Rallou Manou, born in 1915 and passed away on 15 October 1988, was a prominent Greek choreographer, dancer, and one of the most captivating personalities of the 20th century. Born during the National Schism era, she was often described by Eleni Fessa-Emmanuel as “a unique phenomenon in the history of modern Greek dance.”
She hailed from renowned families that had made significant contributions to the Greek revolution of 1821 and politics. She was the daughter of Sophia Tombazi and the military officer Stefanos Manos. Her ancestry could be traced back to the Phanariotes Manus and Mavrokordates, while her mother’s side boasted the famous Hydra captains of the 1821. Her half-sister, Aspasia Manou, had married King Alexander I of Greece, and her son is Alexander Karageorjevic, of Serbia.
Rallou Manou left an indelible mark on the world of dance and art through her life and work. With her aristocratic lineage, combining the Mavrokordatos, Manos, and Tombazis families, she embodied two essential elements: refinement and cultivation, as well as a profound sense of Greek identity, coupled with modest yet impactful philanthropy. She resided on the island of Hydra.
Rallou Manou would challenge her mother’s conservative beliefs and, after losing her father at an early age, decided to live and work independently. However, fate would introduce Koula Pratsika, a dance pioneer in Greece, into her life. In 1933, as a recent graduate of the Ursuline School of Tinos, she embarked on her dance journey under the guidance of Koula Pratsika. This marked the beginning of a fruitful exploration into the world of Terpsichore, which was followed by a series of systematic apprenticeships in Paris and Munich. She later pursued postgraduate studies in New York, where she crossed paths with Martha Graham. Rallou returned to become a core teacher at the Professional Dance School of Koula Pratsika.
She was married to the architect and academic Pavlos Mylonas, who, among various accomplishments, played a pivotal role in the restoration of the Church of the Resurrection and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (1976-1984). His research extensively covered Mount Athos and neoclassical architecture in 19th-century Athens. Following her marriage to architect, professor, and eventual academic Pavlos Mylonas, she further immersed herself in the contemporary dance scene in New York, where she encountered influential figures like Doris Humphrey, Hania Holm, and Martha Graham. Rallou Manou would become the first person to introduce the Graham system to Greece, ultimately founding the “Hellenic Choreography” in 1951.
The Hellenic Choreodrama was a significant cultural achievement of the 20th century in Greece, redefining modern Greek identity. It departed from tradition while transcending it, aiming to create a new kind of modern culture. Rallou Manou defined “Greek Choreodrama” as an endeavor to develop Greek dance interpretations without imitating foreign styles. The emphasis was not on limiting themes to Greek subjects but rather on infusing a Greek interpretation, a distinctive style that encapsulated the essence of Greece. Just as Diaghilev said, “I want to do the work of a creator and not an imitator,” this was Rallou Manou’s mission as well. Great Greeks such as: Manos Hadjidakis, Odysseas Elytis, Nikos Chatzikyriakos-Gikas, Giannis Moralis, Spyros Vassiliou, Nikos Engonopoulos, Giannis Tsarouchis, Mikis Theodorakis, Argyris Kounadis, Eugenios Spatharis embodied the “Greek Choreography,” by her side.
In her words, “Hellenicness is not an external trait, nor a matter of nationality. It is something that is in your blood. Martha Graham used to say that my blood remembers. So subconsciously I carry the tradition within me.”
Her choreographies and performances weren’t merely a deliberate fusion of tradition and modernity but were also deeply connected to the critical, contemporary scene in modern Greek intellectual and artistic life. Her endeavors aligned with those of many other creative individuals, leading to collaborative innovations in theater, music, and visual arts that left an enduring mark on two-thirds of the 20th century. Her works were frequently performed at the Herodou Atticus Theatre in Athens, and she collaborated with Greek composers such as Manos Hadjidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, George Tsangaris, and George Sissilianos.
In 1999, her husband, the academic Pavlos Mylonas, entrusted the Department of Theatre Studies at the University of Athens with the preservation and utilization of Rallou Manou’s extensive choreographer’s archive. Her foresight in establishing and maintaining a systematic personal archive proved invaluable. This archive comprises 192 folders containing an array of data, including information on the activities of the “Hellenic Chorodrama,” records of performances and tours, correspondence with international luminaries of the time, personal notes, and more.
Find her archive here: https://www.vivliopoleiopataki.gr/product/544246/vivlia/Arxeio-Rallous-Manou/
Info: from www.
Written by Christina.
New Rallou sandals collection ( available from 2024) is inspired by her.