Dance with My Own Shadow Greek National Opera Ballet Athens Greece


Odeon of Herodes Epidaurus Festival – Photo T. Daskalakis

Last night, I attended a performance at the Odeon of Herodes on Acropolis Hill. The Greek National Opera (GNO) Ballet performed different works of renowned composer and “theorist of Greek music,” Manos Hadjidakis. The production, Dance with My Own Shadow, includes four of Hadjidakis’ compositions in a flawless, mesmerizing performance.

Audience Epidaurus Festival

The well-received production premiered at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in November 2019. Director Konstantinos Rigos choreographed the ballet.

Dance With My Own Shadow – rigosk.gr

Before describing the beautiful ballet, I’ll provide a few side notes about the history of the venue, composer Manos Hadjidakis, and choreographer Konstantinos Rigos. I’m incredibly lucky to be staying an 8-minute-walk from Acropolis Hill – a special place that captivated me from day one.

Manos Hadjidakis Greek Composer – Facebook
History Odeon of Herodes

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a “stunning open-air theater, dominating the western end of the South Slope of Acropolis Hill”. This historic area “played a significant role in the intellectual, artistic, and religious activity of ancient Athens”.

Konstantinos Rigos Choreographer – nationalopera.gr

The Odeon of Herodes was built between 160 A.D. – 174 A.D. by Tiberius Claudius Atticus Herod. Herod was a generous Athens benefactor and descendant of an Athenian family. He built the Odeon in memory of his wife, Rigillas.

Kyklos tou C.N.S. Dance With My Own Shadow – Photo Maria Cheilopoulou rigosk.gr

In ancient times, “Odeons were built for musical contests”. The Odeon of Herodes was the third Odeon built in Athens. Its “distinct Roman style is a noticeable contrast to the nearby Theatre of Dionysos”.

At Odeon

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“Few composers have defined Greece’s musical landscape and modern culture as much as Manos Hadjidakis.”

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Dance With My Own Shadow Billboard

“With its Roman arches and three-story stage, the original Odeon was partly covered with a wood and tiled roof. Today, the circular orchestra is an open semi-circle that’s paved with black and white marble.

The Odeon seats nearly 5,000 people, and was built to comply with traditional Roman theater standards. With the covid-19 pandemic, the maximum audience allowed for performances is 50%. of capacity. Masks were mandatory, and photography and recording were forbidden.

Odeon of Herodes – Why Athens

The Odeon has a somewhat violent history. Along with other buildings of ancient Athens, it was burned, looted, and destroyed by invaders like the Erouloi in 268 A.D. For protection, the Odeon Conservatory “joined the fortifications of the city of Athens,” which included its famous Walls and embankments. Later, Athens was occupied by the Ottomans in 1458-1833, and the Germans during World War II.

Odeon of Herodes Southwest Slope Acropolis – Why Athens
Herodeon Excavations and Re-Opening

Excavations at the site were carried out in the middle of the 19th century by the Greek Archaeological Society. Between 1952 – 1953, the Odeon was restored using Dionysus marble.

Greek Singer Nana Mouskouri – Amazon

Since 1957, it’s been used for artistic events like concerts and drama performances. The “ancient stone theatre has hosted some of the world’s best musical performances and artists, including Greek singer Nana Mouskouri, Italian opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti, and American singer Frank Sinatra”.

Konstantinos Rigos Choreographer – Facebook

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“When Pausanias, the Greek traveler and geographer from the second century A.D., visited Athens during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, he described the Odeon theatre as the finest building of its type.”

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Katarameno Fidi Dance With My Own Shadow – ticketservices.gr
Epidaurus Festival

The Epidaurus Festival is an “annual arts festival that takes place in Athens and Epidaurus, from May to October”. One of the most famous festivals in Greece, it includes music, theater, and other cultural events.

Odeon of Herodes – Why Athens

Before its grand opening in 1955, Athens “fully reconstructed the Odeon of Herodes”. It became the prime location in Athens for the Epidaurus Festival. Today, the magnificent Odeon of Herodes Atticus is “one of the festival’s main venues”. From “majestic ballets and arias, to Greek tragedies,” I can attest to the fact that a performance in the Odeon is an experience you won’t forget!

Manos Hadjidakis Composer

Some consider Manos Hadjidakis “modern Greece’s greatest composer and songwriter”. Hadjidakis wrote for theatre and ballet, and his contemporary classical pieces were “inspired by Greek folklore and poetry”.

