Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

"Self-Storage" A production by Christine Gouzelis and Paul Blackman

Lost in childhood memories - a dance theatre performance

with Christine Gouzelis, Paul Blackman and Emilios Arapoglou


Start: building blocs and books used to build something

Before Christmas 2010 and then again in January 2011 I had the opportunity to see the peformance now with a new third dancer. This was followed by intense discussions with both Christine and Paul immediately after the rehersal performances and later also on one occasion in the nearby cafe 'nice & easy' just located at the foot of the stairs climbing up to Lycabettou and past where the national school is located.

They had worked tremendously on the set even while especially Paul kept collecting the most amazing pieces to upgrade the performances. Naturally he kept saying that they have to deal with so many things and if they do not work right away, it causes them to interrupt the flow of the dance transformed into theatre especially when he was acting out the auctioneer ready to sell some crazy items to the next higher bidder while all along his young brother peeks at times from underneath his arms to learn the ropes, so to speak, of this specific trade.

Christine Gouzelis in front of the set

The set is comprised of carbon boxes which children love to use when building castles, hide aways, tunnels and all sorts of other things before they tumble and fall, so to speak, for childhood is as well a constant exposure to the flux of construction and destruction. A calmful atmosphere can suddenly turn aggressive when despair makes the fist hit the constructed tower made out of building blocs to set them tumbling into all directions.



Moving in and out of such a mobile set gives new opportunities to interact

Dance working on such profound images not even children never mind adults understand in later life has its own understanding of the need for a text to let the spoken word come in between music and dance.

During the warm up it can be gauged what it means to move the body through space.



The story of this dance performance turned into a dance theatre has undergone tremendous changes. As the three become more confident in their role, and this was one main point in the discussion, namely can the audience follow the change in different roles e.g. the girl becoming a beauty queen only to falter when asked the question what she can remember best out of her childhood, this crumbling and falling is conveyed by their form of dance. Especially when Paul seems to drag with his feet Christine across the floor, there is intimacy displayed in a seeming rough way. Coming from the Yasmine school in London, they do test at times the limits what a body can take and even then they do not hesitate to be thrown physically speaking through the air.

What makes this piece so intrigueing is the way the set begins to dance with the dancers. Sometimes they wobble, sometimes they are moved and at times two of the dancers hide behind them while the main actor, Christine as the woman becoming throughout her life beauty queen, mother, sister and stranger acts out all alone in front of the set. Space is given and taken away. It is redesigning the set as the dance performance unfolds. At times, books topple over to indicate the theory holds here, namely that if the butterfly flaps its wings in New York it will rain here in Athens. Of course, it does not but such feeble thoughts are nowadays commonplaces rather than metaphysical constructs of reality.

The three together: Emilios Arapoglou, Christine Gouzelis, Paul Blackman

HF 23.1.2011



"Self Storage" -dance performance by Paul and Christine and a third dancer took place in Athens on 7th and 8th of June 2010 in the Open Studio of Praktiki, the National Dance School in Athens (on the steps of Omirou going up to Lycabettou)


Paul and Christine in Athens 2010

Christine and Paul together with a third dancer performed June 7 - 8, 2010 in Athens. The story enacted out as dance performance will re-imagine what happens to a girl when growing up in a family but seems to have hardly any space left to respect and to acknowledge the imagination of a child. The daughter finds no other hiding place to pursue her dreams except underneath the table. That space invites to all kinds of dramatic developments in reflection of what is happening above the table. A child listens to what the adults are discussing. She can perceive the problems the adults are facing and very often are not coping with very well. That is really the great difference between growing up in full knowledge of problems to be faced in future and being an adult fully confronting many unresolved problems in the present. Surely one like the lack of money can weigh down on the strongest personality. It presses usually everyone flat against the wall and leaves hardly any breathing space. Fortunately a child has still some time ahead to think about solutions before having to assume full responsibility. Indeed it is an integral part of reality that solutions are sustainable if developed over time and can be truly lived. These solutions come with a maturation and an insight into a new way of life. In that sense dance becomes like a dramaturgy of real life.

Christine and Paul made their prime professional dance experience in London even though the two come from Greece and Latin America respectively. It is, therefore, equally a maturation of the two to cooperate and to make this joint production and performance all by themselves. The two dancers are known for their love of life. They appreciate things since at the roots of their self-understanding they developed through dance an awareness as to what happened to people close to them. Prime amongst these people are their respective mothers who set out into life and found themselves confronted by many problems, even before they had the time to mature themselves with time. This meant they were faced with bringing up their own children when they had themselves hardly the time to complete school and take their own first steps. That leads directly into the question but when to take the first dancing steps as a sign of freedom and of knowing about the gravity of earth. The latter can be reflected in the problems weighing one down rather than letting the head be uplifted since there is a bright future ahead.

