THE SINGLE AND ETERNAL GREECE OF RALLOU MANOU:
A SURVEY OF HER WORK FROM A SLAV STANDPOINT
Musicological institute SANU (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts) , Belgrade (Serbia)
Musicological institute SANU (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts) , Belgrade (Serbia)
The story about the achievements of the Greek dancer, choreographer, musician, director, librettist, organizer, impresario, and founder of “Hellenic (or Greek) Horodrama” Rallou Manou, is in fact a story about how little we people from the Balkans know each other. Two nations, for instance, Greeks and Serbs, who fought together for freedom against the Turks in the 18th and 19th centuries and continued to fight together in the Balkan wars and the First World War (sharing even the same day of the German attack - April 6th 1941 - in the Second World War), effectively closed their common cultural frontier doors after 1919/1920.
Even today, following the ever-increasing wave of tourist activities which started after around 1960, there was and still is in Serbia or former Yugoslavia little knowledge about musical life in Greece, particularly about contemporary musical theater of any kind. The ignorance is kept on both sides. In those days when Serbia is honoring her heroes of the First World War, giving a special tribute to friendship of Greek state, who offer shelter to Serbian army and government during the war, it is of particular importance to remind ourselves and our neighbors on musical and theatrical mutual links. This paper is written not so much for the Greeks (which possess a lot of information about Manou) as for the Serbs and for other Balkan people and, of course, for the entire world.
The General Background of Dance in the Balkans
In spite of the mutual cultural ignorance between our Serbian and Greek nations, they do have something in common concerning their history of dance. Usually modern dance arises in environments where people become bored with classical ballet. Modern dance comes as a protest against the rigid rules of the classical, as a kind of human-body liberation towards free movement’s art.
In the Kingdom of Serbia and the Kingdom of Greece there had been no idea of classical dance at the beginning of the 20th century, when both lands started with modern dancing trends. A young Serbian lady, Maga Magazinović (1882-1968), a natural artist, self-taught in folk dance from her childhood, a disciple of Max Reinhardt and Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, and a follower of Isadora Duncan’s achievements, opened a (private) school for “plastic” dance in Belgrade in November 1910. Her work was frustrated first by the Balkan wars and then by the Great War i.e. the First World War. After the wars, Maga Magazinović continued with her school and performances in Belgrade, now the capital of the newly founded Yugoslavia, but her work was marginalized by unexpected circumstances: the appearance of ballet brought to the Balkan states by Russian émigré artists, superbly trained in classical ballet and the arrival in Serbia of a Russian “plastic“ dancer, Klavdia Issachenko. They all joined the National Theatre of Belgrade, unintentionally living no place for Maga, an educated actress, dancer and director.
As for the history of 20th century Modern Greek dance, we can say that the Greeks were obviously not predestined for classical ballet or even opera. So the wave of Russian émigré dancing and singing artists in the early 1920s, which to a lesser degree also touched Greece, did not affect Greek cultural entourage much or even at all. A similar situation also occurred in Romania and Bulgaria, but for different reasons. As a result, the artistic benefit was gained by then established state of Yugoslavia (Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), which seized the opportunity to improve its cultural expertise in opera houses and dancing ensembles.
A special advance in the Serbian theater (where no ballet had existed previously) came from émigré Russians. The classical dance culture began to flourish rapidly. The Serbs acquired soon a classical ensemble (consisting mainly of Russian dancers and choreographers) trained to a very high level, performing as an independent part of Belgrade National Theatre Opera. A rich repertoire was developed in the first decade of its existence, ready to be shown during the first Belgrade ballet tour abroad, which occurred in Greece.
Between 17th and 22nd January 1933, the Athens audience saw in the Theater Olympia a Russian ballet program from Belgrade, which included Swan Lake (Fortunato), Scheherazade, Polovtsian Dances (Froman) and The Secret of the Pyramid (Kirsanova) followed by Little Ida’s Flowers (Kirsanova) and The Gingerbread Heart (Froman). The classical dances received great approval from the audience and critics, but the Greeks maintained their folk tradition with some local dancers introducing modern dance experiences from abroad like Vassos Kanellos or Koula Pratsika. The chief modern dance exponent of younger generation was Rallou Manou, a disciple of Pratsika.
