Persa Stamatopoulou, interview by fromstagetopage

Posted on November 16, 2015


fight or flight
fight or flight

Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I am Persa Stamatopoulou. I have been professionally active in the field of dance for 28 years and I studied dance in France. During different periods within all these years, I have introduced myself as a choreographer, a dance teacher and a dancer.

What do you want to question with your current project?

At the moment, I am working on a new project, mainly thinking about it. I am still waiting for funding in order to go ahead with the production. I would like to create it and present it this year.

The subject I am interested in at the moment is migration/ immigration. People have been migrating , shifting from one part of the world to another. This is a fact, choosing this as my subject is not really questioning it.  I am interested in investigating the reasons or the thoughts behind making such a decision, and to look at these migration patterns of people, their routes, their itineraries, the geographical obstacles they are faced with. It seems that in these transitions the world appears to change size according to the different conditions. How does one cover great distances by foot? Which events encourage someone to make the decision to change country? It can be a brutal experience of fleeing (exodus), a peaceful and carefully planned  move, or an impulsive response to unwanted circumstances. What makes humans leave and wander?

Why do you choose this question?

In a sense, my work is autobiographical, but I only realize this once the work is completed. While I am absorbed in the creation I do not see any autobiographical connections. I become aware of them whilst watching it as a spectator. The theme I have been working on, reveals itself in connection to my own personal concerns. I have never started a creation with the intention of directly connecting my life and what I choreograph. It seems that subconsciously there is autobiographical link with all my works.

For the past 2,3 years, I have been considering moving to a different country. I am questioning it, I have a strong impulse to pursue this for specific reasons: I can’t stand living in this country any longer. I do feel that I am entitled to a more civilised part of land, as a citizen of the world, and since I am not finding it here I should look for it elsewhere. At the age of 50, I am wondering how I would like the rest of my active years to be like. What do I chose for these next years for my future? and for the future of my daughter?

Is questioning actually the process?

I usually start with one word. I start from something tiny and then this builds and expands in my mind. It shapes an idea which I can then transmit to the dancers so that it will finally develop into something complete. My goal is to return to the concise and brief.

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

Not necessarily. I don’t feel confined to the idea that the audience identifies with the work- the idea or question behind it. I am more interested in that the spectator observes, feels, creates his own associations with the work which can also be something I never thought of. I don’t want to impose my ideas on the spectator.

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

I don’t think they are looking for a meaning, a message. I believe that audiences want to feel something, even if it is anger, even if they criticize negatively what they see it is a reaction, the whole point is that they don’t stay indifferent. I don’t want the spectator to leave the show thinking – Ok, so what? Nice…/ and so….


Silence photo-Vasilis Makris

Are you interested in the individual?

I am interested in the individual and my work is anthropocentric. I select specific people for specific works-I am interested in the identity of the dancers and their personality. How does this person move and how do they think? I work with who they are.

Do you have a specific method?

It is only during the past few years that it has become more specific. I work with improvisation primarily, I never teach movement material. The dance develops through conversations and improvisations. I then select parts of material which I find interesting, which belong to my aesthetics and the way in which I wish to express the specific work.

Do you consider yourself funny?

Mostly not. It is something I would like to get closer to. At the same time I do not consider my works melodramatic. It is not that I am interested in the dark side of things but it seems that my dances focus more on fragile inner themes, for instance human weakness and failure. I would say that I am more attracted by the hidden and unspoken facets of man.

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

Not really, only if I find it necessary in a work. My work apart from anthropocentric is also ‘bodycentric’. i.e. the main focus is the body which I believe is the most sincere medium of expression- the body does not lie, cannot hide. There is a primordial sense of truth especially when the body expresses itself through improvisation rather than given movement structures, the ‘real’ emerges.

What does it mean to produce work?

Every now and again, I try to think of myself without choreography. I say to myself, I will stop choreographing, stop creating, but up to now making is a natural way of being for me. Despite the fact that I get tired or upset and face so many problems, my need to make work outweighs the problems. I ask myself – Ok…So what ? What am I doing? ( the same thoughts I never want the audience to have…). What am I really doing? What am I offering to the dance scene both of Greece or Europe? I have no answer to these questions.


Is there a Greek dance scene?

There are people who make interesting work, who continue to experiment and create.

Can you identify a specific Greek identity?

The identity I detect -at least for some of the choreographers- is one revolving around the self. It feels like many works lack an openness, a broad sense of relating, it sometimes feels like each maker is limited into ones little story.

Are you an artist?

Yes, I am. It is the only certain thing I can say about myself. I feel alive through art, through most artforms.

Are you a good artist?

I don’t know what that means. I can’t judge that for myself. In my self-criticism, I can definitely say I am an active artist.

Do you like your work?

Yes, especially during the last few years. I watch past works and I feel overall satisfied, I might not like all of it but I do find parts which I like.

I have even thought of re-staging some pieces, but there is rarely the occasion of repertory works. I continuously have new ideas which overtake older ones.

Do others like your work?

Not always, I have positive, negative and indifferent responses, the whole range. Overall I get good feedback on my work.

Are you dissatisfied with what choreography has to offer at the moment? What is missing?

The way I deal with choreography seeks communication, I feel that this is what is missing: a true and substantial way of communicating. People communicate, there are words and talking, but no substance. A lot of talking, little action in the way we approach dance. We all have ideas, I see this more clearly now. We are bursting with ideas, opinions and view points but we lack in action. It is wearing me out on a social, political, artistic and emotional level.

