Greek Press, 1996-1999
Anna Michalitsianou – Ena magazine
...Every single member of the audience was left speechless by the visual effectiveness of the production. Every scene was like a great painting, a work of art...
Yorgos D. Sariyannis – Ta Nea newspaper, 18 July 1996
...The beauty of the production is dazzling…all the performers tie in with the ability of Dimitris Papaioannou to condense the myth to its essence, to delve into it deeply and give it form, while making masterful leaps between the imagery of Yannis Tsarouchis and of comic books...
I have sensed the audience around me sit with bated breath, have heard the applause and the "bravos" called from all sides, have taken in everything said as people left the performance, and I can only stress once more that this is the most important cultural event to have been staged in Greece for many years...
Topiki Epikerotita, Volos – 7 September 1996
...Volos has been enjoying an eventful few days thanks to the performances at the International Conference on Musical Theatre. Something is at last stirring in these parts. It all began the day before yesterday with the Edafos Dance Theatre company’s production of Medea; this pioneering young company came to inundate the parched cultural landscape of the town with a performance of the highest aesthetic order...
...Edafos Dance Theatre’s Medea...is a triumph of the visual, a work of art composed of steady movements and the most magical of colours...
...As the images silently unfurled on stage, this production of Medea swept the audience along on a sensual journey...
Vassilis Bouziotis – Ethnos newspaper, 5 July 1999
...Medea constitutes the most prized achievement of the Edafos Dance Theatre company to date. It is hard to describe the feelings that passed through me whilst enjoying this comprehensively excellent work, which boasts an aesthetic finer than anything I have seen on the stage to date. Dimitris Papaioannou achieves truly great things with this production, proffering inspired direction, choreography that swells with exquisite rhythm and movement, and a series of unique costumes, masterpieces all – the costume worn by Medea is the most beautiful I have ever seen!...
René Sirvin – "Le Figaro," 16 September 1998
…This 1993 production of Medea, reminiscent of mime theatre, pantomime, and perhaps even animation, sits comfortably with the beauty of its unusual and sophisticated visuals. Dimitris Papaioannou imaginatively guides a rediscovery of this well-known story, all the while maintaining the suspense and dramatic tension of the tale…
…Dimitris Papaioannou’s narrative captivates with its inventiveness, and with the power of its images. The characters, seemingly carved of pure marble, contrast strongly with the sad grey realism of the props. The director humourously imagines Jason as a narcissistic ladies’ man, has Medea’s servant tied on a leash, and Apollo beautiful like the god Helios, the grandfather of Medea who emotionally oversees the action. It is he who gives Medea the blood-soaked ribbon with which she blots out the lives of her love rival and her own children.
This ribbon unravels to occupy the entire stage and overwhelm the victims of [Medea], creating a perfect black-and-white tableau graced with touches of red, a highly effective image of great dramatic intensity. The violence of the nude love scene between Jason and Medea marks it out as another shocking signature moment of the production. The performers are perfectly suited to the characters they play, moving with great restraint and in perfect harmony with the music of Bellini.
…The French have discovered the existence of a new Greek dance scene brimming with originality and vitality. Thanks to the Lyon Dance Biennale, Greece has made a worthy entrance into the world of European dance.
Anna Kisselgoff – "The New York Times," 17 September 1998
When Warmth Rises Above Hatred
...The Edafos Dance Theatre company’s Medea suggests a cinematic dream acted out by chalk-white dancer-mimes who move in slow motion when not erupting into emotional outbursts. Dimitris Papaioannou, the director and choreographer, is remarkably coherent in his style and vision... [H]e is never off-key in his retelling.
...Jason and Medea on their wedding night...thrash about on a table with extraordinary passion. After Jason’s infidelity, Medea kills her children by dashing two hand-puppets to smithereens.
Their red innards fall into the ankle-deep pool below, the “sea” that Jason, portrayed as a priggish 19th-century admiral, has crossed. The entire cast’s intensity is striking and the Callas recordings of Bellini are unexpectedly apt.
Dio Kangelari – from the programme of the 2nd Kalamata International Dance Festival, 1996
A Water-Bound Medea
Despite being a production of the Edafos (“Ground”) Dance Theatre group, Dimitris Papaioannou selected the element of water upon which to stage his Medea…
The tables and chairs of the set lie like islets, the visible tips of some sunken city. “Water and Dreams”… Soporific, melancholy waters flash with menace – by turns, the sailing seas of the Argonauts; the waters of the Hellespont and the Caspian Sea, of the sorceress and the atonement she demands; the milky maternal waters of the filicide; the womanly waters of this barbarian in love; and the domain of the granddaughter of the gods, of the Ocean and the Sun.
