Olia Lydaki, interview by fromstagetopage

Posted on May 9, 2012


Zarathoustra Variations (2005) by Carlotta Ikeda , photo-Laurencine Lot


Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

My name is Olia Lidaki and I was born in Crete in 1975. I stayed in Crete high school and then I went toFranceto study ballet and contemporary dance for 5 years. After my studies, I stayed inFrancefor another 6 years working as performer, collaborating with many dance companies. Soon enough I met Carlotte Ikeda , an important meeting for my future artistic development. She is a Butoh performer , teacher , choreographer and we are still working together , despite  my relocation toGreece.  In 2003 I moved toAthensand since then I have collaborated with several dance companies here.  I also worked with D. Papaioannou during the Olympic Games. I work  mainly as performer and dance teacher and I sometimes choreograph. My first piece was a solo choreographed and performed by myself “Fool’s Triumph”  in 2000 presented during theAthenscontemporary dance festival  by the association of Greek Choreographers.

What do you want to question with your project?

I don’t have a project at the moment but in the last work “Hors Corps” I was investigating human nature: On the one side the grounded, earth bound nature , of instincts, of self-preservation, of reproduction and on the other side the more spiritual, metaphysical nature of man. Across cultures , a lot of traditions, traditional dances and symbols are connected to the earth, fertility, reproduction, the phallus. For when human nature adheres to only one of its two sides passions arise.  Is man ready to leave behind part of this nature in search for its more spiritual self? This work is about the tension between the earth/self-preserving self  and the spiritual , immaterial self. How do we live our lives between these two opposite poles? The ongoing conflict between spirit and flesh. From the earth and flesh , you lift toward the spiritual and then the flesh brings back to the ground. This becomes a cyclical pathway from the body to the spirit and back to the body . One could say birth ,  death and rebirth. This cyclical pattern is a principle of Butoh, the fact that it never ends.

Is questioning actually the process?

I think so. I try things out. I don’t have a fixed idea and then go ahead and construct it. Nor do I just ask dancers to improvise. I start with two opposites and then through the work see what appears between them. These two poles, like magnetic poles, provide the tension of what comes up , which actually brings more ideas and more questions.

Do you want this question to become the audience’s question?

Yes,  I set my questions and find my own way through the subject. The audience can also choose a different way.

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

Some do… As a spectator I don’t try to understand. I believe that art is the processing of things through the specific point of view of each artist. If one is just trying to understand they in fact limit the potential exchange that can happen during a performance. It really depends on the spectator. Because each person sees different things. In my work – there is no message. My work is about people ( human beings with their dreams, fears etc.) confronted with something. About relationships and relationships between notions and meanings- not messages. I am not that certain about any message, which I would feel confident to share anyhow!!

Are you interested in the individual?

Not in the sense of identity and its ramifications on gender, culture etc. In my work the performer is a representative of man (human being). Of course  a female performer and a male performer are not the same. But I am more interested in humans as beings. Man on the path between birth and death. It is this bigger picture I am interested in , inside of which, the issues of identity, beliefs, political views, nation, gender etc. can be a subset. Ultimately how you see this bigger picture, your  philosophy of life, determines some of the aforementioned issues. My main interest is finding meaning in our journey from beginning to end.

I guess this is why I sometimes find myself uninterested in dance performances I see; sometimes the issues discussed are not within my concerns.

This also links to my Butoh practice. During the first years of working, all the choreographers I worked with would use my best bits, my potential best  in movement. What I liked about Butoh was that it was an art form in which I would use everything about me: the good, the bad, the child, the old man, the female etc. It is all there, you work and dig deep inside of you and you can find all of it. No one tells you how to do this. This is what I carry on stage and in life, all of this. And maybe this is why sometimes when I see something very specific I am not that interested. I am looking for these ‘big’ questions: who am I? Where am I going? Why am I here? –these are the basic questions that give birth to life, beyond identity, profession etc. Everything I do is ultimately about these questions and I see them expressed everywhere. I am very moved by anything that contains these questions- I look for different occasions to ask these big questions again.

Do you have a specific method?

I start with a theme and different ideas on the theme and then I look into how these ideas connect to each other. Ideas can come from an image, a state, a specific event. I use pairs of opposites (binary oppositions) that usually guide me through the work: Using the two sides of the same coin, seeing the same thing from a different angle and looking into the different energy potential of these two opposites.

I try to rebalance this system of opposites, into some form of neutrality-‘Nul’ like my teacher Carlotta says, a zero that is also the infinite ‘Neant’ (eastern philosophy style….)

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

I am not really interested in text, I find it too specific, it doesn’t serve my process. Sound I find necessary, as long as it serves the theme of the particular work and it is in a good balance with silence. I always use the bipole of sound and silence in my work.

What does it mean to produce work?

I do find producing very difficult. Going through the production process can be revealing about the relationship you have with your work though. Even writing a text about the piece clarifies things for the creator also. Going through with the production also confirms how important the work is for you. How much you believe in what you do. But it is also a hassle both physically and mentally. When I had to do it, I did it all myself and I was ok to do it but it also halted my drive towards making. I didn’t like the people I had to meet and spend time with, I didn’t like the way they perceive (or not for that matter) our artform. I also didn’t like myself while going through this. I would need to really consider it before entering into a production process again myself. I suppose the more experienced you become the easier it gets.