The Introductory Work of Manou
Born in Athens, Manou accomplished her secondary education obtaining the brevet superieure in the French school in 1933. Until 1934, she is in the dance school of Koula Pratsika, practicing also piano playing. Up 1934 studying dances in Paris in studios Panton and Martenot. Her 1935-1937 stay in Munich, in the well-known Frau Günter School resulted with taking part in the Berlin Olympiad 1936 and folk dances festival in Hamburg 1937. Coming back to Athens properly acquainted with the German Ausdruckstanz she continued to perform with the class of Pratsika. April 1938 Manou took part in Menton’s Fête International de la Danse and promoted her own dances in Greece in June of the same year with Koula Pratsika (Stamatopoulou-Vasilakou 2006, 16-31; Ελληνικό Χορόδραμα 1961).
The Germans had already occupied Greece in 1941 when Manou appeared in June of the same year as a free-lance choreographer, this time of dances for the Greek drama. In that time she was already able to open her own private school for dance and music, which was very important for her further work. Her first attempt, Sophocles’ King Oedipus (Oidipous Tyrannos) was a natural means to develop her art, bearing in mind that Hellenic drama comprises total theater with acting, singing and dancing to music. This means that the Hellenic performers (including playwrights like Aeschylus or Aristophanes, who took part in their own works also as dancers) acted, recited, sang and danced. Not neglecting the fact that skillful dancers were to be found in every social class of Greek antiquity, e.g. Theban statesman and general Epaminondas or Aristodemus, king of Messenia. Gaston Vuillier, La Danse (Gaston 1898, 8- 9).
After the Second World War Rallou Manou was engaged in a folk enterprise bringing herself and her dancers to Paris to perform national Greek dances in genuine folk costumes at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 19 November 1946, with music played on genuine Greek folk instruments. In 1947, Manou got close to the American modern dance, reflecting on new themes and the ways to realize them. As a 32 years old woman, a highly cultivated intellectual, she reached New York and the Martha Graham School, having already a lot of her own artistic experience. She joined also schools of Hanya Holm and Doris Humphrey, as well as the classical ballet studio of Nanette Charissi (Σταματοπούλου-Βασιλάκου, op. cit., 16- 17).
Although an offspring of foreign trends, German and American – Manou was the first to bring the Graham’s dancing system to Greece – she had chosen to follow her own style in performing and of course in choreographing; making it her task to combine the rich heritage of Greek folk tradition with the achievements of modern dance (Ελληνικό Χορόδραμα 1961, 194), the latter being after all born as the “remaking” of Greek (“Hellenic”) movement, vitalized by Isadora Duncan in the United States and eventually in Europe.
Back home in 1949 Manou was engaged as a constant choreographer of the Εθνικό Θέατρο της Ελλάδος venturing again with Hellenic drama, this time with Aeschylus’ Oresteia, music composed by Menelaos Palladios. In 1950, Manou toured Greece with her production The Dance of Toys (Ο χορός των παιχνίδιον), a choreographed performance in two parts after Vassilis Rotas, sets and costumes by Yannis Tsarouchis, music Alexander Grechaninov. With this piece, she has definitely shown her talent for ballet d’action, the ballet with a plot. (Martha Graham used the term ballet also for her choreographic compositions.) Modern Greek dance-drama (equivalent of Wagner’s or Mussorgsky’s music drama, which had actually ancient Greek theatre as a model) was born.