This water-bound Medea is not a dance theatre take on the Euripidean tragedy. It focuses not on the revenge of the heroine, but rather unravels the skein of her broader myth: from the Argonautic Expedition and the magic potions in Colchis, through to the contented years in Corinth, right down to the betrayal and filicide – and up to the ascension.
The choreographer draws his protagonists from the myth – the trio of the love triangle, the Sun God, a chorus of Argonauts – and introduces a character of his own devising, the Dog. Sun God and Dog seem to act like the two sides of the same deity: one is the fair Apollo of light, music, youth and the oracle, under whose all-seeing eye the events unfold, while the other, a faithful servant to the sorceress and the personification of her darkest instincts, pulls the chthonic strings guiding the action. This is a Medea betrayed before the dog barks three times…
Zoomorphic elements, reminiscent of Egyptian mythology, are also applied to other characters. Medea dresses in the wings of a wild swan or of an albino bat, or in the tail of a peacock. Glauce is as nimble and wide-eyed as a deer. Meanwhile Jason, the Sun God, and the Argonauts seem to have stepped out of the visual world of painter Yannis Tsarouchis.
Above the waters, images drawn from dreams and nightmares lay claim to the universal archetypes on show (“Oh, beauty…” in the words of Odysseus Elytis). Mime theatre, dance, music and the visual arts are gracefully combined, and influences are seamlessly and creatively incorporated into the piece. The excerpts taken from the operas of Bellini add their own lyricism to the proceedings, without constraining the movements of the performers.
Angeliki Stellatou, a leading light of the company and of dance theatre in general, plays Medea with a tragic mask for a face, a mute vessel of movements and inner voices, ill-fated and indomitable. With lucidity and intensely refined movement, she pours life into her costume, claiming it as an inseparable part of her body. She gushes the mysterious gestures of a dark priestess of love when copulating with Jason. Betrayed, a foreigner stranded with only a chair for a homeland, alone upon the sea, she transforms a simple stage prop into a wealth of symbols as she moves and is moved from chair to chair: into the buskin boot, crutch or wooden leg of a woman amputated of her love. Her mute swan song, which expresses the extremes of erotic desire before the climactic clash, touches upon the essence of tragedy.
Bringing his unfailing stage presence to bear on the role, Papaioannou is a Jason with buskin-boots for boats; his expressive power is magnetic, no more so than in the love scenes, and at the calamitous climax in the water.
While beauty is not the “cause of death,” as Poe might have liked, any reservations are systematically washed away by the freshness and vitality of the production, and by the perfectionism apparent in its preparation.
The multi-talented Papaioannou and his team have added their own dance theatre Medea to the pantheon of tragic heroines, exhausting all the secrets of the sorceress’ potions to create the magic seen on stage.
Dio Kangelari is a theatre critic, theatre studies specialist and lecturer at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
Emma Manning – "The Stage" magazine, March 1998
…With Medea, the Edafos Dance Theatre company achieves a powerful interpretation of this tragic mix of murder, infidelity and revenge… Nikos Alexiou’s overflowing set is breathtaking… The vocabulary of the movement is highly effective… The expedition of the Argonauts, all long gliding steps and perfect symmetry, strongly suggests the entrance of the swans in Swan Lake… [T]he nude love scene with Jason is pure eroticism… The element of drama in this beautifully directed production is heightened with excerpts from Bellini’s operas and is triumphantly theatrical to its very core.
François Cohendy – "Le Progrès," 17 September 1998
An Unearthly Opera
With his Medea, Dimitris Papaioannou explores the theatrical and operatic aspects of dance, founding his work on uncommonly powerful visuals...
...The Edafos Dance Theatre company takes us on a journey across Mediterranean waters, through a world that is initially less dance-oriented, but which remains coherent and convincing throughout. The company present their 1993 production of Medea, directed by the chorus unto himself, choreographer and costumier Dimitris Papaioannou.
