MEDEA by Dimitris Papaioannou. Dance theatre and contemporary art.

by Laura Luppi


When Jason and the Argonauts arrive in Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece, Medea is stricken with passion for Jason. Medea’s love for Jason is passionate and crazy, as she kills her own brother just to help Jason to succeed in his heroic challenge. It’s an overwhelming love, which ends in infidelity, murder and revenge. The dynamics narrated in Greek tragedies are illogical and only apparently unreal, and through these dynamics the myth reveals the dark aspects of human nature. The passion and the unveiling of the wicked forces hidden behind it and ready to emerge on the surface and to take on human form in a controversial female figure as Medea have been performed on stage several times, but Dimitris Papaioannou’s mise-en-scene both in 1993 and then in 2008 was a masterful and distinguished one, as he focused on the essence of the original message. By combining the art of acting with the performative dance, in an artistic vision close to dance theatre together with an in-depth study of the scenic design, the Greek choreographer staged this mythological story going beyond the traditional boundaries of Euripides’ classic version.
He introduced a new key element in the performance: the water, source of life and the only means to land on the island. On the stage the island is represented by a huge wooden table on which the sorceress lies like a white-winged statue. Mysterious white wings she is willing to give up just to be joined to Jason, played by Papaioannou himself, who is coming from the sea, ‘walking with large strides’.
The dichotomy between good and evil – symbolized by Apollo (god of sun, music and arts) and by a character created by the director and having the appearance of a dog (the personification of evil and aggressive instincts) – finds suffering in the infidelity, agony in the dissatisfied desire, murderous rampage in the anger triggered by rejection and offence. The murder of her own children, scenically represented by the strong blow with which Medea destroys the two sculptures symbolically representing her children, marks the shattering of all hopes. Once again the lid of the jar containing the irrational feelings that can lead humans to madness is removed, and the life and death drives gush out of it, in the same way as two opposing energies. Dimitri Papaioannou is able to attract the spectators’ attention thanks to moving sculpturelike images, using danced gestures as a means of communication, a word to express the turmoil of the protagonists’ soul, thus leading to the catharsis of those who are observing this turmoil and, at the same time, experiencing it.
“Medea” went on stage in front of Pina Bausch.


Dimitris Papaioannou (1964) is a choreographer and a visual artist, graduated from the Athens School of Fine Arts. After a trip to New York, where he came into contact with the experimental dance and Butoh, he founded the Edafos Dance Theatre company, and went on to direct it till 2001, when he was appointed Artistic Director of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, for which he staged an impressive show called “Birthplace”. He has created many choreographic projects in which different art forms can merge: he always succeeds in surprising and amazing the audience but at the same time encouraging new reflections. In particular his last work “Still Life” is inspired by the Myth of Sisyphus, the man who dared to challenge the Gods and for this reason condemned to ceaselessly push a rock up a mountain and watch it roll back to the valley below. “Still life” is a metaphor for the work to which mankind is mostly obliged to devote themselves in this earthly dimension, often neglecting their loved ones and social life; it tells of human metamorphoses, of rolling stones and of the desire to rebel against all the dreariness, trying to remove the clouds from the sky with a spade.

MEDEA (2008) / extracts from the project by Dimitris Papaioannou from Dimitris Papaioannou on Vimeo.


Photo credits:
1 | STILL LIFE – 2015. Photo by Greg HajiJoanidis
2 | STILL LIFE – 2015. Photo by Miltos Athanasiou
3-15 | MEDEA

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