As if there is no real purpose, no aim for things. As if all the energy is lost before reaching the goal. What is missing is a simple, accessible attitude to things. I don’t know what is keeping us from making simple decisions and materialise things, fulfil them. What is holding us back, the fear of loosing our certainties, our security, our comfort? I get very angry with that. I used to be indifferent, now I get cross, anger has taken the place of apathy.

Would you say you have a dance company? Why do companies such as yours matter?

I would not say a dance company, but there are a few people, a core group with whom I feel certain that if I approach them they will be with me on the project. This team consists not only of dancers but also of other co creators.

Are you happy with how you do things?

No, I am never satisfied. I feel the dramaturgy is sometimes a problem in my pieces. I have not collaborated with a dramaturge yet, I am thinking about it. Up to now, I had not thought of it as necessary but the way I see my work has recently changed.

How would you be happy?

Ideally I would be happy to have more time to create. To have space, a studio (not necessarily my own) so that I can spend more time on research, on working with the same people, developing less transient collaborations. After all these years I can say there is a core group of about 8 people with whom I can communicate well and we can understand each other. I would like to be able to keep these people near me, working together more often. At the moment we meet again when a new production comes up. I wish we would not have these big gaps between creations, spending less time away from each other. I strongly believe that artists with a concrete body of works, spend the time, really focusing on it. They don’t waste so much time juggling several jobs to make ends meet. I am certain that this financial marathon of survival in Greece ultimately affects the works presented. Works don’t really go deep enough, seem unfinished when presented, a lot of creative discounts are taking place. The duration of research and production, can affect the quality of a dance piece.

You mentioned a core group of 8 people. Do you mainly create group works?

I tend to make works with a few people, anything between solos and quartets and I was also performing in my work. I would reconsider performing again, my dancing career isn’t over yet, but I do enjoy materializing my ideas on other bodies.

Silence photo-Vasilis Makris

photo-Vasilis Makris

Is your work set or improvised?

Somewhere between the two: the performers are not doing something completely different on every show, neither are they bound only to set material. A pathway of movement develops over the rehearsals, which becomes more and more specific, but I do like to leave some space to the performer, provided the meaning is not changed. I like to offer these windows of freedom to my dancers. As a person I prefer to keep things open. I prefer ellipsis rather than using or putting full-stops. I amlike that in my own life, I like to live things open, in a sense to be continued (unfinished). Improvisation is a method of working in my case it is not the product.

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

I enter the rehearsals tabula rasa (in a blank state): I have five ideas, five questions, I have a sense of aesthetics that comes with me and is part of my work but I don’t expect anything. The most interesting part is the rehearsals, it is a magic journey, which can take you to unexpected places, depending on what comes from the dancers as well.

I even allow myself to move away from an initial idea, in order to follow through the process. At the same time- even if only unconsciously- I seem to preserve my own identity while working with improvisation. I would describe my identity as simple and serene. A sense of tranquility incorporating things unsaid, anthropocentric, looking into the imperfect nature of human beings.

Do you have a daily practice?

Yes, I practice yoga and I keep in shape while teaching dance. I also keep in touch with performing.

At times I write, I find an odd piece of paper and put my thoughts down. I might loose this odd piece of paper along the way, but sometimes there is a great need to record my thoughts. I am not too much of a practical person, there is no particular pattern in my act of writing.

Do you believe in less is more?

Yes, absolutely, it is my motto in life, I can identify with it. As I grow older, I adopt this motto more and more in the way I speak, in my dancing, in my moving, in everything.

Would you say your work is dance theatre?

In past works there used to be a dance theatre approach. Recently I have made the choice to have more movement and less theatre in my works. When I say more movement I do not necessarily mean intense physicality, but corporality in creating images.

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

I am influenced by painting, I admire the work of Edward Munch, Vincent Van Gogh, by literature and poetry. I would say mostly poetry, I get excited by the infinitude of images hiding behind the verses of Kiki Dimoula.

How do you treat the body in your work?

Like a sculpture, made of soft clay that can change form continuously. ‘Imagine you are a moving landscape, alive with energy’ this is what I say to my dancers. I don’t want to strain the body , nor mistreat it in any sense.

Do you favor / create a technique?

Release technique is what I teach and expresses me. When I choreograph I never enter the mode of thinking of any particular technique. Release technique is more familiar to me, as a movement language.

How do you use the following elements of a stage performance?


I am interested in the pauses in time. A pause can be a very dynamic feature, with lots of movement and energy lying inside of it. I am more attracted by slowness, rather than speed. I have an instinctive relationship to time, both in my life and my work.


I don’t use the space much, my preference is place rather than space. The dancers don’t move a lot on stage in my work. I assume I like stationary things which change abruptly in space and in time.


I find lighting design very important, it is the set for my work. I am interested in different atmospheres, it is as if the choreography and the lighting are two planes, which sometimes meet and sometimes intersect. Lighting design doesn’t need to be complicated, subtle atmospheres can be very effective.


No, I don’t find set necessary, I rarely used it.


I don’t find costumes necessary either, I am interested in finding a costume which connects somehow to the work, but it will always be something simple, and as abstract as possible.

Fight or flight

Fight or flight

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

Of course. I consider it necessary, alas if I succeeded.

How has that affected you?

I have been influenced but not in a negative way. I hold on to the experience in the back of my head, a self reflection of what went wrong and why, so it functions as knowledge helping me progress more.

What do you wish for?

My wish is to have good health both physically and mentally, to be able to observe and perceive things, to be able to take risks. Growing older, we tend to move less, to be more afraid, to shrink metaphorically. I don’t want to loose this feeling of being able: to move, to start all over again. I wish that I can always keep the felling of beginnings rather than that of final destinations and I certainly wish that my daughter is always well.