Everything and nothing: Andonis Foniadakis on Symbiosis and abstract dance

Throughout the autumn and spring 2017-18 Rambert has been presenting Symbiosis, a brand new work by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis, and his first time collaborating with the company.

Foniadakis’s work is known for its strong physicality and power, and he takes much of his inspiration from living and working in cities around the world, as he explains:

Symbiosis is inspired by the energy created in cities each and every day as we try to exist in an era fuelled by digital technology. There is an urban pulse in the piece, in which people collide as they might on a crowded city street, but they adapt to their surroundings, collaborate and coexist.

Rambert dancers rehearse Symbiosis

‘There are two types of movement in the piece: we have an angular and very sharp, very energetic, high paced quality; contrasted with a constant fluidity, which reflects a much more organic and effortless state of mind.’

This idea of energy is clear in much of Foniadakis’s work. He sees the work he creates around the world as part of a large body of art but, while he works internationally, the current tensions in his home country remain a key influence:

‘I go through cycles, but a lot of my work exploits energy. Ever since I first heard about the financial crisis in Greece, all my work has had an uncertainty about it, that something’s not quite right. In my work this translates into a tense kind of energy, in the performers individually and as a group.

Horizons by Andonis Foniadakis, created for Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet

‘Energy is a word that is misunderstood. There are different types of energy, different types of intensity, density, qualities of energy. Symbiosis is about the endless possibility that this energy can be transformed, it can either be aggressive or comfortable and easy going. The conflict is resolved in this piece, while leaving the audience with the feeling that it could start again.’

While Foniadakis has a strong sense of the themes in his piece, you don’t need to know what these are to understand it. The dance is abstract – a piece of pure movement – and doesn’t tell a particular story. All viewers’ reactions to his work are valid and you might come away with totally different feelings about what it means:

‘Everybody can find something in abstract dance, because you say everything while saying nothing at all. Even though a piece might have a very specific point or source of inspiration, it offers up so much that the choreographer might not have even been fully thinking of.’

Miguel Altunaga in Symbiosis, The Lowry, Salford 27th September 2017

Symbiosis is set to a brand new score by composer Ilan Eshkeri, who is known for his concert music, film and television scores and artist collaborations. The question many people want to ask is where do you begin – with the music or the dance?

‘My ideas came first, Ilan translated it into a score and then I had this delicate moment where I had to look again for my ideas in the music, while making sure to outline and bring to the surface the structure of his work. The piece as a whole is very musical and I really dive into that.’

Eshkeri feels the same about the process:

‘Andonis and I drew inspiration from each other, speaking at length about what he wanted to create. When I summarised the core ideas a poem emerged, which formed the structure of the piece.’

But for him, Symbiosis very much has a story to tell – ‘it deals with abstract ideas, but is not in itself abstract; it is an empathetic narrative, an emotional journey’.

They can only leave it up to the audience to decide.

Miguel Altunaga, Joshua Barwick, Hannah Rudd and Brenda Lee Grech rehearse Symbiosis

Find out where Symbiosis is being performed next here

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