Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

"Vicious Cycle" - dance performance


Aimilios Arapoglou, Paul Blackman, Aëla Labbé, Konstandina Efthimiadou, Christine Gouzelis                                                      17.1.2014

Link: https://vimeo.com/101218283

When Paul Blackman and Christine Gouzeli started to develop their concept of Vicious Cycle, they used their previous piece called 'self storage' as reference. Only now there are not three but five figures, and still they play with the idea of merging three figures into one, or vice versa to let unfold out of one several dancers. The audience needs to follow and to understand that. Or else out of one dancer being joined on stage by another dancer, the two can provoke another two dancers until a fifth one joins to make up an entire group which shows what can be performed together. In this performance called 'vicious cycle', they do that so well and with such a newly found dynamic that it convinces right away here is being shown an exceptional piece.

When expressing their ideas through dance, Paul Blackman and Christine Gouzelis show all their desire but also abilities to explore through bodily movements, what they feel when things, people and events are at risk to go out of bounds as much as everything being just repeated and therefore staying just the same. With 'vicious cycle' they touch upon what people experience and have to go through insofar as Greece and Europe seem not to find a way out of a deep crisis.



                            Paul Blackman and Christine Gouzelis


                            Christine Gouzelis


Directed & Choreographed by: Paul Blackman & Christine Gouzelis
Created & Performed by: Paul Blackman, Christine Gouzelis, Aëla Labbé, Konstandina Efthimiadou, Aimilios Arapoglou
Dramaturgy: Guy Bar Amotz (Jasmin Vardimon)
Stage Design: Dimitrios Nassiakos
Costumes: Dimitra Liakoura
Research: Hatto Fischer Poiein kai Prattein
Lighting Design: Sofia Alexiadou
Photography: Aëla Labbé
Music Design: Constantine Pavlopoulos
Sound Design: Claire Pannell (Furchick)
Production: Onassis Cultural Centre

Production and Rehersal Assistant: Marilena Dara


Financial Management: Anna Arvanitaki - Poiein kai Prattein



Supported by: Onassis Cultural Centre

For the performance on Feb. 1 and 2, 2014,

see http://www.sgt.gr/en/programme/event/1616

For video of performance see http://vimeo.com/85198532


Steps leading up to the performance



            Paul Blackman, Christine Gouzelis, Konstandina Efthimiadou

                     on their way to rehersals in December 2013

To realize the performance, Paul Blackman and Christine Gouzelis went first through the complicated phase of translating ideas they had into a feasible concept which allowed them to make a proposal to the Onassis Cultural Centre for potential funding. Once successful, they entered the next phase of deciding on the cast and getting organized. They solicited besides Konstandina Efthimiadou two other dancers. They knew already Aimilios Arapoglou since he had performed with them in the piece called 'self storage'.


                          Aimilios Arapoglou


And then they met Aela Labbe from Bretagne, France who became the fifth dancer in the cast.

Aela Labbe

Then thanks to a long standing collaboration with Hatto Fischer, they secured the infrastructural support of Poiein kai Prattein. The non profit NGO with Anna Arvanitaki, president and acting as financial manager, facilitates the handling of contracts and flow of payments to the dancers and all the others who are involved as well. This includes as well renting the space since October 2013, space needed for all the rehersals.

Once a suitable space was found at the Alkminis Theatre, it was high time to start the rehersals which lead up to the performance on Feb. 1 and 2, 2014.

One thing is in need to be said about what constitutes work in the creative sector. Quite often all this work behind the scenes goes literally unrecognized. Also the time span is tremendous when considering that it take nearly up to an entire year to put up such a show. Even though the performance lasts but two days, all preparations from going through the dance steps, designing the set, finding the right music and making the costumes while lighting needs also to be in place entails a process with every day adding a new challenge. Thus in recognition of the tremendous efforts the dancers themselves put up to realize such a show, a little glimpse into this time of rehersals may give some inkling thereof what real work all this entails.


Vicious Cycle - dance rehersal 17.1.2014

The dance group is rehersing at the Alkminis Theatre located in Athens close to the Benaki museum on Piraeus Street. It is a mixed up neighborhood. Some is very traditional, small and close to the ground, while other buildings have shot up into the sky in recent times.