Beginning of the Elliniko Horodrama
The artistic enterprise of Rallou Manou called Elliniko Horodrama (choreodrama, dance-drama) started in June 1950 with the “choreodrama” Marsyas and officially established itself in the winter of 1951 with a Karagiozi play The Cursed Serpent. In the words of a Greek musicologist:
In 1950 in an Athenian theater, a company of young artists assembled at the initiative of a feminine Diaghilev, the dancer Rallou Manou. Among them was the composer Manos Chatzidakis at his 20, the painters Yannis Tsarouchis, Yannis Moralis and Nikolaos Chatzikyriakos-Ghikas; and the poets Nikos Gatsos and Odysseas Elytis (all around their 30 years of age). All, except Manos Hatzidakis have been abroad to study or to keep informed, and have tried out modern trends in creations. At their meeting, they agreed on the establishment of a dance company, that would be modern but yet Greek. Here is Manos Hatzidakis account of this event: ‘Rallou spoke up – I want you all. I want many ideas. Tsarouchis, holding a Byzantine icon interrupted her, saying emphatically: 'Petrouchka must learn to dance the zeibekiko and we must definitely convince Romeo and Juliet to die from now on under the sounds of the chasapiko’ ” (Romanou 2010).
A very important thing was that the invited artists worked free of charge, as Manou was like many beginners penniless, abandoning her position in the theater. As we see, the idea of bringing together Petrushka and zeibekiko did not come from a musician or a dancer but belongs to a painter – Tsarouchis! (See also Yannis Hadzidakis in Ελληνικό Χορόδραμα 1950-1960 (1961, 19)). Even for Diaghilev it was not an easy task to persuade Russian or French painters of rank to become temporarily stage designers, but Manou succeeded without much effort. “The feminine Diaghilev” did not only attract or organize artists of different fields but made them and their crafts be interwoven in performances which could be called like Diaghilev’s and his collaborators’ doings a real Gesamtkunstwerk. (There was obviously a custom to regard Miss Manou as a Greek Diaghilev. See text of Sophie C. Spanoudi in Ελληνικό Χορόδραμα 1950-1960 (1961, 88)). That is why depicting the performance of Marsyas, an ancient Greek legend, on the island of Aegina under the old temple of the goddess Aphaia, Manou herself was not only reminiscing about the effect of the play upon the audience but also upon the performers themselves:
Then they vanished (gods, nymphs and muses - NM), or seemed to vanish, into the rose-tinted waters; but not before they had assumed a hundred different shapes, their harmonious convolutions arousing a hundred different emotions, and demonstrating once and for all that there is no question of an ancient and a modern Greece, but one single and eternal Greece: beautiful and palpitating with life. (δεν υπáρχει άρχαία και νεα Ελλάδα, αλλά μόνον Ελλάδα, αιώνια, ζωντανή και ωραία …) (Rallou Manou in Ελληνικό Χορόδραμα 1950-1960 1961, 8 (Greek text) and 192 (English text)).
The same spirit was leading Rallou Manou years later when Marsyas, together with Clytemnestra and Medea, was to be seen in Sofia in 1971 as a unifying project of Horodrama and the Bulgarian Ballet Studio Arabesque ( Σταματοπούλου-Βασιλάκου op. cit., 348 -353).
The Unique Enterprise of Horodrama
We see from its first performance that the artistic company of Rallou Manou occurred in full splendor at the beginning. In the post (civil) war Greece, appearance of Manou’s action was regarded as en event worth of admires and respect. We should not forget that in Greece the art of dance was much estimated, from ancient times until nowadays. In this sense, everybody of the Manou’s team was doing his best. The oft-quoted Sophie C. Spanoudi wrote about how Hadzidakis abandoned chromaticism to return to old Greek modi, Manou excelling with an audacious music composed by him, an orchestral suite (verses of six rebetika songs put into music) called Six Popular Pictures.
It is a wonder how many other local but internationally known Greek composers, in addition to those already quoted, namely Mikis Theodorakis and others, eagerly contributed to Horodrama, which was existing without subsidies, touring with the performances all around Greece.
Greek easel painters, beginners and well known ones, becoming for Manou’s purpose set decorators, added a special flair to the newly established Horodrama: “How many endless hours did not Yannis Moralis spend in that little room, where the choreography of Six Popular Pictures was conceived, in order to create that exceptional stage-set which marks an epoch in Greek stage-design!” (Ibidem.)