Dance With My Own Shadow – Ticket Services

Collaborating with fellow composer Mikis Theodorakis, Hadjidakis helped “elevate Greek folk and popular song into respected art”. His movie soundtracks were popular in Greece and abroad, and Hadjidakis won an Oscar in 1960 for the music of the movie Never on Sunday. His works are classics in Greece and the cornerstone of Greek modern popular music.

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“Habits and necessities change. Our sensibility endures and remains unchanged through time. And this is what art is called upon to represent and record, in spite of events and the omnipotence of so-called “historical moments”.  Manos Hadjidakis

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Dance With My Own Shadow – rigosk.gr
Konstantinos Rigos Director Greek National Opera Ballet

Konstantinos Rigos is a Greek choreographer and dance director. He was Artistic Director for the dance department of the National Theatre of Northern Greece (2001-2005) in Thessaloniki and choreographed many plays. In 1990, Rigos formed Oktana Dancetheatre, inspiring young Greek dancers and contributing to modern dance development in Greece.

Manos Hatzidakis Greek Composer – ImpacTalk

Rigos also directs international and Greek contemporary and ancient plays, combining “his expertise in a wide range of fields”. He has choreographed many performers. As a contributing artist and photographer, he collaborates with magazines like Vogue and Marie Claire. Rigos has been Director of the Greek National Opera Ballet since 2018.

Dance With My Own Shadow – Ticket Services
Dance With My Own Shadow

The Greek National Opera Ballet production, Dance with My Own Shadow is an amazing work of art! Konstantinos Rigos describes combining and choreographing four major works of Manos Hadjidakis as “one his greatest challenges and artistic dreams”.

Manos Hatzidakis Greek Composer – GreekReporter

Rigos’ choreography “makes a journey across the four cardinal points of Hadjidakis’ compositions, by incorporating an equal number of emblematic works into a single performance with interlocking parts – four rooms, four directions”. Each “point of the horizon is a room, each cardinal direction is contained within an interior space, where dancing becomes one with the music”.

Chamogelo tis Tzokontas Dance With My Own Shadow – rigosk.gr

During the performance, images were projected onto the monument’s giant stone columns behind the dancers. I admit that with a limited knowledge and understanding of Hadjidakis’ work, Greek poetry, and folklore, I struggled to comprehend the meaning of the four pieces presented. Like professional opera singers, the amazing talented dancers did a fantastic job of relaying the meaning behind their performance. Still, I had to do research both before and after the performance. The four pieces performed last night represent the four points of Hadjidakis’ compositions – north south, east, and west, as described below.

Kyklos tou C.N.S. Dance With My Own Shadow – Photo Maria Cheilopoulou rigosk.gr

Kyklos tou C.N.S (C.N.S Cycle) – north, in the “abstract landscape of death’s wasteland, a deserted beach where loss and suffering unfold against the backdrop of a rough sea”

Kyklos tou C.N.S. Dance With My Own Shadow – ticketservices.gr

Kapetan Michalis (Captain Michalis) – south, “based on the theatrical adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel of the same name depicting the wet, nocturnal, southern wind romantically caressing people’s bodies, as an unrealistically over-sized Kazantzakis-man figure falls upon women like a man and upon men like a woman in the dry Mediterranean landscape”

Kapetan Michalis Dance With My Own Shadow – ticketservices.gr

Katarameno Fidi (Accursed Serpent) – east, “music composed for Hellenic Dance Drama, representing the accursed serpent in a land of shadows and fairy tales, where old and new co-exist devouring one another, and the iconic figure of Karagiozis epitomises the timelessness of folk art”

Chamogelo tis Tzokontas Dance With My Own Shadow – ticketservices.gr

Chamogelo tis Tzokontas (Gioconda’s Smile) – west, “a study by Hadjidakis on the history of Western music and the glamour, hustle, and bustle of New York City accentuating loneliness and despair – also an exercise for Hadjidakis and his personal compositional discipline”

Dancers Greek National Opera Ballet

There were many extremely talented dancers performing last night. Without a program, there are no names to credit. This link provides a list of principal dancers, soloists, demi-soloists, corps de ballet, and dancers in residence for the Greek National Opera Ballet. They deserve recognition for their excellent performance.

The costumes and lighting were elegant, and the dancers’ performances were beyond brilliant. They danced their hearts out on a hot summer night in Athens, dazzling the audience and creating an unforgettable evening!

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