Eleonora Ilia- A Priori Dance Co.

Posted on January 16, 2022


The discreet charm of abandonment photo: Kostis Emmanouilidis

Choreographer’s statement

My artistic research and my choreographic process are in a dialectical relationship with the movement of the world. Intuitively, I am inspired by all these small, quotidian acts which ‘enliven’ and shift everyday life’s norms, through the condition of human ‘sharing’ and ‘joining in’ our communities. Sensing the world’s qualities and dynamics at every present moment and ‘listening’ carefully to its images through the activation and utilisation of the whole sensorium, I experience and I see every co-creative journey as a celebration of life and togetherness. Through my artistic work, I aim to juxtapose the discreet charm of our everyday life’s human, quotidian acts with the indifferent, automated society of the western world that we live in.


In our neo-liberal financial system of the western world, I believe that the field of performing arts has become another ‘product for sale’. A product which ‘bows’ not only to the needs of big institutions and sponsors, but also to the propaganda and beliefs of the respective political power. 

In these circumstances, finally, WE -as makers- apply our artistic work only to a specific audience –the ‘elitist’, upper classes of the society- excluding the majority of common people who do not have the opportunity, neither to relate to the contemporary artistic industry nor to be educated on the content of art.

And WE- collectively- can and should fight for radical changes.

These changes demand our live, embodied presence and artistic engagement in our everyday life’s territories.

How can WE (re)act? What is it emerging nowadays?

WE possibly could practice:

The transportation of our artistic practice in the public space and the creation of artistic interventions in the local community. 

The occupation of unusual spaces and places for art in the social fabric of our area of residence and their transformation into our own performing stages.

The application of our work to the passersby, to all these ‘anonymous’, common people- the workers, the mothers, the children, the elderly people and all –considered- ‘foreigners’ in relation to the contemporary performing arts world.

To let ourselves be vulnerable, sensitive and sensible and ‘listen’ to the images of our real, everyday life in this world.

And maybe WE can (re)think, (re)connect, (re)turn, (re)disturb, (re)define, (re)discover and finally (re)establish the dialectics between our contemporary art and each one of US-the diversity of US, as human beings- in the post-capitalist society. 

Soft power in a Matrixial world photo: Kostis Emmanouilidis

Self Interview

Could you introduce yourself briefly and talk about your decision to create your own dance company, based in Ioannina (GR)?

I studied Law and Dance in Athens several years ago. I would say that as a person I am a thinker and I tend to reflect a lot about the human and social situations that take place in the world, through my personal experiences. Driven by my will to ‘walk stairs and to open new doors’ and to evolve, both as a person and as an artist, I moved and lived in Germany and Belgium for 4 years, where I had several contemporary dance classes and workshops and worked as a freelance dancer and dance teacher in different cities. I was attracted by the fact that there was a strong tendency to decentralize the dance scene. I observed that more or less in every city there was at least one dance company and that the freelance dance artists supported by the existing ‘Dance Houses’ , far from the capital. Although, l knew that regarding the contemporary dance field, the financial and socio-political context in the North of Europe was quite different from the one in Greece, I decided to return and create my own dance company at my hometown Ioannina (A Priori Dance Co, 2015). My aim was to support the idea of ‘decentralization of dance’ in practice, in my country and to create an ‘alive’ network around this idea. Until today, the company has presented both indoor and outdoor dance performances posing questions upon the subjects of human relations, intimacy and kinesthetic empathy.

16 Steps To The Ground, photo: Marilena Gkoni

What is your experience so far ? 

I experience it as a creative and challenging journey. I have been through a lot and I keep questioning myself regarding the sustainability of my choice and its artistic progress at every present moment. On the one hand, I am focusing on how to intervene artistically in the local community through the medium of dance and on the other hand I am investigating how my research and choreographic process is informed and affected by wider humanitarian and social subjects, so that the outcome of each project could apply to anyone, anywhere.

What kind of challenges have you been confronted with and how did you deal with them? Which solutions did you find or what shifted? 

Concerning the challenges, I have been mainly confronted with logistic issues, such as the lack of funds/subsidies, the hosting of rehearsals, the time pressure during the production of a project. Most of the times, both my collaborators and myself are doing several jobs at the same time. There is the added difficulty of being in a physical and spatial distance with my collaborators due to the fact that I am collaborating with artists who live in different cities. At this point, it is important to mention that the past two years I pursued my studies in choreography in the Netherlands (MA Choreography Comma- Codarts & Fontys), an important choice which fed forward my artistic methods and supported ways in finding solutions to each one of the aforementioned challenges. I transported my practice from indoor to outdoor/public spaces, I  developed new investigative methods, I discovered that writing is my basic format, I started reading and insisting more on reference sources in relation to the subjects that I am interested in investigating further in my practice, I organised myself in keeping a logbook with the tasks, scores and observations of the rehearsals – important tools that also helped me to deal with the limited time. I started using systematically all the technological means (zoom, sharing documents, Skype etc.) which facilitate and minimize the distance between me, my collaborators and participants. In other words, I assume that challenges provoked my artistic progress and shifted me from ‘my comfort zone’ as a maker. And for me personally, this is the most important thing at the stake.

FORM.AT photo:Alekos and Christos Bourelias

Taking your work from indoor to outdoor/public spaces? Why ?