“My proposal that we should explore Karagiozis for inspiration was enthusiastically received.” Composer Hadzidakis and the painter Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas invited the writer Eugenios Spatharis to collaborate. Together they completed the scenario of The Cursed Serpent. These two works, “Popular Pictures” and the “Serpent” were, in Manou’s words, landmarks, both in Greek Horodrama and in Greek theatre in general. (Ibidem.)
Manou was very fortunate to have all these people around her. Collaboration with writers was also important, as the example of Karagiozis had shown. To the circle of Manou’s literary interests belonged beside Odysseas Elytis (awarded Nobel Prize for literature in 1979), also Nikos Kazantsakis. Intriguing personality of Madame Hortense from the latter’s novel Zorba the Greek was used by Manou and Dora Tsatsou in 1958, for a dance-drama on music by Argyris Kounadis, The stage design by Alekos Tzonis is worth of seeing, too (Ibidem., 195).
As it was clear, not only composers, painters and playwrights, Manou wanted also different choreographers and directors as collaborators in her Horodrama, among them Mikhalis Kakogiannis, famous for his films Never on Sunday (1959), Children of Pyreos (1961), Elektra (1962), and Zorba the Greek (1964). He also directed Theodorakis’ “musical tragedy” Song of a Dead Brother, choreographed by Manou (1962). The composer, “in search for a golden mean between popular and symphonic music”, wrote in 1947/8 ballet The Carnaval with a dedication to Rallou Manou, who succeeded in realizing this spectacle and showing it during the Horodrama’s tour in Rome 1953/5. (See introductory text to the Mikis Theodorakis’ printed score Carnaval. (Theodorakis, 1999)).
In spite of her artistic independence, Manou did not abandon links with her teachers. She shared some ideas (Medea, Clytemnestra), some composers (Halim el Dabh, Samuel Barber) and dancers (Helen McGehee) with Martha Graham. Manou turned also to other American composers. In this sense it is worth noting her creation of the dance-drama Theseus in 1961, using the music of the Elliott Carter’s ballet The Minotaur (1947), combined with words of Kazantsakis’ tragedy The Couros (1949) in verse and rhythmic prose.
It is therefore very indicative, comparing two artists, American and Greek, that Arnold Haskell praised the Horodrama of Rallou Manou at the occasion of its tenth anniversary (Ελληνικό Χορόδραμα 1961, 48), rejecting on the other side the output of Martha Graham, when she appeared in London, in the fifties (Haskell 1955, 27). In any event, Manou’s spiritual potentiality differs from the dark Freudian “neomythological” world, which made Martha Graham famous in United States. In the first place, it was the musicality of Rallou Manou’s dancing interpretation and her choreography, her charisma that made appeal on her spectators and on Haskell himself. Maybe his disapproval of the American modern school originated also from the fact that Graham ignored completely the technique of the classical ballet, which was not the case with Manou. Haskell is therefore underlying the ties between the classic and Greek dances:”What is certain, however, is that the art of ballet, popular throughout the world, is permeated by the Greek spirit with it subtle and perfect sense of proportion.”
Manou visited London early in 1952, with a scholarship of British Council, invited by Ninette de Valois to see performances of English ballet companies. Also lectured about Greek ethnic dances. (Σταματοπούλου-Βασιλάκου, op. cit., 18.)
Modeling her Greek themes, Rallou Manou was joyful and radiant, realistic yet at the same time open to abstractions, which reminds us, that choreographing in abstractions need not necessarily go hand-in-hand with a plotless ballet. Looking only at the photos of Rallou Manou’s creations and herself as a dancer, one is aware of her having an unusual and distinguished aura. And last but not least, something from Haskell that also concerns Manou:”The great dancer in fact makes music visible, and that again is very much a Greek conception” (Haskell, op. cit. 48).
Further Relationship with Foreign Countries and Artists
In 1960s, Manou was touring with Horodrama through African continent, first in Egypt: Cairo and Alexandria in 1961. With members of the (Greek) Society of Ancient Drama, they visited in 1963 South Africa (Pretoria, Cape Town) and Zimbabwe with Harare (Salisbury), Ethiopia (Addis Ababa) and Cyprus, showing Manou’s choreography in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, music by Yannis Markopoulos. Manou was very open to cooperating with neighboring countries. Concerning former Yugoslavia, she involved first dancers from Belgrade National Theatre in her projects. Principals from Serbia were classical artists with international reputation, Dušan Trninić and Jovanka Bjegojević, taking part in Horodrama’s productions of 1960s.
