Welcome in Frankfurt
Ioannis Mandafounis


We are very happy to welcome you back to Frankfurt. You know Frankfurt well from your time as a dancer in The Forsythe Company and Frankfurt was also a home for your dance collective mamazza, whose choreographies we still remember very well.

How was the new start in Frankfurt? What change did you notice in the city of Frankfurt?

Ioannis Mandafounis

First of all let me tell you that I am very happy to be coming back to Frankfurt. This city as well as Dresden and their cultural lifes were the foundation for becoming the artist I am today and my creativity is still very much « Frankfurt like » even if I was away for many years. Maybe I should say « The Forsythe Company like ».

In my life this strong signature of my artistic quest brought me some criticism when creating in other countries, but somehow I never tried or managed to get rid of it because it is what gave me strong impulses and kept my creative mind and explorations alive.

During this time of preparation I have noticed that I will be very well supported by a fantastic team in the office since the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company’s administrative, marketing, technical and costume teams are all already showing me a very high level of competence and professionalism.

It is with joy that I wake up in the morning knowing that the big challenge that lays ahead is supported by these incredible and highly competent colleagues.

As for Frankfurt city, I have found similarities and also some changes. I feel strongly, like for the rest of Europe too, that the past years have not been easy for all levels of society and that there is naturally work to be done in order to walk again the path of growth and restore a feeling of confidence in people’s dreams in its broader sense.

One can feel it while being in the city that the COVID times did not leave the city untouched. But I feel I am up to the task and happy to undertake it as the company is an important artistic entity of the city.We are already as a team connecting to many other institutions in Frankfurt and in Dresden as well as with the free dance scene in order to start a fruitful conversation with the art scene.  


When you were appointed Artistic Director of the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company, you emphasized how important it is for the company to be close to the urban communities, in this case Frankfurt and Dresden.

Are there any examples from Geneva, Athens, Lyon, Copenhagen or the many other places where you have worked as a dancer and choreographer, of a particularly successful integration into the urban society and what could we learn from ?

Ioannis Mandafounis

I have experienced a lot of positive aspects in many projects relating to the subject of community. By working with refugees in Geneva, traveling in remote parts of various countries in all continents where culture and art as we understand it in Northern Europe does not exist, I have been called to adapt and integrate my artistic point of views to new realities rather than sticking to my older knowledge and my habits.

All the successful projects had one very strong aspect in common: communication.

In any of the regions/situations mentioned above one could find successful projects as well as unsuccessful ones. In my case and in order to succeed in my given tasks at the time, this communicative aspect grew a lot and became so important that it changed my way of creating and addressing audiences independently of their cultural background.

The difficulty during the past years was to keep splitting myself between the theater reality and the big « European theaters/festivals ». A split that I learned to do and that gave me new competencies but that is specific to my character.

It is like trying to make work an impossible task. Finding solutions and transforming them into artistic results is what this knowledge is made of.

Today I would like to use the chance that this new company is giving me to create shows for our audience that will integrate and embrace this human aspect that we all need so much.

And the good news is that with all the above mentioned experiences I believe having found a way to do so by keeping the excellency the company always had from the beginning of its existence.

One aspect is to not to exclude others from the moments that the dance and the choreography are providing, rather to give to an audience generously.

This will be an exiting challenge for the years to come.


The collaboration of classically trained ballet dancers and dancers who have completed dance training elsewhere is becoming more and more present. What advantages do you see in this form of cooperation within a choreography? Where do you see the limits?

Ioannis Mandafounis

The advantage of this new « mixture/cooperation » in our art field is clearly the demonstration that diversity (an important aspect of our society today) and addition of new and different body knowledges, movement aesthetics and bodily capabilities can be a plus for a company rather than a dissolvent agent of coherency.

Today coherency and harmony of a group or of an entity (in dance and art in general) can not be seen as an aesthetic approach only. The dancers today (like in the past) naturally reflect the tendencies of the society they live in.

From my perspective, the beauty of having a « layered » art form unveiling its uniqueness and complexity in front of the eyes of an audience can be a magical and actually harmonious result. But one has to accept that the sensation and the experience as well as the aesthetic will be changed unavoidably.

Maybe the challenge is not so much in term of – trying to see the limits of such a blending – but to help the audiences to surpass their own limits when seeing a performance that deals with subjects and tendencies of today’s social reality.

A simple example to understand this: Today in a contemporary city one can enjoy a diversity of restaurants and tastes from all over the world. This was not always the case and in the past the offer was limited.

