Elpida Orfanidou, interview by fromstagetopage

Posted on September 24, 2013



ELPIDARC - photo Roger Rossell

ELPIDARC – photo Roger Rossell


Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

My name is Elpida Orfanidou, I was born in Berlin, I am Greek and I grew up in Athens. I studied dance in Athens at Grigoriadou dance school while also studying Pharmacy and Piano, all of this at the same time. I continued with choreography studies in Arnhem and Montpellier, and completed my studies MA (Master in performance practices and research) at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Since 2009 I live and work in Berlin.


What do you want to question with your current project?

I m working on two projects at the moment.  One is a collaboration with Juan Perno, a visual artist. This is a project that deals with film, video and performance and it is based on the silent movie La Passion de Jeanne d’ Ark, by C.T. Dreyer. We begin by cloning some scenes from the movie. I believe that Maria Falconetti- the actress, gives is one of the best movie performances I have ever seen. This project deals with questions on mimesis, repetition, God, relationships with people, questioning collaboration, casual mystics, the atmospheres you want to create, approaching the mystical with humour,  casually. We try to recreate moments from this masterpiece.  It is an interesting challenge and it connects much to life.



My interest is that a project is connected to life. I want to talk and deal with need and life, these are my main questions.


ELPIDARC  photo Roger Rossell

ELPIDARC photo Roger Rossell

Is questioning actually the process?

Yes , I can’t escape from questions although my usual answer is ‘I don’t know’. You see I doubt a lot, I am a master of ignorance! So this project is really a challenge for me,  since it deals with belief in God and faith. But if I want to believe, there is no room for questions. This conflict is part of the process and my subject.


The other project is another collaboration this time with May Zarhy, performer from Israel- supported by Mousontrum where she is based. At first glance it seems different to the other one. We deal with the here and now, and how to be there. I don’t know if/how one can escape from performing. From the first rehearsal this project was a revelation for me:  I had to escape from my own self criticism, in being and here and now. While performing there is this sense of being inside and outside at the same time, but in this project  it is different. We try to do things and it doesn’t matter what they are: singing, standing, dancing like crazy, not being afraid of exaggeration. We investigate how to avoid our natural subtleness in performing. We try not to have too many questions, at least  that the questions are not too present during rehearsal. If you allow yourself to become a child,  you are bringing in things, not questions. This is not about denying the questioning altogether, but it is about entering a state of accepting the questions that arise in the here and now. Rather than saying ‘I’ m not where I should be’,  really tasting the state I am in, accepting it and see where it can take me.


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

I don’t  necessarily state my questions or make some kind of a statement. I like to share with the audience my way of experiencing questioning, to invite the audience into it.


Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

In general yes, they need to grasp something, to get something from what they see and sometimes they do.  Sometimes audiences want to have an experience, to be included in the event. I feel this a more essential need rather than understanding “yes this artist wanted to say this’.  Once an audience member said to me ‘I did not understand, but I was there with you, I was following you’.


Do you have a specific method?

I ‘ve  never tried to have a method, but as I observe myself, I realise that I repeat ways of being in the working space. Maybe after some years I will realise that  ‘hey! this is my method’. I’m not attracted to the idea of having a method though, I deal with specific ideas in a chaotic way. I guess it is true  that one’s character is reflected in the way they work…


Do you consider yourself funny?

As far as remember myself, all my relationships with people are surrounded with laughter. I laugh a lot and the same goes for my work. I like humour, my work comes out with a lot of humour although I don’t set out to create a funny piece.


Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

I use the voice of the performer and I like combining moving and talking. Using the voice helps me to have a more complete experience, it helps my body to respond more intuitively, it gives me a track, it helps me to dive into things.


Is the text improvised?

Yes, it is  mainly improvised text, sometimes I use quotes from texts (actually only once from a film). I address the audience with the text and it develops out of the the rehearsal process.


What does it mean to produce work?

Let me think for two hours…… I develop an allergic reaction to this word, its frightening, while at the same time with whatever you do inevitably something is produced. I get stressed from the idea of working in order to produce something.  This way of thinking doesn’t help me.  While when acknowledging all of our little diamonds during rehearsal, using everything in some sort of way makes the stress go away. In any case, most of my works have a loose structure, I don’t really fix things- it just doesn’t come easily to me. In my solo works, I have little islands of fixed points/material/events,  all the rest I decide at the performance.  I challenge my self with allowing all the possibilities open. When I work with other performers, there is a fixed structure, although I still keep open the micro-chapters of the structure.


How did you start this research?

I worked on a solo which I performed three-four times under different titles, but with the same materials, same costume, same song which came again and again but in different parts of the piece. This is what I mean by non- structure.  The best title for this solo was the last: ‘one is almost never’.  At first when I made work, I felt like I was responding to other people’s desires of what a work is supposed to be. Eventually I said to myself ‘ ok I will stand by my freedom of what it is that I do- this is what I do’. This freedom of doing things as I want,  started in 2008, using ‘what makes me enjoy the work’ as my criterion.  When I am on stage, I’d  dare to say: ‘I just want to perform this’. I like this indirect/direct way of connecting to the audience.  It took me many years to achieve this state but now it works and I really enjoy it.

