I remember it all quite vividly as if it happened yesterday. And well, yes, the first time I stepped my foot on the Odeon of Herodes for the very first time was five days ago (I am very much ashamed to admit that, I have lived in Greece for seventeen years, I was born in Greece, I am Greek and yet I had never been there until that beautiful, beautiful night where grace and glory made love to each other, creating well — the very definition of perfection. At least my definition of perfection.) I remember bending over my best friend’s side a little, completely enchanted, thrilled and bewildered, whispering “I am going to write about this.” “About what?” She asked with blazing eyes, that glance of disapproval that she gave me whenever I was up to something. “This.” I whispered once again, eager as ever. Of course I wrote about it, briefly, enough to keep the memory fresh, stained forever in paper so that I would not let a thing slip from my somewhat frail memory.
So, yes, the Odeon of Herodes is an amphitheatre, third in construction in Athens after the Odeon of Pericles, built at some point in the 2nd century AD where many musical festivities took place at that time. And to think I had made a presentation in a PowerPoint in High School two years ago about it and Epidaurus. I remember my classmates, thoroughly uninterested, chewing their cheeks, talking, doing whatever else but paying attention. I did not mind, I kept smiling pleasantly (as well as nervously), stumbling upon my own words, trying to be brief. Poor things, they were forcing things down our throat in High School. Two years later I find myself seated there, watching ballet, thoroughly interested. No one had forced me, no one had told me to learn things by heart. I was over with High School, the days when I learnt things by heart had come to an end. I had gone to watch Giselle and be pleased. For those that don’t know Giselle is basically a love story and a tragedy — not at all surprising, I know. Greatness and tragedy often go together and it is seen so often, it could be considered a cliche. Even so, it is one of my favorite cliches. Spoiler Alert: Giselle died of a broken heart (or perhaps she had a heart attack during her furious dance when she realized who Albrecht truly was — she had a weak heart, what can I say!).
At first, at the very beginning of the first act, my friend and I were giggling. My friend’s thoughts were basically: Do you think Albrecht is wearing a wig? It seems so! Oh god, I wish I could dance like that. I really do wonder how a man could possibly decide to dedicate himself to ballet. I was delighted that she was at least enjoying her belated birthday gift, that we were both enjoying ourselves. We were aghast for the most part, the ballerinas dancing their passions away with such a nonchalance, such a purity and grace — and there she was, sweet Giselle with her beloved, romantic Albrecht who lacks realism, sense, responsibility. They are both living the moment, dancing, laughing, running around and it’s all grand in Act 1. They have created their very own Utopia, a world of their own until Albrecht’s identity is revealed. Betrayed, sorrowful, blinded by ire, Giselle starts dancing in fury until she dies in her beloved’s arms (and yes, yes, this was my favorite part.)
Then in act 2 (the haunted act as I jokingly told my friend at some point ) the Willis appeared. And who are the Willis you may ask. Well, the Willis were merciless spirits that had been rejected (or betrayed) by the men they loved. Now they sought revenge from every man (very Miss Havisham, I know). They took their revenge in a very remarkable way — they made a man dance until he was dead. Albrecht of course had to go to Giselle’s grave to express his grief when the Willis appeared and if it hadn’t been for Giselle’s truthful love, Albrecht would have been condemned to death by dancing until sunrise. The ballet closes up with a tender moment between Giselle and Albrecht after she has saved him, one last tender goodbye before they part ways between the living and the dead. And I was left with many questions there but mostly I was overtaken by the dancers themselves. Their talent, determination, dedication — overwhelming virtues. That night not only did they create art but they created perfection.
I don’t ever remember applauding so loudly and with such warmth in my life.
It was an ideal way to close a chapter in my life so a new one would begin. I wouldn’t wish my time in Greece to have ended in any other way. Under the full moon with a cordial friend, a romantic play (those who know me well enough know that I cannot take enough of three things: aestheticism, a good book and wine), all those euphoric feelings warming me up, the starts in the sky pointing in another direction than the one I was going for thus far — I felt strangely complete. I was ready then to be consumed and to be reborn and to be someone new and to explore a world that I never knew existed before, naive, oblivious, ignorant as I was, as I am.
Oh, I will miss you, Greece, now that I was finally getting to know you, I leave. But we will meet again.