Let us remember here that in 1952 the full-length ballet Legend of Ochrid by Stevan Hristić, created by Margarita Froman, was shown by the Belgrade ensemble at the Athens International Music Festival with the composer conducting. In 1953, the ballet Yolanda by Manolis Kalomiris was premiered in Belgrade in the presence of the composer, with choreography by Dimitrije Parlić and with Jovanka Bjegojević in the title role. The Belgrade prima repeated her performance of Yolanda in the same composition with the guest appearance of the Belgrade ballet at the Athens Festival in 1957 (here was an opportunity for Parlić to visit the dance school of Manou).
Afterwards was Bjegojević invited to dance the juvenile Theodora (the adult Theodora-Augusta was interpreted by Helen McGehee, the principal of the Graham Company) in Manou’s Glorification - Δοξάστικον (Justinian and Theodora), music by the Egyptian Halim el Dabh, in Athens in 1965 (Σταματοπούλου-Βασιλάκου, op. cit., 260-263).
There is a photo with the composer, choreographer Rallou Manou, Serbian protagonists and the stage designer Yannis Moralis (Ibidem, 266). Justinian was Jovanka’s partner from Belgrade, Dušan Trninić. He had the title role in Manou’s dance-drama The Judge of Love (Ερωτόκριτος, after the play by Vintzentzo Kornaro, put to music by Nikos Mamagkakis), with Bjegojević as Arethusa, at the same Athens Festival in 1967 (Ibidem, 260-3). However, contacts between Belgrade and Athens stayed somehow one-sided.
In 1968, the Horodrama presented eight Manou’s ballets in Iran, at the Shiraz-Persepolis International Art Festival. Returning home, Horodrama made successful links with Bulgaria due to Manou’s taking part in the several juries of the International Ballet Competition of Varna, first in 1970. In 1971, she was choreographing for the ensemble of the National Theatre in Sofia where classical technique prevailed, and at the mentioned Sofia’s Ballet Studio Arabesque, with modern conceptions. There are important Manou’s previous invitations to Kalina Bogoeva and Nedko Bosniakov, leading dancers of the National Theatre to take part in her stagings or presenting some independent pieces of classical ballet in her programmes, in Greece.
Year 1972 saw Manou’s guesting as a choreographer in the United States. Takis Mouzenidis directed Lysistrata (English translation) in Dallas Theater Center. Manou was invited by George Skibine, leader of Dallas Civic Ballet as a choreographer of the performance with Hadzidakis’ music. Costumes were brought from Εθνικό Θέατρο της Ελλάδος. Manou mounted also Barber’s ballet Medea for the Dallas’ company, with the principal Milenko Banović (the Croatian was member of many foreign ballet companies) as Jason. In 1973, Manou’s Lysistrata in Sofia was made completely of local first soloists.
Odeon of Herodes Atticus saw the Serb Milorad Mišković, international dancing star of European companies, as protagonist in Manou’s ballet based on Euripides’ Orestes (1974). (Ibidem, 362-363.) Bulgarians Kalina Bogoeva and Ichko Lazarov interpreted the roles of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. Manou was using for Orestes Maurice Ohana’s and Miloslav Kabeláč’s compositions, played by Strassbourg Percussionists. In 1975, Orestes was brought to French capital with another interpreter of the title role (Haris Madafounis) but with Mišković as an artistic collaborator. This performance was a part of the Festival International de la Danse de Paris (Ibidem, 367).
Manou was to be seen once in Yugoslavia with her Horodrama at the 25th International Ballet Festival of Ljubljana, guesting also in Ptuj, in 1977. Barber’s Medea was given there with Kalina Bogoeva in the title role. The latter was also Andromache with Nedko Boshniakov as Hector in Manou’s Circle of Accusations (Κύκλος καταγγελίας), music by Theodoros Antoniou.