Dance in that sense becomes a way to discover hidden spaces like the one underneath the table at home. By evoking memories in reference to 'storage', this dance performance by Christine and Paul is an attempt to make out spaces in-between childhood and adulthood. That fine difference will be expressed throughout life once body and mind go together in a dance transforming the stage into an illuminated dream of finding solutions for what took place in the past. Human relationships have always their specific story to tell as to what is possible, what not. Often limitations are reached because more problems block the view of what could be a solution. And then is the life of the youth compared to that of the parents. Set in that light of contrast between generations dance acted out to explore what constitutes a present free from an unresolved past and from a troublesome future, means many more things loom ahead. This is especially the case if the dance production is done in all conditions of uncertainties Greece is known for in 2010.

General rehersal 6.June 2010

The performance was amazing. It can be described as overwhelming already only from the set. Almost like a wall they used these carts supermarkets use to bring in food in carton boxes and to take out the empty carton boxes now folded. They are quite high. On top of them they had put all sorts of items from a teddy bear with one eye to an old table lamp. Since they were on wheels the wall could easily be removed by rolling to the back of the stage this itinery. It did not make much sense in one way to have them removed if only they served in the end to be like the curtain closing again by pushing them up front once more to recreate the wall out of stored materials but when the three dancers - besides Christine and Paul they had a third male partner - disappeared, they meant to say that is not all and more is in store for the audiences to come.

The dance performance had certain phases with the script not so convincing in the end. This is one of the dangers of dance theatre, but to start with, the three did an excellent performance together. Christine moved in-between the two men with always their heads together, often the arms completely let down to hold just still and parallel to the body. That made the elastic movement of the bodies that much stronger. They crossed the stage as if carried by the air. They surprised with how they managed turnpikes and they came up for air when one could think they would never make it up. If anything the dance was an artful puzzle attempting to undo the contrived reason why someone would store so many things.

There are sentimental reasons which Christine danced out alone. It was a figure of speech in her dance about belonging and not belonging. This meant also clinging onto the teddy bear. The treatment of the objects with meaning bears down upon the truth as if it is impossible to let go. There is no other proof needed than when a child is abandoned by the mother all the stronger for the child to cling onto if not possible her skirt then to these objects of childhood. That does not exclude despising them. In dance that can take on forms of ugliness, that is when tempers flare up and everything seems uncontrollable especially when the situation calls for self control and self restraint. The unbelievable is what scratches of the pen can do to imitate the disbelieving glance into the future. Nowhere any horizon and just a feeling of loneliness which lets the body suddenly sink into oblivion best expressed by Christine withdrawing into the far corner and stays there until in another sequence her male partner puts on the light.

The two solo dances by the men have their own signature. For Paul it was easier to move in and out of partnership as he knows Christine. For the other he was not able to measure up completely to the level of the other two who met in London in the dance company of an Israeli director known for her hardness and harshness. It was obvious to see an attempt by Paul and by Christine to break away from such abuse of the body which would mean throwing the body on the ground and doing a lot on the knees till they were wounded. Dance is not an easy profession especially if in the hands of choreographers who wish to push bodies to the limits of what dancers can endure. And it goes without saying this hard life continues off stage when perceived as the places they have to sleep in and under what financial conditions they exist. In any case, this performance by Paul and Christine materialises some of their thoughts as a post London experience in which they wish to probe their own abilities. Paul was superb in the way he used the entire stage and what strength he has in the body to make the moves he did.

That became even more evident when Paul and Christine danced together. It was a clear demonstration of abuse or how it would look like if the girl allows the man to use her as if a helpless doll which one can drag across the floor, pick her up to be thrown over the shoulder, if only to be let down on the backside of any caring attitude. The velocity of the two together made the excitement of bodies speaking to each other as if in a steady negotiation into an intense observation of what is going to happen next. Always they escaped the more disastesrous turns lurking just around the corner. They would also come to such moments of rest when a look into each other's eyes seemed possible. Dare me! Dam you. The dialogue in these moments echoed out words never spoken out aloud.

The performance continued when suddenly Paul became the salesman of the left over junk. He was acting like on an auction. Consciously he used only a few words to gather in the attention of the next higher bidder.Christine suddenly broke down the barrier between stage and audience by sitting amongst them to do the bidding. Often she was rejected. Disappointed she danced on to the next spot from where she could try another bid. Since texts have their own logic it was not clear in which direction things should go and so the auctioneer finally decides not unlike in Heiner Miller's theatrical play 'The Prize' to grant her last bid and so she receives items after items as if she did not know into what difficulties she got into in the first place. The Pandora's box like syndrom meant endless junk could easily overwhelm anybody in this consumer society producing ever more waste. It meant leaving not merely things behind, but also memories and longings were cast aside. The dance performance wanted clearly to get across such a message.

Discussions afterwards as to what such a general rehersal meant to set the final stage followed. The key criticism was that the beginning was stronger than the ending. There is a need to tie together the different scenes. And especially the conclusion has to be more convincing. Still, as the applaus faded and people went outside of that beautiful dance studio in Kolonaki up the stairs of Omirou Street towards Likavitos Hill, it was possible as if in a dream to see Christine and Paul dancing still in the twilight zone with dust dancing in the sun rays which fell through the shutters onto the floor. Like a sweet dream the image suggested as well an empty stage as if all that stuff in the storage had disappeared.

Hatto Fischer 13.7.2010

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