Today we can not imagine living in Frankfurt without having the possibility of choosing what sort of food we will eat. It has become a natural thing and if we where to cut this options it would probably feel very restrictive. Local tastes blend with international tastes.

This multiple choice aspect gives to big cities the common identity they all share. The identity of a « big city ». And all big cities around the world have these options and this blending.

It is the same with a dance company. We can’t imagine being an international renown company nowadays and not address or work/integrate the questions that shake the cultural tissue of the cities we live in.

It would be like having a rock in front of us and deliberately closing the eyes while running to it. We would inevitably sooner or later crush into it, depending of the speed of our run.

So the challenge is to find the correct choreographic formats that will gather all members of society in the theater and help them witness and understand the results we will create for them. Providing them with the opportunity to see togetherness and multiplicity (of dance) as a positive point rather as feeling that we are losing sense and coherency.

We had a very good example of this diversity/multiplicity during the first event we took part in Hellerau – European Centre of the Arts (Floor on Fire) as a warm welcoming of four of our new dancers. The dancer’s generosity and their dance abilities were clearly demonstrated to a great extend and the audience was unanimous in terms of realization of this perspective. This was a good start and a great way to introduce some aspects of the new company.


What are the most important criteria for you when selecting dancers for the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company?

Ioannis Mandafounis

Their physical accomplishment, their mental and emotional strength, their ability to progress and evolve, their ability to have access to all their sensorial and physical abilities under situations of stage fright, the big stress which can be felt on stage.

Dancers have to be able to deal with decision-making on stage as much as in the studio. They need to be creative as choreographers and strongly grounded/present as performers.

And mostly they need to be able to involve themselves in the company as well as on stage without holding back.

Generosity is the key for all these elements to be present and aligned. The dancers of the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company all have these aspects.


Patronatsverein Frankfurt organizes a trip for its members once a year, of course including visits to dance, drama and opera performances.

If we want to see the work of other exciting dance companies besides the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company, where should our trip go to?

Ioannis Mandafounis

I propose a few choices that are relevant and also relate to our situation:

In terms of freelance companies, I would suggest going to Bruxelles and seeing the company ZOO from Thomas Hauert. This choreographer stretches the notions of improvisation to the maximum while keeping alive a strong notion of « dance love » and choreographic composition.

He is also an expert on using music in an enhancing way in his pieces and has a great method of teaching movement and choreography that is known worldwide. Thomas was one of the main dancers of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker for many years before becoming a leading figure of improvised dance worldwide.

The young group Ouinch Ouinch from Lausanne: A young collective that specializes in dance shows that always finish with a big party where all members of the audience can’t sit still and everybody dances at the end.

It is the effect this group has on audiences and unites social dancing with contemporary dance aspects. Very high energy!

For the more institutionalized companies I would suggest visiting Carte Blanche in Bergen / Norway since they are one of the few contemporary companies that while being in the most northern part of Europe, that gained a reputation of being one of the best companies in our field even if they do not enjoy the fame of a company like The Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT)

Or Norrdans from Sweden/Härnosand that is very diverse and has to make a beautiful company out of dancers that not only come from different dance backgrounds but also from very different cultures worldwide.

They are specialized in touring in the most remote regions in the north of Sweden and are a strong group of artists lead by a great leader that has managed to attract incredible dancers and audiences in places that normally nobody would imagine going. This company can be an example for many of us in terms of achieving something almost impossible.

Culberg Ballet/Stockholm: It is the only company that has a similar past and trajectory to the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Theatre. They have managed to transform into becoming a new entity with a totally new identity.

It is the only company that survived the departure of a renowned leader/choreographer that managed to do this switch and did not only try to keep alive its choreographic past, unlike NDT, Tanz Theater Wuppertal, Cunningham Company, Martha Graham Dance Company, Rudra Béjart and many others.

Of course, this renewal took many years to happen but it did and it worked. This company is an example that shows that transformation is possible and that it can be successfully done.


We are very excited to see your work with Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company, starting with the season 2023/2024 and we are very much looking forward to many personal encounters with you. Welcome back to Frankfurt.

Ioannis Mandafounis

Thank you so much for the opportunity that has been given to me to lead a dream company. As I see my friends and colleagues that are in other institutions in similar positions, I feel extremely lucky to have been chosen to lead the Dresden Frankfurt Dance Company. This company has the perfect combination of an institutionalized profile yet still an independency that is rarely found elsewhere in the world. The balance between these two poles is a gift and I will do all I can to enhance the company on all levels during my mandate. Happy to see you soon and talk together furthermore 🙂 !