Mankind’s quest for utopia explored through dance

Dancer Arash Khakpour. | Photo by Chris Randle

Greek-Canadian choreographer Paras Terezakis will be premiering his work In PENUMBRA as part of the 2017 Vancouver International Dance Festival March 1–4 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre. 

Terezakis immigrated to Canada from Greece in 1979 where he pursued his dance studies at York University, Toronto Dance Theatre and Simon Fraser University. From a young age, Terezakis had always been gifted in dance.

“In Greek culture, we love dancing,” says Terezakis. “It’s a social thing.”

Terezakis initially studied acting in theatre school but after watching an inspirational ballet, he became interested in dance and pursued dance professionally instead.

“I’m not that great with words and for me, dance is a beautiful thing,” says Terezakis.

The pursuit of utopia

Choreographer and artistic director Paras Terezakis. | Photo by Yukiko Onley

A strong need to express himself propelled Terezakis to a dance style that he calls “physical theatre” where he works with the mind and body in a physical way. In 1986, Terezakis formed his own dance company, Kinesis Dance somatheatro. “Somatheatro,” he says, means the acting of the body and the mind. His work, In PENUMBRA, highlights the continuous search and desire for utopia in our dystopic world and the challenges we face to get there. The word “penumbra” describes an area that is in a partial shadow. This grey area between light and darkness metaphorically depicts our best and worst traits.

Not willing to divulge too many details about the performance, Terezakis describes the abstract work as very visual with lighting contrasts created by incandescent and LED lights. There will also be a live video feed incorporated into the performance.

“The way I create work is to have some mystery and surprise,” says Terezakis.

The thought-provoking performance will take the audience on their own personal journey, allowing them to take the metaphors and symbolisms presented visually and viscerally to create a story in their own minds.

“I want them to allow their minds to create questions for themselves without waiting for me to give them the answer,” says Terezakis.

Inspired by heritage

The inspiration behind In PENUMBRA came from two sources: The Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem, and the Norwegian movie, The Bothersome Man. The movie portrays a man who lives in what appears to be a utopia but is essentially a dystopia.

“My ideas come usually from my heritage, Greek theatre or mythological archetypes,” says Terezakis. “I enjoy working with philosophical and psychological attributes, the human condition and symbolism. I work with what I see in everyday life and it triggers me to do choreography.”

Born in Athens, Terezakis’ family owns a restaurant and they lived closed to a port where he saw people of different nationalities regularly. Growing up, he lived under the dictatorship of Georgios Papadopoulos, a time that he described as disturbing. He was later conscripted into the army and forced to stop his studies. Having lived through these experiences, he explains that seeing life in the best of times and the worst of times has provided him with inspiration for his pieces.

“I feel instinct and impulse create an impact in my work,” say Terezakis, who attributes this to his Mediterranean heritage.

As a choreographer and artistic director, Terezakis feels that the most rewarding part of the creation process is the beginning.

“It’s like putting a puzzle together and finding answers to the puzzle; if we don’t find the answer we find another question and that excites me a lot,” says Terezakis.

The production will feature dancers Arash Khakpour, Elissa Hanson, Hyoseung Ye, Diego Romero and Reneé Sigouin.

For more information, please visit