Christina Beskou


Portrait of a Dancer: Christina Beskou

The Athenian - August 1989

by Jenny Colebourne

Christina Beskou started dancing on the cobbled streets of Hydra at the age of three. Her mother could always locate her by the crowds which formed around her, mesmerized by this miniature performer.

Unlike many dancers, who are sent to dance class to correct a health problem, Christina's mother was actually afraid to send her active little daughter to class because she was anaemic.

Eventually, Beskou started her career at Nelly Mazloum Calvo's school here in Athens where she got good basic groundwork. At 17, she set out for London and the Royal Academy of Dancing. She came from a rather strict home, so resisted the temptation of the big city's bright lights and bowed to the iron discipline of the Academy. I first remember Beskou from the years when I was teaching Body Control at the London School of Contemporary Dance. She had an extremely strong character, great determination and legs that opened past 180 degrees. She was born with exceptional flexibility (which many a fellow dancer envied) but rather than making her dancing life easier this 'talent' meant she had to work hard at strengthening her muscles to gain control [over] her body.

She took classes with the Hungarian refugee and ballet teacher, Maria Fay, at the London School of Contemporary Dance. Fay, who teaches the Vaganova system of classical technique, became Beskou's close friend and mentor as well as teacher. Beskou started to demonstrate for the older dancer; to ease Beskou into teaching professional dancers without causing her to panic completely, Fay would phone up five minutes before class time and tell her star student, "O.K., you're teaching today," and there Beskou was, teaching company members as well as students. Beskou admits Fay would never have got her to do it any other way.

She then went down with a knee problem which kept her in bed for two months. Fay revived a floor barre system which she had taught in Hungary so Beskou would at least maintain some muscle tone. Not only did her muscles stay strong but the knee problem disappeared. Beskou has now developed this technique further and her floor barre has become a very popular class in Athens . She then danced with Susanne Reits' Modern Group in Amsterdam where she first started teaching and developing the floor barre.

Settling in Greece , she danced first for the Athens Ballet Theatre and then with Lia Meletopoulou's group. It was the first time she had worked with improvisation. There were no set steps and she was forced to be more creative. Shortly after, out of the blue, she started choreographing.

While dancing with Angela Lyras' Dance Company, she created "Don't Look Back," with music by Van Morrison, and was more than happy when she was given a chance to present it. Her piece for the opening performance of the Dance Center , "It's Been a Long, Long Time," with music by Louis Armstrong, was very popular.

Beskou's favorite choreographers are Jiri Kylian, whom she considers to be a genius, and Christopher Bruce. Music inspires her with images, a story line, and then, the steps. "I never count," she says emphatically. "My dancers must feel the music." She believes a performer's ability to move the audience, to make them laugh, is more important than technique, and she has worked very successfully with less-experienced dancers. She is a hard task master, often demanding the impossible from her dancers and, sometimes, getting it.

Most recently, she organized an Easter course with Maria Fay in Athens . The course was full and she had to turn people away. In October, we will be combining strengths to bring Don Farnworth from the US to give classes.In the future, Beskou would like her own studio so she does not have to spend all her money paying for rehearsal space. She is still very much a performer and would like to work in the like theatre or cinema. She has many concepts for choreographies vying for her attention now, the most recent, "The Hat," with music by Sidney Becket. She will be in New York this summer taking classes and 'looking around'.

Beskou was seen recently at the electrifying Dizzy Gillespie concert at Herod Atticus, emerging from the back stage area virtually hand-in-hand with Paquito Di Rivera. "I just had to tell him," she said, "that I choreographed to his music." He is going to see her work in July when he comes for his concerts. If he likes the work, they will perform it. "Just imagine," she says, "dancing to that music LIVE."