Spilling the Tea on Ariadne
By Alex Dellaportas - Artistic Director SYDC
A Minotaur, some golden thread, a David Bowie-less labyrinth, some Hunger Games-style tributes, a guy that abandons his wife; what is this crazy myth and why are we making a dance work about it?
Firstly, who is Ariadne?
- Daughter of King Minos, the King of Crete and son of Zeus, and Pasiphae, daughter of Helios
- Princess who grew up on the island of Crete
- Keeper of the Labyrinth that housed the Minotaur
- Woman who gave Theseus a ball of golden thread to help him escape the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur
- The woman in those famous paintings and art sculptures who was abandoned on Naxos
- Eventually marries the Greek God Dionysus (God of wine and other fun things)
- Appears in the crown-shaped constellation Corona Borealis
- The woman at the centre of SYDC's latest full-length dance work
That's cool, but why Ariadne?
I don't think Ariadne has ever been given the time she deserves in Greek mythology.
Basically, Ariadne is said to have fallen in love with a guy solely because of his looks and hero-status only to be abandoned on an island later by the same guy. And that’s all we really hear of her.
The final image of Ariadne is of her lying sadly on a beach by herself, abandoned, lonely and feeling sorry for herself.
I don’t like that version.
I don’t think that this should be the end of Ariadne’s story. I think Ariadne is much more complex than that - like all of us are. Nobody ceases to think and have feelings and the opportunity to grow once someone they thought they trusted abandons them. Quite the opposite actually. I think our greatest moments come from our lowest ones.
So, when choosing what to focus on in my new dance work, a big part of me wanted to explore the character of Ariadne and give her a backstory where Greek writers and poets had not done so before.
I think secretly, this lil character is actually a badass woman with a fabulously intricate story to share. And one that like all Greek myths, carries a message that we can all learn something from.
Ariadne’s story begins when she was a little girl (she’s actually a Princess of Crete also, so that makes her even cooler). We follow Ariadne’s childhood as her father, King Minos, makes a few mistakes like refusing to sacrifice a bull to the God Poseidon (like dude, why). That’s when Poseidon sends an angry Minotaur to Crete as punishment. It is then decided that the Minotaur will be locked away in a labyrinth.
Then, a war occurs between Athens and Crete. Upon losing the war, Crete forces Athens to sacrifice 7 boys and 7 girls each year to be fed to the Minotaur. This is where Thesues comes in. Theseus, the son of King Aegus of Athens, decides he’s had enough of this horrific tradition and volunteers as tribute (literally).
He goes over to Crete and meets Ariadne, who has been given the job of looking after the labyrinth and the tributes that are sent there.
This is where Ariadne supposedly falls in love with Theseus. She makes him promise to marry her if she can help him kill the Minotaur and when he does, Ariadne offers him a golden thread that when tied to the door of the labyrinth, will allow Theseus to find his way out unharmed.
And then she’s abandoned on the island of Naxos for no apparent reason other than Theseus got bored of her.
Well that’s the traditional story, anyway.
We’re adding the juicy bits to Ariadne’s story. In our retelling, we’re allowing Ariadne to have a voice and message all of her own.
Why would Ariadne fall so quickly in love with a stranger? What if she just wanted a way to get off the island and away from her old life? What if she was terrified of the Minotaur? And what if she was scared of the Minotaur not only because of his looks but because of what Ariadne saw reflected in him about herself and mankind? And what if Ariadne’s thread represented more than just “the way out”?
What if Ariadne is actually the symbol we’ve all been waiting for in Greek mythology? What if Ariadne is more than just the woman abandoned on an island...?
These are the questions I have for this Greek myth, and these are the questions we’ll be exploring in our retelling of the famous story.
I look forward to telling you more about our creative process for this work but most importantly, I look forward to spilling even more tea about this complicated mythological story.
(i.e stay tuned for a blog post exposing the Cretans for their supposed Hunger Games-esque sacrificing of children XD)