With Horodrama Manou was showing her rich repertoire in the Soviet Union in the main theatres of Vilna (Vilnius) and Leningrad, and at the Moscow Theatre Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko in 1981. She was also guest of Moscow, Tbilisi and Erevan in April 1988. On the occasion, great attention was paid to her artistic achievements.
These days we learn about Manou’s, Archaic, Hellenic, Byzantine, Medieval and modern Greece (“single and eternal”) mainly from articles and books dedicated to her and from her autobiography. They are also very important for investigating modern dance of Greece today, but the priority for us should be to know and preserve Manou’s chorographical heritage, like that of George Balanchine or Martha Graham.
To what degree is, the Manou’s output being revived and performed? Are there choreological studies about Manou’s style? For instance, how much Manou’s versatile work was influenced by a transformed technique of Greek folk dance? Are there musicological writings about merits of Horodrama Company promoting the chasapiko music and the rebetika of the illiterates, once accepted in the high society of Greek composers, Yannis Xenakis, Theodorakis and Hadzidakis, on the dancing scene?
Manou started very young to mount folk, ballets and dance dramas (and to practice pedagogical work!). Was she a dancer-choreographer or a choreographer-dancer? Although she played main roles in the majority of her productions, being Karagiozis, Marsyas, Pandora, Madame Hortense and Clytemnestra among others, there is no doubt that she was a choréauteur (the term invented by Serge Lifar) par excellence being successful in tragedies as well as in comedies, in ancient dramas as well as in contemporary plays. Therefore, we can place Manou’s creations not only in the context of modern or free dance, but also in that of modern ballet in the style of Mikhail Fokine, Leonide Massine or Serge Lifar.
It is symbolic that the last artistic trip of the “feminine Diaghilev” was realized on the Russian soil and that the little Athens’ square facing the Russian Orthodox Church (on the Boulevard Amalias) bears the name of Rallou Manou, with whom Petrushka had actually learned to dance the zeibekiko. The prayer of Yannis Tsarouchis was answered.
Note: The paper was delivered at the 37th World Congress on Dance Research, Athens, 2-6 July 2014
Izuzetna, pretežno posleratna pojava u Grčkoj Ralu Manu (1915-1988), igračice modernog pravca, koreografa, pijanistkinje, reditelja, libretiste, organizatorke i impresarija, osnivača trupe Grčka koreodrama, zaslužuje sveobuhvatnu pažnju, na domaćem i međunarodnom planu, ne samo povodom njenih godišnjica rođenja i smrti. Delatnost Manu obuhvata približno period od 45 godina, od 1938. do 1988. godine, sa izuzetkom ratnih godina kada je Grčka bila pod nemačkom okupacijom. U njena dostignuća računa se oko 70 scenskih dela koje je ona sa svojom trupom i sa svojom školom prikazala širom Grčke, ali takođe i u inostranstvu, na gostovanjima u Jugoslaviji, Sovjetskom Savezu, Africi, Americi i Iranu. Oslanjajući se na početku na strane igračke uzore (Marta Grejem, Hanja Holm) stvorila je vremenom sopstveni stil, zasnovan na tradiciji grčke igre u kombinaciji sa savremenim plesnim izrazom. U skladu sa njenom idejom da nema u umetnosti podele na klasičnu i sadašnju Grčku, sadržaj njenih koreografija bila je helenska mitologija i isto tako savremena grčka tematika. Sarađivala je sa domaćim i inostranim kompozitorima i književnicima, okupljala grčke slikare koji su pod njenim uticajem modernizovali domaću scenu. Uvek otvorena za saradnju, naročito sa susednim zemljama, uspela ja da ostvari dublji kontakt jedino sa bugarskim igračima, dok je sa jugoslovenskim umetnicima veza ostala jednostrana. U današnje vreme bitno je od zaborava sačuvati njeno nasleđe koje mnogo govori i nama samima, u Srbiji, a u Grčkoj, pretpostavljamo služi kao putokaz novim ansamblima savremene igre.