The story of Pygmalion and Galatea was first made famous by Ovid, long before the modern adaptions – Educating Rita, Pretty Woman and, of course, My Fair Lady – which we know so well. But the myth itself can be traced back thousands of years, and tells of a sculptor who fell so deeply in love with one of his own creations that Aphrodite was moved to bring his statue to life. The two were married and produced a son. And this is where it gets topical because, according to legend, the young man went on to found the city which still bears his name: Paphos…
Today, Paphos is the European capital of Culture 2017 and, as such, the site of innumerable festivities. Concerts, exhibitions, workshops and lectures are all taking place under the auspices of Pafos2017, themed to the city and its rich past. But none so precisely captures the essence of the town’s founding as Galatea’s Myths, the upcoming neo-classical ballet performance which promises to be one of the most exquisite – and relevant – celebrations of all.
Inspired by the story of Pygmalion, Galatea’s Myths is brought to us courtesy of Dancecyprus – a registered charity and non-profit organisation which has been bringing quality dance to the people of the island for over a decade. From their very first production (Sirens in 2006) to last year’s tenth-anniversary gala performance, Dancecyprus has worked to promote dance across the island, bringing the art form to young and old, ballet lovers and novices alike. And this latest performance, reveals Chairman Katerina Ker-Lindsay, is one of the charity’s biggest ventures to date: a world premiere five years in the making.
“People tend to have the wrong idea about ballet,” Katerina laughs. “They think it’s elitist, a luxury. But it’s not. Ballet touches everyone’s heart in some way, whatever their age and background. At the same time,” she adds, “few realise the work that goes into each performance. It’s really not a case of popping on a bit of music and a couple of dancers jumping onto the stage – just this one performance has involved hundreds of people working thousands of hours!”
Those who are lucky enough to secure tickets to one of the three performances of Galatea’s Myths will have the privilege of seeing local leading lights (Royal Ballet of Flanders Soloist Anastasia Paschali, Bolshoi Academy alumni Melanie Lambrou, along with professional dancers Rania Charalambidou, Fouli Stylianidou, Viky Kalla and Alexia Koutsis) in a work created especially for Dancecyprus. “Five years ago, we put together our proposal for Pafos2017,” Katerina explains. “We had to give a budget, the names of the dancers, the choreographer, the music, the theme – everything is prepared in advance of the application…
“Our artistic committee first picked the theme: ‘Galatea’, a woman from Paphos with a fascinating story behind her. Then we chose our choreographer, the Italian Davide Bombana – an amazing man of incredible talent who is just the epitome of neo-classical ballet.” Known to millions for his choreography of the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concerts, broadcast around the globe, Bombana also works with companies including the Vienna Opera and Paris Opera, the Ballet du Rhin in France, and the Zaragoza Ballet in Spain. A real star of the choreography world, it was Bombana who took the initial theme and – inspired by various legends, such as Orpheus and Eurydice, Narcissus, Adonis, Persephone and Aphrodite, Ariadne, Theseus and the Minotaur – came up with Galatea’s Myths: eleven separate narratives segued into one seamless, balletic opus.
By the summer of 2016, rehearsals were well underway, with dancers jetting into and out of Cyprus as their schedules allowed. “The performance features six Cypriot girls, six Italian boys and the Dancecyprus Juniors: 12 talented students who live in Cyprus,” Katerina explains. “That’s more than 20 dancers in total. And with only two of the professionals actually based on the island, coordinating schedules and rehearsals is a huge challenge, especially when your artists work full-time!” And yet, she muses, this lengthy process of preparation is so very worthwhile…
“I remember attending the rehearsals last year,” she continues. “There were all these incredible dancers packed into a hot and sticky studio, practising non-stop. And yet it was so moving, so inspiring, that I can only imagine the atmosphere at our final location: the ancient stones of the Paphos Castle behind us, the sea and the stars our backdrop!”
With this culmination of five years of work nearly upon us, Katerina and her committee are well on top of the myriad of behind-the-scenes details which constitute a professional performance: technical direction, costumes, transport, accommodation, ticket sales and – most importantly – the music. Composed by Estonian Arvo Pärt (one of the most performed composers alive today) and led by renowned conductor Alkis Baltas, the music itself comes courtesy of the Cyprus Chamber Orchestra. A bicommunal orchestra, the first of their kind on the island, the CCO share a similar ethos to Dancecyprus: non-profit and strongly in favour of local art.
“Both dance and music are an expression of emotion, an inspiration to both the artists and the audience, I believe. And it’s thrilling to be able to collaborate with such an innovative venture,” Katerina enthuses. “We’re all Cypriot people together, we all live on the same island, and if we can create something beautiful in art then maybe we can do it in life. And by bringing together people of all nationalities in such a locally relevant narrative, we’re truly celebrating Pafos2017 – past, present and future.”
Presented by Dancecyprus on July 14 and 15 (Paphos castle) and July 16 (Rialto Limassol). Tickets cost €10 /€15 and are available from www.SoldoutTickets.com.cy and www.rialto.com.cy
For more information call 99 549478, visit www.Dancecyprus.org, or the Facebook page ‘Dancecyprus’