Athina was freed by dancing

Athina Liakopoulou, a Greek psychology student, stopped dancing when the pressure from her ballet teachers became too much to bear. An art exhibition has helped her to reconnect with the love of her life. 


The Unblocked Project is featuring 12 media installations throughout Groningen from 25 to 31 May. Israeli choreographer Edan Gorlicki and Italian cross-media artist Fancesca Bardaro want to show how the way you move relates to your personal life.

Participants are men and women of Groningen, ranging from a 40-year-old circus artist to Athina, who shared her story with the UK.

The artists translated the their journeys into an interactive exhibition using multimedia and live performances.

At the age of four, Athina started following a dream shared by many little girls: to become a dancer. But the teachers at her professional dance school pushed her so hard to conform to a perfect image that it left her feeling desperate – being a ballerina came at a price.

‘I felt trapped in my body: stiff, conformed and uncomfortable,’ explains Athina, wrapping her hands around herself. ‘You are never good enough. Every time they told me I had to keep trying harder, but I didn’t know how.’


So, she quit. ‘I couldn’t accept it. It was supposed to be a hobby, something I enjoyed.’ She stopped dancing for years, but she always regretted the decision. ‘I never forgave myself for quitting.’

Four years ago, she began to dance again and now, she dances almost every day. The Unblocked Art Project played a part in that. Unblocked explores the relationship between physicality and personality, making each participant reflect on his or her own life experiences. For Athina, it was therapeutic.


Media installations and interactive features give the audience the chance to get involved and share their stories. Through individual sessions with the artists involved, Athina was forced to confront her own insecurities. ‘My aim is not to forgive myself, but to accept the fact I gave up what I love.’

Unlike Athina, some of the performers in Unblocked had never danced before. Most people see dancing either as something far away and complicated that you watch on a stage, or something that you do in a club. ‘We grow up with stereotypes of where and when we should move and dance’, she explains. ‘It is hard to go beyond that.’

‘I can’t dance’

‘Many of my friends say, ‘I can’t dance’. To me, that seems very limiting, because dancing or moving is very natural. That is why we have our bodies.’

Athina has always been fascinated by the relationship of people with their body. ‘The more you move and dance the more aware you are of what you do and how it feels.’ We are disconnected, she thinks. ‘We use our brains so much in our everyday life and the body is just a tool to drive us around.’

Being who you really are

Still, it can be hard to reconcile seeing movements that differ from your idea of what ‘dance’ should look like. When Athina took part in an improvisation workshop, at first she thought the movements made by another woman were awkward – what she was doing did not match Athina’s mental image of what dance is.

And yet, she was fascinated. ‘She was so into it that it changed my view completely. It was magical to watch.’ We should approach everything we do with such a positive attitude, Athina feels. ‘Being unblocked means being who you really are. I free myself through movement.’

Our main enemy holding us back is ourselves. ‘We need to fight our insecurities and not fear what others think of us.’ That goes for her too, Athina acknowledges, but she values the moments when she can ignore her own thoughts and just let go. ‘Dancing can be an escape for me. It’s an amazing feeling when there is nothing else. It’s like a drug.’

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