Meat (2008) by Persa Stamatopoulou photo-Zenia Drosou

Are you an artist?

Yes I am.

Are you a  good artist?

I don’t care.

Do you like your work?

Yes I do.

Do others like your work?

I guess some do, some don’t. After the last show “Hors Corps” a lot of people that saw the show didn’t tell me what they thought. In my experience as a performer it is important to have / live and strong experience during the time that you are on stage performing. I really enjoy this and insist on this as a performer even if the work is not that great.  So I could say that I am not as interested in the performance (the execution) as I am in the lived experience. I think finding one’s way to communicate his work to the public needs experience and the capacity of engaging in the creative process both as a performer and a choreographer at the same time!

Are you happy with how you do things?

It’s hard for me because I find it difficult to make decisions. I find it hard to place things in a specific context. It is difficult for me to differentiate between things and therefore decide. As time goes by it becomes easier.

How would you be happy?

By not feeling like I am split into different parts. I would be happy to feel like all of my facets my profession, my way of life; my choices are all based more or less on the same principles. To find this one person , myself. For a long time I had been feeling that I am only ‘dance’ and when I decided not to be only ‘dance’- I created a new body. I ‘ll be happy when I unite my ‘selves’ and dance, so that they can all stand reconciled,  in one.

Are you teaching workshops?

It has been a while now that I haven’t.

Are you using the principle of improvisation?

Yes I do. In order to create material I start with a specific subject for improvisation, then I will start working on it, develop different stages of the material. Gradually time becomes a part of this, and then space becomes a part of this.

Is your work set or improvised?

For the performer there is space in the material for improvisation so that it can be performed slightly differently every time. So that the material serves the work and the specific mood and inspiration and discoveries that the dancer can have in each performance. In this way the performance develops.

Do you set precise goals? Do you have specific expectations?

I don’t set precise goals in the distant future. I invent my goals gradually and on the way.  When it comes to expectations, they are linked to goals, but I have to say I fear them , I don’t like expectations that much. If you expect something, there are so many uncertain and chance factors that can influence  your goal and expectation that it is highly likely that you get disappointed. I don’t always find the strength to set a goal and then end up facing all that. Sometimes I just hide and declare that I have no goals. But I do , I make them up on the way. But I am not always that brave.

Do you have a daily practice?

No I don’t. I used to practice Yoga daily. I am training in Feldenkreis at the moment. During rehearsals I prepare the bodies with yoga, martial arts, running, butoh exercises, in a group warm up. So that the performers have  a prepared body as well a team /group notion.

What’s the difference between process and practice?

They do link somehow. Practice sometimes helps the process, it improves it.

What do you think about solos?

A nice challenge. I have worked a lot in solo performances as performer myself. As a soloist you occupy the stage in a different way, you handle the audience differently, also. You have great freedom and also great responsibility because you are on your own.  I have also choreographed a solo which I performed myself “Fool’s triumphs” and a solo for Ioanna Apostolou “Tenir en surface”. It is really different making one to performing in one you are making. When you create for another performer, you have a better distance from the work, it is also more pleasant and easier. I am really interested in seeing how the performer invents their own ways through the material. It is a dialogue,  you go to them and they come to you, ultimately you create something that belongs to neither.

Do you create scores?

Notes during rehearsals, initial plans for scenes and a story board format during the development of the work.

How do you archive your work?


Do you believe in less is more?

Yes I do, both with regards to the work’s direction and complexity.

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

I am definitely influenced by Carlotta and from all the choreographers I have worked with. What I have done with each one is inherent in me now, I tried to enter their way of thinking. I am also influenced by other arts: photography, painting, cinema and literature.

Are you using technology in your work?

No I haven’t I tend to think I wont, it doesn’t lie within my interests at the moment.

‘2027’ (2008) by Persa Stamatopoulou photo-Stefanos Samios

A few questions on the elements

of performance:


Development in time, dynamics of time.


Space inside and outside of the body of the performer.


That breathe.


Discrete. Not that obvious. That  contains the element of surprise. Set that reveals itself gradually.


Second body.

How do you treat the body in your work?

The body is the live canvas onto which all of what will develop is imprinted.

Do you favor / create a technique?

I favor Butoh and contemporary dance , a mix of what I trained in.

When you choreographed, were you actively dissatisfied with what kind of choreography was on offer?

No, choreography comes from a internal need. The opportunity came up that they offered me some funds and I had something to say.

So why does company, why do companies such as yours matter?

What matters is the process of creation. In entering this process what matters is that you share. This sharing and exchange promotes the process. This presupposes the notion of processing and recording certain things in you. But since in the creation you exchange with others, you also become changed through the process. It is not only about making something. You start from a point which is where you are (the work at the same time records this place-where you are now). Through collaboration, dealing with the process and the questions arising in it, always assists the development of one’s perceptions- and this is why I believe that creating is very important.

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

Obviously I am not that interested in this. I mean that maybe for others I have, but when it comes to me I don’t feel  I have failed.

What do you wish for?

I wish that I carry on searching not expecting to find, necessarily. I wish that the angst of finding answers doesn’t hinder my search.


Thank you.


olia lidaki(o_lydaki@yahoo.com)