Christos Papadopoulos Opus


Christos Papadopoulos’s Opus: in search of the dialectics of music and movement

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Christos Papadopoulos Opus. Photo © Patroklos Skafidas
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A textual exploration of a performative exploration in sound, meaning and time

In his new work OpusChristos Papadopoulos has taken his experiments in movement a step further by using familiar motifs such as repetition and the elemental positioning of an individual within a group, and by gradually amplifying and intensifying his choreography through the prism of Bach’s music. Indeed, for this particular choreographer, rhythm is not only a structural unit upon which movement is based, but is essential to the unfolding of time, rendering sound spatially constituted.

Papadopoulos, in quest of the dialectic between duration and movement, essentially offers an insight into the significance of discontinuity in the articulation of time. Four musicians (violin, cello, flute, bass clarinet), and four dancers embodying the role of each instrument, pursue a live dialogue on stage. The imprinting of the rhythm on the dancers’ bodies – made visible through sharp movements, focused primarily on the upper torso, the pelvis and the arms – demonstrates the formation of melody through single elements of sound, or correspondingly, illustrates how fragments of movement are shaped into choreography. But this process doesn’t evolve instantaneously; the ‘hesitating’ of time, resulting from the gaps in music and the halts in motion, invites the viewer into an experience of deep listening, into a vacuum where time becomes the centre of creation.

As if they were strings, the dancers’ bodies begin to pulsate, imitating the production of sound; each member suspends to a halt after moving, reaching a lifeless equilibrium until the next stimulus. Our ears pick up the sound vibrations, but our eyes – through the movement of the dancers – turn them into moving material. Sound does not disappear into itself or dissolve into immaterial abstractness; it becomes tangible by being embodied, it is visually carved as multiple trajectories in space, confirmed through the body’s muscular reactions. Each dancer becomes the equivalent of a musical instrument, the visible memory of music in space, thus making apparent the dialectic between time and duration. It is a peculiar transcription – that of the embodied sound – which becomes not only visible but also unmasks our often muted vision, echoing deeper in our souls.

Christos Papadopoulos: OPUS

What about the qualities of pure sound? How are they attributed to movement, captured in visible forms and possibly in meanings? If we are talking about the fleeting nature of sound, an ‘echo-system’ shaped according to the rules of harmony and eurythmics, then, is movement limited to rendering the external form of music? Could movement ever convey that spirituality found in listening? Could it ever translate the breadth and variety of sound stimuli into choreography? In fact, Opus makes this challenge even more palpable: on the one hand, music is embodied and sensed in movement; on the other, pure sound seeks to overcome the visible, to break free from any content and representation, to be sensed in its totality, as an expression of inner freedom.

There’s no point in comparing the finiteness of movement to the limitless context of references music offers. Applying movement to the score doesn’t degrade music; by making sound its core element, movement strengthens the sensory input of music. Therefore, when dancers perform the score it is not only visually transformed but also kinaesthetically reformed. The music does not cling to its autonomy, but instead co-exists with a kinetic content preformed and clearly given as a score: extending the arms, rotating the head, lightly bending the torso, all aiming at the coupling of music and movement. We do not discern a hierarchical, cause-effect relationship, nor are we experiencing a mere byproduct of repetition, variation, contrast and intermediation.

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Sound becomes time and time is lived and enlivened, in every beat, in everyone

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Here lies the contribution of both choreographer and dancers: Papadopoulos does not attempt to interpret Bach’s music by highlighting its effects in order to appeal to our senses, nor does he treat it conceptually in order to map the undiscovered cosmos of our emotions. His choreography reflects the function of pure sound, before it is invested with any emotion, before it is charged or imbued with any imagery. His approach encourages us to watch movement as if watching the traces of harmony and melody in space. The dancers dissociate themselves from music, but they remain within its realm, where sound becomes time and time is lived and enlivened, in every beat, in everyone.

The rhythm thus suggests a unique, personalised sense of time, a duration which could be measured in terms of its quality. The rhythmic repetition inscribed in the movement becomes evident as body postures vary in space and time. As we are gradually led to distinguish between fragments of time, chasing its continuous flow, we are finally introduced in the concept of movement in relation to rhythm. Rhythm then exists only to the extent that it is performed, embodied, or as Merleau-Ponty says, our body is not ‘in’ space and time, but it resides in space and time.

As moving trajectories converge and musical dialogue flourishes towards the end of the performance, a community of bodies arises; individuals coexist by reaching a deeper level of expression. The latter refers directly to the spirituality of Bach’s music, in which the spiritual emerges as a collective expression, a moment of transcendence in the polyphony of a group. Something similar, despite the sophistication of its craftsmanship, arises from Opus.

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