'And quiet flows the Don"...was the title of the book by Mikhail Sholokhov. I paraphrase to say that "quiet flows the Greek contemporary dance". With its major exponents of the shortly lived enthousiasm of the '90s turning to other activities and genres (such as the popular musical), the crisis and its side-effects added to the already existing problem of identity, education and vision, we are talking serious stagnation in this country.
Why am I saying all that? Because, last night I attended the performance of "Cabaret" the well-known musical, which immortalized Miss Liza as Sally Bowles, the central female character of the play, in the cinematic version, perfectly arranged by Bob Fosse -the magician of movement. And I was perplexed: why on the one hand this work (because despite its serious subject-matter the musical is entertainment first and foremost), why at the Megaron (aka Concert Hall -of epic dimensions), and then again on the other hand, so much hard work and so many good artists, and obviously musical is the genre that the director/choreographer Konstantinos Rigos has always wanted to do; so he respects it and -obviously- has decided to not repeat his Bausch-esque self but try something new, after what felt like a long time.
His work -in the past decade or so- with the big names of greek bouzoukia entertainment, seems to have given him a relative freedom to break free from heterosexual duets and innuendos that crowded his contemporary dance years with his own dance group; he has now the potential to promote his choices through his affiliation with a powerful "scene" (the night-life/bouzoukia one) with money and an audience made of a pele-mele of entrepreneurs, politicians, philanthropists and lay people alike. Cabaret, with its libertine mixture and subversion of gender roles seems to have been quite an incentive for the director, who finally put everyone on stage in leather, skirts, lace and make-up. He missed the opportunity though to cross-dress the girls in men's suits...In between the wars Berlin cabaret and avant-garde relied on that a lot, so why not on the stage of "Cabaret?" Sexism? Hmmm...
Hard facts now: the show had good rhythm, an EmCee who understood his role and did not over-dramatize to the point of becoming phony and didactic: Dimitris Lignadis as EmCee did a great job. Tania Tsanaklidou as Frau Schneider was stunning: a singer who also showed exceptional acting talent. I think she was the best along with Mr. D. Lignadis. Mihalis Mitrousis, overcame his mannerisms and became the naif fruit-seller Schultz of Jewish descent, who falls in love with Frau Schneider. Nadia Boule was an absolutely convincing -although a little too hysterical at times- Miss Kost. She is strong and ambitious and she cannot be ignored when on stage.
Cliff Bradshaw was a big disappointment. Giorgos Nanouris is too inexperienced and dare I say (dare! dare!) not fit for the role: boring, waning, not desirable to the almighty the eye of the spectator. Au contraire, Panayiotis Bouyiouris as Ernst Ludwig was fantastic: super good-looking and talented (all this and brains too), he was a joy to watch. It was obvious that Mr. Bouyiouris should have taken the leading role, how come the director did not see that? Let's hope his good looks will not limit his choice of roles.
Last and least "Miss Sally Boooowles!", aka Maria Nafpliotou. An artist who started off her career as a dancer but went on to becoming a successful actress as well. Unfortunately Ms Nafpliotou was the other disappointment, and here it is not just her fault, it is her director's as well. He made a hysterical puppet who on top of all else, delivered her lines in a phony -if not embarrassing- manner. Pity that she did not move at all in the "Elsie from Chelsie" song. Up to a point, Ms Nafpliotou singing while executing jerking movements centre-stage worked well in terms of dramatic effect, but then it lost its impetus and the act became repetitive and poor. We felt that she should have danced her arse off in that particular song. Pity for the acting guidelines and for her partnering with Mr, Nanouris, with whom there was no chemistry whatsoever, to at least help the situation.Nonetheless, it should be noted that when she sang mistakes were less evident, it was in the prose segments that problems arose.
Now for the paraphernalia: the trashy high-heels were annoying; the costumes were very good. The jerking movement of the female characters, trademark of the latest period of Mr. Rigos, namely bent knees with body leaning forward, thighs tightly together and calves apart, looks more like penis concealing than a "dramatic moment of a woman." Representing the "female" is not easy, but it's worth the effort, no?
And one shouldn't forget the wonderful orchestra and the lyrics which were awesome, the translator did a great job.
Well, that's all, it was a good performance with some serious mistakes, good fun, steady beat, dedication, in the wrong venue (totally), and it managed to give the atmosphere of the play -sometimes though just about as Mr. Rigos not having entirely lost his "contemporary choreographer identity" put a greater emphasis in the gender play than to include or use it to enhance the atmosphere of decline and violence; however he somehow managed to control his material and, with all matters taken into consideration, be a winner.