Olympics maestro brings dance-theatre magic to Saitama
The Greek choreographer, director and performer Dimitris Papaioannou undoubtedly played to his biggest-ever audience in 2004 when, as Artistic Director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Athens, he astonished millions around the world with a blazing arrow that lit a flaming, five-ring Olympics symbol on a pond, and an entrancing human tableaux of brown- and white-painted dancers bringing ancient pottery and murals to life.
In those moments of such powerful performance art, Papaioannou evoked not only the Olympics’ origins in his homeland but the history of humanity itself.
As those ceremonies showed, Papaioannou’s individuality is displayed at its best in his visual effects created by a fusion of performers’ bodies and movements with beautiful stage sets, videos and costumes to present images and shadow images one after another that provocatively stimulate the imagination.
In fact it’s hardly surprising to learn that 58-year-old Papaioannou was a painter and comics artist before he became a dramatist. And with those skills, he often takes charge of the sets, costumes and lighting design to create his unique worlds.
Now, his latest work, “Transverse Orientation,” which premiered at the 2021 Dance Biennale in Lyons, France, is set to bring more of that Papaioannou dance-theatre magic to Saitama Arts Theatre from July 28–31 following his sensational Japan debut there with “The Great Tamer” in 2019.
In this work, Papaioannou’s motif is the cow — from a brooding half-man, half-bull Minotaur to a life-sized cow puppet and a cow-head man — which, together with a woman like the Virgin Mary, will transport audiences into an illusory world of Greek myths accompanied by Vivaldi’s music.
Describing this work, Lyndsey Winship, dance critic of the London-based Guardian newspaper, wrote:
“Dimitris Papaioannou, a master of contradictions. He’ll create sublime tableaux and then puncture the moment with absurdity; and cross beauty with disgust, wonder and comedy.”
As that suggests, if you go along to Saitama then be prepared for Papaioannou to open new doors of dance expression that fuse movement and the visual arts in ways you’ve probably never seen before.
*** “Transverse Orientation” runs July 28–31 at Saitama Arts Theater, an 8-minute walk from JR Yonohonmachi Station on the Saikyo Line.