        Alkminisstreet - Graffiti or just tagging of walls                      17.1.2014

In the vicinity of the theatre there can be discovered a brand new building called HUB. For some time, it was not used but apparently now some activities are starting there. The entire complex or huge building may be an indication of how EU funds have used to create a creative hub. The latter is a kind of buzz word linked to the notion that the 'creative industry' is the fastest growing sector of the economy.

A lot is happening in that area, that is true, but it is mainly because young people have still the energy to do something. Especially this group of dancers perfers to use its energies creatively rather than to waste time and just wait till some solution is offered.


       Theatre on Alkminisstreet                           http://www.theatro.gr/

Any performance, once staged inside, depends upon set, lighting, music, costumes and therefore on many ingredients which require the right mix, the proper proportion but also a readiness to cut, in order to take on board a new idea as to which music should accompany that particular sketch in the performance.  While waiting for the rehersal to start, the sound engineer is already at work to sound out what shall fill the room and therefore touches upon the imagination. For sound can conjure up many associations, especially if a key tune becomes a familiar refrain as is the case with the advertisement with George Clooney for a certain brand of coffee.



Three aspects are crucial for dance to unfold: the figures in space, the symbols used in addition to bodily movements, and the narrative itself. Once dancers find their rhythm and the concept gives them a way to link dancing with acting, it does touch upon what Jadwiga Majewska describes as 'dance theatre'.

In contemporary terms, it is of interest to see that reactions set in when meanings are lost and new ones not found as of yet. The dancers can show this by trying to get away from something. When they do so, they wish to take the audience transfixed upon what is happening on stage on a kind of journey. In reality, it might be trying to escape a forest fire but while running away on stage, the dancers may show that while fleeing they encounter still other dangers.

Here some reflections may set in. The philosopher Adorno had warned in 'minima moralia' about the new seeking only the new for rarely does it escape the fate and is forced to flee back in the same old structures it tried to flee from. As this is more than a mere social paradox, failures to address the issue will have consequences. There needs to be shown that changes are possible without falling into the same old traps. Here a dance performance can through the language used set free the reflections needed to understand the present.

Currently society seems unable to get out of the crisis while everything is set to get into entangled in an ever greater vicious cycle. Before the crisis the economy was based on more consumption, but now everyone seems anxious for a new wave of economic growth fueled by more consumption. Apparently no one heeds what brought about the crisis in the first place. That is more than a paradox since the society emerging out of austerity is about to get trapped in a still more dependency upon consumption. But is not the way to get out of the vicious cycle between growth and over consumption.


  The hunter crashing through the forest

While technology has advanced as symbolized by the chemist in the dance performance of 'vicious cycle', the economic growth which meant greater wealth as symbolized by the fur the luxurious woman wears, has led only to still further destruction of nature. This is the case when overbuilding, while not really investing in such a future so that the economy allows a common life while safeguarding nature. Thus the dialogue which the hunter enters with the chemist can startle the onlookers, but it is something important to observe. For here two different models of behaviour accentuate something else, and this has to do with what life amounts to once outside the sphere of production but not necessarily confined as of yet to family life.  

That is already an indication of what a vicious cycle can look like in nature but once transferred onto stage, a new freedom is added. For the forest can be removed and something else put in place such as the house of the hunter or else the laboratory of the chemist. Both are places where a certain 'hide and seek' from the other can take place, but also where the reverse can become true. That is the case when the private life turns out to be typical of what everyone else does. The need to escape boredom invites in guests and a party is organized.


Likewise danger of these future orientated developments can be made explicit on hand of a chemist who can transform things in his experiments. In the performance he conjures up a dream like figure i.e. a beautiful woman. Naturally the enchanting woman can spell in turn new trouble just like the sirens posed a threat to Odyssey. The chemist is forced to push back the spirit into the bottle out of which his figure emerged from but once out of the bottle it is no longer so easy to put that figure under control. Again it stands as metaphor for irreversible processes. Once society has entered that path, little can be done to reverse the process or to correct the mistakes being made. Here the dance performance resorts to ethnological rituals to further these nuances in understanding the vicious cycle.


