Revelling in the Reverie | interview with Georgia Tegou & Michalis Theophanous

Words by Giordana Patumi.

It was an unexpected bright summer morning in Switzerland when I got the chance to have a chat with Georgia Tegou & Michalis Theophanous – who even connected from Japan and showed us a beautiful sunrise moment during the interview – to talk about their upcoming work Reverie that will premiere at The Place as part of Dance Umbrella Festival on October 7 & 8, 2022.

A meeting of dance and visual art, Reverie blurs the distinctions between reality and fiction, inviting audiences into a surreal, dream-like world unbound from any sense of time.

To uncover more about Reverie, Giordana Patumi interviews Georgia Tegou and Michalis Theophanous ahead of its premiere.

Giordana (Question): Thank you for having a chat with DAJ. First, I would like to ask you both about your individual backgrounds.

Georgia: I am a choreographer, creative director and performer. I trained in dance in Greece and came to London to do an MFA in Choreography. I stayed in London afterwards making my own performances and working as a Lecturer in Dance at the University of Roehampton. I developed my practice dance-as-design, which we often share with Michalis, an expanded/interdisciplinary approach to choreography.

Michalis: From my side I am a trained dancer, but I like to call myself a performer these days to sound more intellectual! In the last few years, I’ve also experimented with my first attempts as choreographer.

Q: How did you meet and why were you interested in working together?

G: I’m going to start by adding to what Michalis said since he tends not to say things. He was awarded a Master of Research in Choreography & Performance in London, and he has been making work since 2018. His work also explores the intersection of different disciplines that revolve around dance and the visual arts and that is our meeting point. Therefore, we are working together because our interests and design views follow a similar interest. We have also been knowing each other for 15 years or even more, we separated paths after graduating from Athens, he went to perform with Dimitris Papaioannou and Bob Wilson, and I moved to the UK.

M: We met again in London, after many years, and we decided to try to make a new work together, moved by this similar interest and aesthetic vision. The other version now, is that everything started for fun; it was a fun idea that turned into a project. 

After a couple of drinks — I even remembered the name of the bar — we were at Off Broadway in Broadway market, we were not entirely sure about the where and how, but we knew we had a common interest and a language that could work together.

Q: How was the Reverie creation process?

M: The mix of approaches found a coherence. I am more improvisation-based and Georgia more structured, but the work is also a mix and balance between the visual architecture and the movement elements; there is no one leading the other. In the actual piece, you will see the ‘marriage’ of these two persons – the two characters of Georgia and Michalis. She brings the logical experience of the academic field, the ability to guide dancers, and how to treat them. I always start with a blurry idea from which I then develop and work.

Q: Can you tell us more about how and why the use of archetypes in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Carl Jung’s theories on the subconscious were used in the creation?

M: It was the very first source of inspiration, the very first step to creating a mood board. 

G: Initially we were fascinated by ideas and archetypes found in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. The work is very rich in metaphorical meanings but also in aesthetic and visual ideas. While working on the piece we realised we wanted to deviate from the actual story and keep some symbols found in it.

Through studying and looking at metaphors found in Alice we became interested in Carl Jung’s theory on the Collective Unconscious which is according to Jung common to all human beings, inherited from the past collective experience of humanity. A collection of knowledge and imagery common to all humankind and expressed through universal archetypes (signs, symbols, or patterns of thinking and behaving that are inherited from our ancestors). Through this manipulation and moulding of these ideas we ended up dealing with time, memories and the way they keep returning through our subconscious.

Q: Who is the team? Did it change over time?

G: Due to Covid-19 and Brexit, we had to re-cast all four dancers and the stop forced us to re-think and do some tweaks here and there. The main thing is still the same though. 

We are excited to be introducing new and old exceptional collaborators, a new cast of performers Nathan Goodman, Synne Lundesgaard, William James and Virginia Poli and a collaboration with costume designer Justin Smith Esquire. 

Justin is known as the artist of the millinery world and has been working in fashion and film for years, hand producing craft of millinery and costume design. His collaborations include names such as Stella McCartney, Angelina Jolie, Moschino, Emma Thomson, Robert Downey Jr. His work is exhibited in galleries  as well as displayed and permanently held in museums like London’s V&A and New York’s FIT. The music score is originally composed by our long-term collaborator and awarded composer Jeph Vanger. 

Our team is also composed by Dramaturg Xenia Aidonopoulou, lighting designer Michael Toon, creative producer Lia Prentaki and project coordinator Lia Garbola. 

The biggest challenge was that we had to stop planned performances because of Covid-19. This at the same time turned out to be a bit refreshing because we also had the opportunity to relook at things and work on different elements while bringing onboard new members to the team. 

Q: What is something that inspires you?

M: Anything that doesn’t hurt my eyes can be an inspiration for something!! (Georgia laughs!) 

G: I think it comes from many different things from multiple fields, from everyday life to art and sometimes even science, it might also come from an urgency inside of you, and also, it doesn’t very often come from dance. 

Q: What can we expect on October 7 at The Place? What would you like to say to our readers?

M: I feel that whatever we say or any kind of description we might provide doesn’t really matter because everyone will come to watch a show depending on how their mood is on that day. We are just here to share our work and suggest something. We hope that the audience will make their own connections and take what they want. Our invitation is to come as they would enjoy a walk in a museum; don’t try to understand anything, just look if there is something that you like or not, that inspires, resonates, or remains with you at the end.

To secure your place at Reverie’s world premiere at The Place visit here.