At first, the pandemic and the continuous lockdowns in Greece led my practice research to the public space. It was not a conscious choice but a solution out of necessity due to the strict measures and the prohibitions of rehearsals in indoor spaces. However, during the seven months of creating my last piece in the semi-abandoned street market of the historical centre of Ioannina, I realised that, firstly, the whole process in situ informed and enhanced my artistic methods: the freedom of experimentation, the playful essence that I experienced during the creation of tasks and scores, the semiotics and the ethics of space played a huge role in regard to the creation of my initial movement material and consequently the dance composition (as both me and my dancers were involved with the everyday’s life routine and norms) and last but not least, the transportation of elements that belong to typical theatrical conventions of dance in an outdoor space. From the system of the theatre, to everyday life’s system. I started a dialogue with the local community (different target groups) on what is contemporary dance and performance and to whom it is addressed, which was crucial. The interaction with passersby and the workers of the area was a another catalyst towards this direction. Finally, through this artistic intervention, I managed to transform an unusual place for dance into a performing arts stage. The outcome of this project is a valuable gift for me as a choreographer in a country whose policy towards the field of dance is insufficient. The creation of stages in the public space could be a possible alternative in order to remain artistically active and sustainable in any crisis- financial, pandemic and sociopolitical.                                                                         Concerning my choice to ‘occupy’ artistically and to ‘disturb’ abandoned or semi-abandoned territories in the public space, I intend to raise awareness upon the restoration and cultural use of buildings and spaces with a historical, social and anthropological importance for the community. That’s why I choose to host my research in semi-abandoned places-a new piece takes place in the abandoned old University of Ioannina. I am happy that I got some feedback from the audience, through productive dialogues about their personal relation to these spaces and the urge to save them through cultural and alternative uses.

The discreet charm of abandonment photo: Kostis Emmanouilidis

Which artistic methods have you developed?

In my previous pieces, the ones presented in indoor theatre spaces, according to the initial idea of each project, I would create my abstract movement material through improvisational tasks that focused mainly on the physical movement of the body. The shift that I made when taking my practice research in the outdoor/public spaces is that I began to use kinesthetic/somatic approaches regarding the perception of the space e.g reading and mapping techniques of the space and the using the unity of the senses of my performers during the phase of exploration and discovery. These tools enhance the qualities and the dynamics of the produced abstract material in my research and consequently enrich it, before proceeding with the dance composition. In the second phase, as long as my movement material is evolving and is becoming more layered, I investigate further between foreground and background taxonomies and engage with the dance composition of the piece. I mainly create repetitive scores- which support the manipulation of a pattern through variations in the properties of timing, intensity and shape.

Why do you use repetition in your artistic work?

I love repetition and use it as it can ‘enliven’ the past. Repetition joins the past and the present moment through the paradox of change. The movements that one saw before, in a moment and sees them again in the present moment, are still there ‘alive’ yet transformed through the use of repetition. Through repetition, the movement references are clearer for the spectators, as they have the opportunity to revisit familiar images again, so as to be able to connected with them and to create their own narratives, based on their perception and experiences. And this is exactly how I see life and history in our world. Everything happens again but it changes as it passes through tonalities of sensations, affective modulations and affiliates with experimentation, testing and play. So, I think that repetition gives us the opportunity to (re)see things; to (re)examine and to (re)act with a will and a wish for transformation. 

Soft power in a Matrixial world photo: Kostis Emmanouilidis

Do you have any thoughts about the future pace of your practice research and artistic work?

Taking my practice research to outdoor ‘hidden’, ‘forgotten’ or neglected public spaces and buildings in the social fabric of my area of residence, is at the core of my interest. On one hand, I consider this decision as an act of advocacy upon our past, as it is linked and transformed through our embodied presence at every present moment. On the other hand, I think that this choice serves my interest for creating artistic interventions in the local community – to provoke, to influence or to educate every time a wider audience consisting of people who wouldn’t or couldn’t come to an indoor theatre for different reasons. It is worthwhile to mention that in my last projects – both in the neglected street market and in the abandoned University- the synthesis of the audience changed- compared to previous indoor works. I met people who had no connection to my dance company or to contemporary dance education and performance. The feedback that I got from them was quite promising, concerning my intentions.              By ‘provoke’ I refer to the provocation of ‘elitist’ stereotypes of the ‘traditional’ audience-the expected components of ‘high-quality’ contemporary dance performances in Greece. I have noticed that lots of spectators expect to see dance pieces with ‘spectacular’ contemporary technique, accompanied by specific music (electro, most of the times) and artificial light for the creation of atmospheres in typical indoor, theatre stages. I am not against these forms of contemporary dance, as I have worked like this until now, but I believe that it is necessary for me to open new creative pathways and to provoke through my work. What I feel is still on the surface, in the culture of the Greek dance contemporary scene, is the sensitivity, kinesthetic empathy and interest in embracing target groups that have not had any relation or experience with dance. This is another reason why I want to continue my practice research in ‘non-suitable’ places for dance. I think that the activation and the utilisation of the human sensorium, the vulnerable physical sunlight, the kinesthetic/somatic approaches, choreographic ‘cheap’ objects that exist already in the space, the natural sounds of the surroundings are some of the components that I would enjoy continuing working with. And to create pieces for ‘unusual’ places for contemporary dance in my future artistic work and practices. Last but not least, I introduced a cinematographic approach for the documentation of my choreographic practice, as due to the COVID prohibitions. I orientated myself towards the use of another medium, the camera, which also affected my artistic methods. I realised that as long as I have been working alone with my performers in outdoor spaces, I became a moving camera-spectator, who approached the different dance episodes through different angles and proximity. This created already a sense of cinematographic spectatorship, that I am interested in exploring more in the future.

Soft power in a Matrixial world photo: Kostis Emmanouilidis