We are offered an hour in black and white flecked with flashes of red blood, which demarcate the space and accentuate this time of deadly desires and mortal madness; it is an unearthly hour that vacillates between extraordinary images and urgent outbursts. Papaioannou undertakes his explorations without turning his back on the art form, keeping all its charm while at the same time redefining its boundaries. Consequently, this is a work most worthy of your attention.
Gérard Corneloup – "Lyon Figaro," 17 September 1998
...This dance production remains true to the myth of Medea, the sorceress who fell in love with Jason and committed crimes for his benefit, only to be abandoned by him in time. The dance approach is of an entirely descriptive nature, where the body signifies nothing in and of itself but rather exists solely within the set that surrounds it and, moreover, within the costumes that clothe it. It was, in any case, the choreographer who created the costumes, endowing Medea with a huge pair of white wings that transform her into a threatening bird of prey, an attribute she willingly discards when she yields to the charms of the beautiful Jason...
...The use of short excerpts from Bel canto music by Bellini further adds to the magic of this concise performance which has moments of great poignancy, and which presents the choreographer’s and the various performers’ take on this timeless myth...
Ora Brafman – "Jerusalem Post," 13 June 2000
Dimitris Papaioannou, artistic director and founder of the Greek Edafos Dance Theatre company, created a modern rendering of Medea, a version that took its nickname – "aquatic Medea" – from the water-flooded stage. An impressive effect, no doubt, but hardly its most significant achievement.
Papaioannou’s Medea is a dramatic gem, a pure work of inspired genius that transcends time. Set to a musical collage of Vincenzo Bellini’s operas, the music enhances its lyrical dimension, softening some austere stylistic resolutions.
The greatness of this dance theatre work lies in Papaioannou’s ability to cut right into the essence of the dramatic components of the ancient drama, and to solidify coherent visual concepts of set, lighting and costume design that perfectly support the precise and stylised slow movement phrases influenced by classical Greek sculptures and Greek painting. He has created kinetic-sculptured images, with intense locked-up energy, that move in an environment of predestined drama of volcanic magnitude.
The work keeps most of the dramatic elements of the story of Medea, the wife of King Jason, who goes mad with jealousy when Jason finds a new love, and takes her revenge by murdering their children... Every flick of her finger is charged with electrifying power, and the pair’s wedding night is a tale of crystallised beauty and passion, acted out by the stark-naked couple. The scene’s dichotomy is typical of the work itself, where bold desire and restrained objectivity coexist simultaneously in this magnificent piece of art.
This work maintains an original voice. Although in some ways it belongs to the genre of “dance theatre” that peaked two decades ago, it reads well in contemporary terms, and it is relevant today and will remain so for a long time. Medea is my victorious “contestant,” the highlight of the dance section at the Israel Festival and Dance Europa 2000.
Stefania Bochicchio – "Footloose" magazine, March 1998
This wondrous ballet adaptation of the story of Medea was first commissioned in 1993 and, though it toured extensively in Europe, it has only now reached London for an inexplicably short run (ended by the time you read this). This is a tremendous pity and we can just hope that some enlightened promoter will convince the Edafos Dance Theatre company to bring it back soon to the capital, hopefully to a more congenial venue.
Choreographer and director Dimitris Papaioannou spins the tale of the tragic encounter between the sorceress Medea and the hero Jason like a visual spell: every element, from the marble-like quality of the whitened bodies of the dancers, to the primeval feelings that the flooded stage stirs, and from the roundness of the Bellini soundtrack to the discipline of the stylised movements, is like an ingredient of a magic potion. We know that the story will end in a river of tears and blood, but, unable to avert our eyes, we become accomplices in its inevitability. This is modern ballet at its finest, both ground-breaking and accessible. A visual feast.
Zeyher Oral – "Milliyet," 18 May 2000
...The stage is dark. A white light cuts through the darkness to pick out the figures, which look as if carved from marble.
From the very first moment we are drawn into an enchanted world, brought face-to-face with the very essence of Medea...
...We then held our breaths. Rarely have I seen an audience in the very large, and in this case packed, hall of the Atatürk Cultural Centre watch a performance in such silence and with such engrossing concentration, as if magnetically drawn to the stage...
...All the players in this theatrical game transform themselves and their surroundings into works of art, tableaux vivants that overspill with deep-seated passions, paintings of true dramatic force. I was struck by the power of the love scene. In the depths of her misery, Medea tears across the seas, seesawing between the past and the future, between her thoughts and emotions, and finally moulding her pain into decisive revenge...