Again potential danger is transformed when the three women on stage merge into one figure which represents a possible way out of the crisis. For together they can form with the hunter and the chemist another trio to make a group finding energy by dancing together.


'Vicious cycle' is structured in such a way that various sections hold a key for understanding what is going to be the outcome. And while dancing, walking, looking, acting, disappearing and reappearing, the figures on stage transmit all the energies they can muster to express through a figurative dance these meanings. The latter allows for facial expressions, gestures of hands, or just standing still to signify the contemplating or perplexed person. It is a moment in need to be upheld as much as to be spun out just like the dancers converge and they disburse in space.

Once things become more rapid, turn and turn, link up and contradict, show happiness and sadness linked to faithfulness in love not holding once the child has been born, then the very fragmentation of meaning makes up a complete story. It is this fragmentation which characterizes these and many other times.


To dance around these symbols in the form of branches without getting trapped in them, that is shown by this amazing dance performance. It can oscilliate from individual to collective or group behaviour and then return to roles being performed by figures merged into one when together with the others on stage.

The stage makes all these transitions possible for once used skillfully as does this group, then space and time are conjured in a way that watching movements of body, hands, face in space while working with a simple set made of branches of a tree becomes an experience easy to remember. After one intense hour of performance, there is a lot memory which does justice to reality.

Simply stated these five dancers perform in a variety of ways, at times very intricate, at other times very simple as if dance is a mere gesture. Thus the 'theatre of memory' has something in store for those who do not step out into the street, but rather inside the theatre to see a dance performance based on the theme of 'vicious cycle'.


The dance performance on 1. and 2. February 2014






A personal account of how the dance performance went.

I saw the final dress rehersal Saturday afternoon but due to all tickets having been sold out, I did not go that evening but saw only the performance the next evening.

When sitting there and seeing the result of hard work lasting now over five months, I was simply touched. At some moments I cried.

They gave their best and more than that they went further than their own limits. Paulina, director of the National Dance School, said afterwards this was not only 'magnificant', but she predicted they will from now on go all the way to the top.

They found such a beautiful language with their body, hands, and set. The latter included branches which one dancer used as antlers.

Truly they brought onto the state and into life a new version of dance. It borders on what is commonly called dance theatre. That was especially the case when the five acted out a scene as if there is supposed to be a party but everyone is bored and reluctant to join in, that is until the music is played and the one common thing brings them together, namely dance.

As for the title 'vicious cycle', at the very end they ran in a circle till they pettered out. And then the lights went off. Just before that entry into the darkness and mystery of the universe, they created a larger circle and went either clock wise or counter clock wise to imitate life and the changes which happen along the way from birth to death. You met your partner, marry, have a child and then he is unfaithful so that she takes pills and becomes disarranged while he takes to drinking and fails to retain contact to his own child. The happy end is not made up but the solution thought to lie in taking this entire sequence in reverse.

The music was splendid and created a magic atmosphere while the set was very simple. Besides the three thick branches hanging down at the right side of the stage, they had on the left a kind of set which showed either the wall of a hut of the hunter or else the laboratory of the chemist. These two were involved along with the three women.

The hunter started the scene by crashing through the forest while the chemist came later onto the stage to trade gold for the fur the hunter had gotten from his fox hunt. Out of the furs, there emerged a fur coat. It was suddenly filled by this sexy woman played by Aela Labbe from Bretagne with very good facial expressions.

They took you through all the commotions and emotions, up and down. There were points when the audience laughed, at other times it was gripped by the sadness. Beautiful was to watch solo dances, or when the two men imitated a fight full of irony and humour.

It lasted altoigether over one hour and showed what can be done on stage without having to resort to all the technical means i.e. media background or a virtual reality becoming more real than the live figures on stage. It was wonderful and more than an amazing achievement.

Paul Blackman stated afterwards they started out from nothing and by resorting to their own real experiences as exemplified already by their previous piece called 'self storage' they evolved and progressed over time. But he considers himself lucky to have found these other dancers for they made up an amazing ensemble. And there was Christine Gouzelis with all her skills in making sure the technical plan was in place to let all this happen.


                The antlers used in the dance performance


Text and photos by Hatto Fischer

Athens 17 January 2014




Paul Blackman and Christine Goutzelis have created their own dance company


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