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A Dance Odyssey

Celebrating its 30th edition, the Kalamata Dance Festival (KDF) welcomes dancers, choreographers and companies.

Josef Nadj, Full Moon (c) Theo Schornstein

We met with Lina Kapetanea, the Kalamata Dance Festival’s art director since 2018, to hear about how KDF casts light on a diversity of practices and approaches. The festival runs across Europe from July 12th to 21st, 2024.

A dancer, choreographer and teacher, you’ve been quite involved with the dance world, and even awarded the best performer of the season 2002-2003 by the Greek Ministry of Culture. Can you talk to us about your career?

I’ve always been very active and did gymnastics till I was 16; that’s when I started dancing because I was too tall. I trained at the Greek State School of Dance in Athens for three years, and thanks to a scholarship, I went to NYC where I later studied at the Merce Cunningham Studio, Movement Research and Dance Space. Quickly after, I performed in Belgium with Flemish Ultima Vez Company/Wim Vandekeybus from 2002 to 2006, where I met my husband Jozef Fruček.

In 2006, we founded RootlessRoot to do our own productions, research and teaching: we needed to create something for ourselves and more importantly, define our own practice. Coincidently, we developed a research program called Fighting Monkey Practice (an applied methodology of martial arts in the education of dancers, actors and movement practitioners) to follow our students; it is now taught globally. Alongside, we regularly give workshops at international festivals and in vocational schools. It’s probably my international background and willingness to teach that got me to become Kalamata Dance Festival’s artistic director in 2018. 

Linda Kapetanea in the Fighting Monkey Improvisation Masterclass (c) Albert Vidal

The KDF celebrates its 30th anniversary; how important is it in the Greek cultural landscape?

It really is the only festival for contemporary dance in Greece. The simple fact of dancing, performing, studying or simply being by the Mediterranean Sea in summer draws international companies; the attractiveness of the city of Kalamata also acts like a magnet. The KDF is perceived as a celebration for dancers to see what is new as well as the best choreographers perform. I use this as a tool to expand the festival, take risks with more challenging performances, and invite up-coming choreographers.

Since its beginnings 30 years ago, the KDF has raised to higher levels and broadened its scope. When I arrived, I felt the festival was not open enough to the public, from all age groups: first, I focused on education, offering tailored workshops to local kids and families but also to citizens over 50 years and with disabilities. Second, I try to involve and attract the local community: 30 minutes of free performances is organised, daily, on the 10x10 stage. It is open to all.

How do you select the companies that will perform?

I follow many festivals, from the smallest to some of the most known, like Julidans in Amsterdam or Oriente Occidente in Italy. I also look at institutions like Theatre de la Ville, Paris. Yet it is very important for me to find artists by myself: there is a great joy in spotting a dancer on social media and, down the line, inviting him to the KDF for a premiere.

I also collaborate with other directors: we exchange thoughts, try to find more economic and sustainable strategies to invite companies and share costs. And sometimes, it’s obvious like welcoming Josef Nadj to present his last show after he announced he was putting an end to his career.

French dancer and choreographer Yoann Bourgeois (c) StudioAL

Would you say The Kalamata Dance Festival brings out many facets in contemporary dance?

Definitely! Each year, I map it out so that the program itself becomes a choreography; others might say it comes in waves, featuring 19 different productions altogether. This year, the KDF starts with a more technical and mainstream approach: it welcomes two of the Hessisches Staatsballett successful creations - Midnight Raga by renowned German choreographer Marco Goecke and I’m afraid to forget your smile by Dutch siblings Imre & Marne van Opstal, leading dancers from renowned Nederlands Dans Theater. Then influential British artist Botis Seva brings added color, energy and a certain form of rawness into the movement with his latest Hip Hop dance production, Until We Sleep. In parallel, Patricia Apergi talks about diversity and pays tribute to humanity with a performance that is like a manifest. Really, no two days will be the same!

Will there be a highlight?

An expected climax is Josef Nadj much-anticipated presentation of Full Moon – his last show. To me, Nadj is one of the most important choreographers over the past decades: he is revered for his style, dedication, uniqueness and personality. I truly admire him; I expect it to be very emotional, as he performs his last piece in Kalamata.

Edivaldo Ernesto, Depth Movement Workshop (c) Arnaud Beelen 

Do you feel the dance space is evolving?

As a choreographer, I feel that influences come and go: a decade ago, we left the movement aside to focus on ideas and more conceptual work. We start to move again, which I believe is triggered by a need for renewed expression. I’m personally in love with the research on the movement. It doesn’t have to be old fashioned: like art, dance evolves. Take the students from the Greek School of Dance for example: they dream to be on stage, but also dream to make this stage their own. At KDF, I don’t want to follow the fashion but involve as many choreographies as I can!