A short Talk with Ioanna Avraam (Soloist, Vienna State Ballet): March 6th, 2019
The Mediterranean Landscape, especially the Eastern Part of it, is blessed during Springtime with millions of beautiful flowers. Everywhere you look at you'll find beautiful colours. In fact, one has the feeling of looking at a „carpet“ of flowers. Apart from their beauty, they have one other thing in common: Strenght. Yes, these flowers make Spring a joy but then they disappear deep into the earth to „survive“ the heat of the Summer and to reappear in their full splendour next year. That is how I see Miss Avraam and her Art and Personality. Beautiful, fragile looking but consistent in her Strenght, Stability and Firmness. Flowers like these have the mentioned qualities (that may „bother“ other flowers that are not so tenacious) and this is exactly what turns them into fascinating, unique and singular Works of Art: this holding tightly onto something that you believe in, this keeping an opinion in a determined way. Yes, Tenacity!
We met in front of the „Theater a.d. Wien“ (a house that brings sweet memories back to me!) and walked together to an Oriental Restaurant in the middle of the „Naschmarkt“ (an open-air Market and for me the very „heart“ of Vienna – just like „Les Halles“ used to be the heart of Paris before the Centre Georges Pompidou was built!). A lovely, warm Spring day and we could even sit outside for a while during our interview... As it was to expect we talked for such a long time and the sun lost a bit of its Strenght.
„Ioanna, I am not quite sure about the year in which you arrived in Vienna... it was 2008, wasn't it?“, I say.
She smiles as if remembering good times „Yes, it was 2008, during Gyula Harangozó's direction period.“
„May I assume that you came from Cyprus to audition?“
„More or less“ she laughs „You know how a dancer's life is... I had my normal school finishing in Cyprus, then I took part in the Prix de Lausanne competition. After that, I was studying in Munich. Then I came to Vienna – or Vienna entered my life... „
„2008... Well, you started at Corps de Ballet... how was your career's development from then on?“
„In 2010 I became a half-soloist and in 2014 Manuel Legris promoted me to the Soloist status!“
„I remember that“, I say „I was there... it was just after a „Nureyev Gala“ in which you had danced with Dumitru Taran. I think it was in Bournville's Flower Feast in Genzano“, wasn't it?„ She nods and I think about how much has happened since then even though this was not even 5 years ago!
„How do you start preparing yourself for a new role? How is your approach to it?“
„You see, Ricardo, Dance is my life and I have a formation which gave me already a „first impression“, either of the character or subject or story. This formation allows me not to be waiting for anyone to explain the part to me – unless it is a completely new role that is being created! I always try not to copy anyone and just „grow“ into the role. Not representing or „playing it“ but just being it. And that can only happen if you put yourself into the role – especially because a role does not consist only of technique... You ARE it!“
You are beginning to understand now all that I wrote about at the beginning of this interview. But even though I wrote lots about delicate flowers that have an incomparable strength, I must add an expression that we use a lot in Austria: „Stille Gewässer sind tief“ („Quiet waters run deep“) and that applies 100& to Mis Avraam.
„Can you remember any situation in which it was difficult creating a role? Emotionally challenging?“ I „insist“ further on the subject of the very own creative process while preparing a role.
The answer comes quickly and as clear as water „Yes, and it was not a leading role but the Countess Marie Larisch in MacMillan's „Mayerling“. A very difficult role to be in. There are so many sides of her character to project – and so less time on stage to show it all. So many things at the same time and such limited time to make it all understood!“
„How is your relation to the „dilemma“ „Abstract vs. Classical roles“?
Once more, after giving me a glimpse with her beautiful dark eyes that revealed the Firmness and Stability of her thoughts, she simply said „I feel more „at home“ in dramatic roles in ballets like „Manon“, „Onegin“, (Cranko's) „Romeo and Juliet“ to name a few! And to that I have to add some words about Cranko: Genius, like his, is to be able to create something that you feel could not have been said any other way!“
„Any other experiences with a dramatic role that you would like to share with our readers? I think about younger generations and how they could take advantage of all this information“ I ask.
„It was surely not easy having just three weeks for my first „Giselle“. Not just preparing the role and its subtle nuances but also learning the choreography from scratch! Having danced Boris Eifman's „Giselle Rouge“ before, helped me extremely during the creative process. And these „coincidences“ seem to make sense... „ and I think to myself „Do coincidences really exist?“
We talked a bit about „Giselle“, her character, her motives and came to the subject of Marcia Haydée's version, which I intensely dislike because of Marcia's „vision“ of Giselle's death. Marcia did not believe at the time that somebody could „die because of love“ (and let Giselle accidentally be stabbed by a sword during a fight between Albrecht and Hilarion). Miss Avraam, who shares my opinion just said „I could die of love“
And about the important issues „Style“ and „Technical exaggeration“ she simply says: „Think of the Royal Opera House – and how clear, transparent „Style“ is... Of course, time is a big issue and it all depends on who is coaching you. The right coach can you the precise style of the work you are in“ and we talk a bit of Iryna Tsymbal being coached for her first MacMillan's Juliet by Lynn Seymour to which she adds „It is not only enough to do your „best“, it is the „right thing“ that I want to achieve!“
„And Technicality being more important than Style?“ to which we talked about Igor Milos's clever Remark (Interview from January 11th ): „It all started with Sylvie Guillem, didn't it?“
Miss Avraam looks at me and says firmly „Guillem KNEW what she was doing... She had so much more than this. Just with technique, you are not a complete Artist. But as complicated as it might sound, I can only say: to achieve Artistry you have to be a WHOLE Human Being. This is Nature!“
To ask a light question at the End of our „Rendez-Vous“ and thinking about pupils who might profit from her Know-How, I just say: „Which are your favourite shoes at the moment?“ (I meant point shoes, of course) and she says in ecstasy „High Heels – I have a whole wall wardrobe filled with them!“
What else can I say? I simply love this woman – her seriousness and integrity to her Art as well as her Humour and Honesty! Thank you very much, Ioanna! Efcharistó para poli!