Twenty years ago nobody thought that the Kalamata Festival would become the focus of dance in Greece. But now, the festival is still going strong and pulling in huge crowds. Around 200,000 people attended last year.
The festival’s artistic director Vicky Marangopoulou is very happy at how at how popular it has become: “This year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Kalamata Dance Festival. I have to say that at the beginning, running the festival was really like doing an experiment, because it was so strange to start a new contemporary dance festival in a regional town in Greece. The audience was probably not very well acquainted with this art form at that time.”
The festival is international. Dutch dramatist Hildegard De Vuyst worked with an international team to develop a new show, Badke, from a traditional Palestinian dance: “Dabke is the name of a folk dance from the region. It is not only danced in Palestine, the Palestinians were also very successful in turning it into their dance. So it is considered as their national dance. It is a way of dancing that is very much connected to the ground. There is a lot of stamping, it is very affirmative. It is very collective.The challenge for the dancers was that they were invited by us to create their own material for the show.”
Christian Rizzo, working with the group Association Fragile, brought a new show, Sakınan Göze çöp Batar, to the festival. The Turkish title of this performance means “an over-protected eye always gets sand in it” which is a Turkish proverb meaning that trying too hard to protect yourself results in the worst happening.
Christian Rizzo, the choreographer, explained: “I think it’s a very tightly written script. A script for dance, space, light, music and objects. I would say it’s all that together, which makes this project. It’s a piece which is very musical as well as being very visual. So all the elements come into play, dance, Kerem’s presence, and the presence of light is also very important, and the scenery I would also really say is very much an actor in the piece.”
Dancer Kerem Gelebek also enjoyed that aspect: “It’s a gigantic space for me, because although this whole piece is very tightly written from the beginning to the end, I feel I have great freedom within it. Every performance is very different.”
The past 20 years of the festival have seen 276 performances by 92 international dance groups and 42 Greek dance companies. In terms of cultural de-centralisation from Athens, the Kalamata International Dance Festival is the most successful event in Greece.