English as a boy speaking with Americans in the Athens suburb of Glyfada.
Homans and Loukas discussed the history and development of modern dance, which the audience followed up during Q&A with questions about its current trends.
She also asked him about how he went about transforming the Lyon Opera Ballet. It was a challenge navigating union issues, the personalities and artistic preferences of the performers and tastes of the audiences, but experimentation and perseverance seemed to be the key. Asked by TNH if he felt like a politician, he replied “No.”
He told of one early production that did not go over well in a traditional setting but was a hit as the post-modern Centre Pompidou Art Museum.
He said sometimes what appears onstage ion modern dance is more like an exhibition. Indeed the director of his company’s May 7-9 presentation of “ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang,” Christian Rizzo, entered the dance world after a working as a fashion designer, rock musician and visual artist. “Sometimes people gifted in the visual arts put up better shows than those experienced in movement,” Loukos said.
Cultural institutions must keep trying new things and directors with other backgrounds bring their other loves onstage. Sometimes in works, sometimes it does not, “but it helps keep dance moving in the right direction,” Loukos said, and admitted sometimes he puts in too much philosophy.
For some ballet devotees, it’s all about the music, but not for Loukas. “I do not think it is the most important thing. It’s interesting, but less important than space and movement.”
Loukos take great pride in the work he and his colleagues have done since he became director of the Athens Festival in 2006, which has diversified both its offerings and its venues.
Once confined to the spectacular but artistically limiting sites of the ancient theaters of Epidaurus and Herodes Atticus, the Festival’s productions in what was once a warehouse in a gritty part of Athens stimulated a cultural blossoming.
He spoke of both his responsibility to keep the Festival fresh and his appreciation of its roots in the spectacular success in New York of Dimitri Mitropoulos and Maria Callas in the 1950s, who were its first featured performers.
The guests were welcomed by Violane Huisman, BAM’s Director of Humanities, who noted the event was the latest offering of BAM’ new Hellenic Humanities Program fund by the Onassis Foundation (USA). Huisman acknowledged the presence of Ambassador Loucas Tsillas, Executive Director of the Onassis Foundation (USA) and Amalia Cosmetatou, its Director of Cultural Affairs.