Christina Savopoulos | March 18, 2022
Greek dance and theatre have been a central element of Greek culture for hundreds of years. As generations pass, knowledge of folk styles and elements of dance culture face the threat of erasure—a cultural exploration belonging to the past. Luke Macaronas, 23-year-old theatre maker and recent UniMelb graduate, works to maintain this culture in the present and preserve its rich history in his Greek dance-theatre performance Infinite Affection | Άπειρη Στοργή. Macaronas performs in a duo with 67-year-old Melbourne-based Greek dancer Christos Konstantinides, and they are joined by several other current UniMelb students and alumni. Macaronas and Konstantinides explore traditional Greek dance forms whilst experimenting with modern choreography. I sat down with Luke to discover more about the performance, the process and drive behind its creation.
Grounding the performance is Luke’s interest in intergenerational relations, particularly how dance can be conveyed through old and young bodies alike. Having trained with Gekidan Kaitaisha, a theatre company in Japan, Luke saw a “group of artists who had been doing the same thing together for ages and who were quite old” and it sparked his interest as to “why old bodies are so absent from stages here in Australia”. This interest led to meeting Konstantinides and beginning the process which resulted in the passion-filled project, Infinite Affection.
“My hope is that the work really showcases how important a long lifelong connection to a particular style is and the effect it can have on your body.” – Luke Macaronas
Featuring a simple, desolate set and costume design, Macaronas and Konstantinides are accompanied by a band of three musicians who are members of Omados, a Melbourne Greek band. Whilst Greek folk dance is filled with a history of extraordinary costumes and props, Luke’s decision to remove these from the equation came from a desire to prioritise the rich dance form and examine how the body moves without the presence of distracting sets and costumes. Luke mentioned perhaps incorporating these production elements in future projects, but for the current moment, Infinite Affection purely focuses on the art form.
“It’s definitely a big experiment for us; it’s nothing we’ve ever done before and with the pandemic and everything, it’s such a strange time. We’re looking to start proposing things, and to participate in the cultural scene.” – Luke Macaronas
The rehearsal process involved working with text and storytelling to “stag[e] a story with [their] bodies”. Rather than rigorously rehearsing choreography for months on end, Macaronas and Konstantinides focused on the “movements and stories that [were] already part of [their] bodies and [found] a way to stage that”. This process lasted several months due to pandemic delays, but the time has finally arrived for them to share their creation with fellow Melburnians. Whether you’re a dance enthusiast, obsessed with Greek culture, or haven’t been exposed to Greek dance before, you’d still be able to connect with Infinite Affection’s powerful commentary on the body, age, and its preservation of history.
Responding to the slow passing of generations and with it the history of Greek dance culture, Luke shared that his motivation for the work was to “explore how second and third generation kids are coming to terms with losing a direct link to cultural practice”. The performance considers how the young and old can connect, and what their common ground might be. Luke spoke of an “interesting crisis” regarding “the rules for how we engage in the world [being] completely different” to previous generations. Ultimately, Infinite Affection dissects the “sacred connection that exists between young and old” whilst simultaneously shedding light on a generational clash and frustration that can exist—“It’s not a kind of hopeless war, there’s much more connection than maybe first meets the eye”.
At the heart of Infinite Affection lies a story of the migrant experience, one many Australians can relate to. Although all migrant stories are indeed vastly different, at their core lies feelings of displacement, fear, and opportunity. Luke draws on stories shared by his late grandmother, a Serbian refugee, and the struggles she experienced coming to Australia. Luke “hope[s] that there’s something that is recognisable for second and third generation migrants in the performance”. Similarly, Christos’ experience as a Greek migrant helped shape Infinite Affection against the backdrop of the migrant experience, but also showcases how generational differences can be overcome through various art forms, including dance. Such differences include disparities in language and thus communication, leading back to the value of the non-verbal, physical dance experience.
The collaborative experience with Christos and the Omados musicians allowed Luke to observe the “particular expertise [they have] about how things sound, how things look” and the difference in their viewpoints on music and body movement came to light. It prompted Luke to consider what he can bring as an outsider to the table but also the “disruption [his] body offer[s] to the form”. This disruption allowed for experimentation with the old and the new in terms of body types, music and dance styles, and level of knowledge in different areas—leading to a consideration of how “bodies [can be] woven together by dance”.
“Because this work is devised using the knowledge of the people in the room, a lot of the sounds we make and a lot of the forms are inspired by Chris’ expertise—a lot of northern Macedonian dance and a lot of northern [Greek] sounds.” – Luke Macaronas
Greek folk dance culture has a typically gendered past, an aspect Luke was aware of throughout the creation of Infinite Affection. He said that much of the motivation for the work came from “dealing with the kind of masculinist history of folk dance and folk tradition of the last 100 years”. He continued to mention its male-dominated space and how the politics of Greek dance led to ideas about “what a man is and what a man can be and do”. Perhaps this breakdown of masculinity will be enabled by its connection to modern choreographic techniques, while of course, still honouring irreplaceable folk dance styles.
During our interview, the love and passion Luke has for Infinite Affection became overwhelmingly clear. The piece exists to appreciate Greek dance and generational learning and experimentation of style, but it’s also a way to engage in tradition and recraft it for a new generation. The folk dance scene in Melbourne thrived in the 1970s-80s, but has vanished in recent years. Infinite Affection will hopefully allow platforms to return which celebrate such culture.
Concerning tradition and experimentation, the creative process of Infinite Affection raised several questions for the creative team which they are still working through. Luke discussed tradition as something often “overlooked because it’s thought of as… conservative or fixed, but in reality, it’s very malleable… volatile and it’s constantly changing”. This view of tradition raised questions for Luke and his creative team: “Is there space for bodies and different stories [to exist]?… How much can we dispose of tradition? What are the values of tradition and folk forms that might be… meaningful… in a world where there is no space for folk form?”.
Luke hopes his work will invite audience members to reflect on “how they use their body… and what their body becomes as they get older”; to express themselves with their bodies in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. I’m sure that through this process of self-reflection, an appreciation and respect for Greek dance will emerge, hopefully allowing the traditions and fresh perspectives on folk styles to find a new home with current and future generations.
Infinite Affection will be performed at Sts Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church until March 27th. Visit their website for more information and to purchase tickets.
Photo Credit: Sodi Murphy-Shrives