When I work with other performers though I aim for a fixed structure. In rehearsal we try different things, we watch each other, we watch other forms of art and then in the end the structure appears like magic, like ‘oh wow! this is it’. As it happened during a long process of 1.5 years of sporadic meetings, I would estimate 5 months of work condensed, after lots of rehearsal time and decision making crises, the structure just appeared one day, it just happened.

‘one is almost never’- photo David Drake


Are you an artist?

I ‘ m afraid of this word , also of the word dancer, I experience my own little imaginary earthquake when I need to relate to these words. It used to be an intensly present question, to which I gave no answer.  Maybe I am growing closer to accepting this word for myself.  Nevertheless, I believe it is charged with responsibility and with value implied for yourself.


Are you a  good artist?

I don’t know which are the criteria for what is good. Is it about offering something to the audience? Is about success? I really don’t know…..


Do you like your work?

Yes, I just started. After struggling with enjoying the work, saw clearly that I can connect with other people and that it is worth doing, although not easy,  then yes.


Do others like your work?

Some yes some no, it’s good to have variety.


Are you happy with how you do things?

More and more. I do what I always felt is one of the clearest things in my life, I like performing dance. I tested myself a lot,  and it is one of the things I ‘m the most sure about.  This need means happiness to me, more and more I ‘m in contact with it. It also deals a lot with the ego…….


How would you be happy?

If I can be free in every moment,  free doesn’t mean open structured, I connect freedom with happiness. I used to hear this word a lot ,it is the last few years that I started to realise what it means, as a feeling, as an experience.


Are you teaching workshops?

Very rarely since teaching involves a clear proposition and my tendency is to be doubtful. Recently I taught teenagers in a school in Berlin:  it was  shock for me. I realised that class was not about having a good idea, but  it is about what works. You just have to say ‘now we do this‘. In fact it was an assault to my usual questioning and doubting.


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

A lot of expectations, fantasies, visions of what the work could be/become.  At a point I developed this habit of fantasising too much, so I thought ‘I’ d better do things now and we shall see’.


UNITED STATES photo- Miguel Lopez

UNITED STATES photo- Miguel Lopez

What do you think about solos?

There is no conflict of collaboration, or equality issues, you can do whatever you want, this is what I like about solos. You are only with yourself, even if you invite someone to help you. (I asked  a friend and dramaturge Vasiliki Mouteveli, with whom we studied together, to come into rehearsal. She still needed from me to say things about choices and content and so I felt like in a way I was still on my own. Being alone in the studio can be painful!


Do you create scores?

Not really. Once I took a score from Beckett, from a film he made, I wanted to re- create this. In the end I only used parts of his score, the spatial core, a circle in space. I always keep notes on my works but I wouldn’t call these a score.


Do you have a daily practice?

The practice that seems to persist is yoga, I attend yoga classes.


Do you believe in less is more?

I think yes, I have a tendency to get rid of things. I try to do that.


Would you say your work is dance theater?

I have used this word, to describe what I do, to people that don’t know much about contemporary dance. I guess I could say, I use dance and talking.


How do you treat the body in your work?

The body is a field of possibilities.  We can do, what we can do.  And I want to do whatever I want with my body.


Do you favour / create a technique?

I don’t try to develop a language or style in my work. I use everything I have learned. I was never super good at a specific technique, I am flexible to use all of them, rather than one specific technique absorbing me.  I admit ballet has been my obsession and has affected me the most.



I am a fan of suspension, I like to suspend time, timelessness.



I m a fan of Beckett, he is my main influence. I try to create the Beckettian space: a space that can be a void and not a void at the same time, that can be specific and abstract at the same time.



I love lights, they create atmospheres and inspire my performing. I try to bring  the lights into the process as early as I can. Lights can create feeling, but it is expensive. I would

d like to learn more about light, field, space and sound.


Yes , objects. I started developing a particular relationship to objects. The objects are the set. The objects act like little anchors, I create awkward relationships with them, through their use I can propose different fantasies of states of myself or the object itself.



Inspiring, yes. Anything can be considered costume on stage and anything can work onstage but not the casual.


Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

Many times, I like it. Failing is charming, its a way to connect with people,  hey I failed but it doesn’t matter.  I use it onstage , in solo work. There is trying, failing, not completing something, there is no success ever. People engage more or are more empathetic when they witness failure, it is somehow more human.


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

A much more relevant question to the past, it used to charge me with the responsibility of offering something. But when you accept a kind of irresponsibility in your work,  it is then that it feels it matters.  It matters as an experience, you are connecting in a strange ways with other human beings. It is nice, maybe its about love, about people. There is a quote by  Andrei Tarkovsky I like, “one thing a person can count upon in his life is the capacity to love” and also from Ingmar Bergman ‘art is shameless and irresponsible’. For me giving value to human relationships in everyday life, to talk to someone and to create a connection from the stage is the same and it matters. I guess it is the human aspect, although I cannot articulate what exactly is human:  It is a feeling, we do things, we are together. It ‘s not a big deal, I am not on stage to offer knowledge or some big wisdom, it more about: lets be together.


What do you wish for?

To be where I am, with other people, with audience, to offer something. To be where you are. enjoy life.


Thank you.


Elpida Orfanidou 



UNITED STATES photo Miguel Lopes

UNITED STATES photo Miguel Lopes