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New bill setting up a state center for theater and dance raises questions December 16, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera, Greece News, Stage & Theater.
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While central planning useful, Culture Ministry initiative poses risks that need to be addressed if changes do not end up being for the worse

Theater and dance have never been high on the Culture Ministry’s list of priorities. In everything from state theaters and drama schools to funding regional theater companies and Greek performances abroad, there has been no national policy nor any continuity, even within the same government administration. A new draft bill from the Culture Ministry providing for a National Theater and Dance Center is an attempt to redress this issue, but has raised several issues, among them the question as to whether such an institution need exist.

The purpose of the center, according to the bill, is to draft national policy on theater and dance and support the Culture Ministry with its planning. It also aims to promote research and training, as well as coordinate all activities nationwide and promote them abroad. With regard to funding, the bill transfers authority to the center from ministry committees that decide on subsidies to theaters and dance companies.

The center will be governed by a nine-member board and its director is to be appointed for five years. For the latter post, the name of critic and writer Heracles Logothetis has been touted as the most likely candidate, he is already an adviser to Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis. The center would be staffed by 24 people and funded by the state budget and European Union subsidies, international organizations as well as revenues from private and state events, publications and productions.

This is the first attempt to provide a framework for state productions of theater and dance in Greece, but one criticism of this idea is that what is missing is a national policy, and not yet another state center.

According to the draft law, the ministry leadership is not relinquishing its authority to set policy; the center is to “implement national policy” as well as “support the minister in determining and planning it.” That could just as well be achieved by a committee of notables. However, the way things are done at the moment, it is one thing to have a committee’s opinion, even the most reputable one, which the next incoming minister is likely to ignore, and another to have an established body for carrying out policy. It seems more likely that long-term policy can be implemented and goals achieved by an organization, rather than being left to the patriotic sentiments of the incumbent minister.

Although gathering together under one roof activities that are now dealt with in piecemeal fashion could be a step in the right direction, there is still the risk that a new institution could become yet another convenient arena for nepotism or cliques, already rampant in the sector.

For such a center to be useful, there are three sine qua non preconditions, capable, sincere people at its head, a complement of full staff and sufficient funding. Funds should be a specific part of the state budget so the center’s fate does not become subject to the whims of the incumbent minister. That would probably require an annual amount of at least euro 10 million.

There are other questions raised by the draft law. For example, it does not specify the powers of the organization which is supposed to be defining and implementing national policy in training and education, such as at drama schools. Clearly, this was avoided because of the inevitable necessity of involving the Education Ministry, which would have delayed the tabling of the bill.

Nor does the bill give the center powers over the state theaters, National, Northern Greece, Opera. Then there is the question of authority for subsidies. Interested parties will not submit requests to the center, whose committees will be judging them, but to the Culture Ministry, as happens today.

While the idea of such a center is an admirable attempt to put order to the country’s cultural activities, it has to be thought out carefully, otherwise it could prove pointless, if not downright harmful.

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Celebrating 20 years of Museum of Cycladic Art December 16, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums, Books Life Greek.
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A book, “Genethlion,” is being launched on Tuesday to celebrate the 20th birthday of the Museum of Cycladic Art and in honor of its president, Dolly Goulandris. The book is sponsored by the Alexandros Onassis Foundation.

The speakers will be Benaki Museum Director Professor Angelos Delivorrias, Ancient Messinia Program Director Petros Themelis, Cycladic Museum Director Nikolaos Stambolidis, Professor Michalis Tiverios of Thessaloniki Aristotle University and Antiquities Ephor Constantinos Tsakos. Attendance is by invitation.

‘Swan Lake’ at concert hall is already sold out December 16, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera.
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Elli Solomonidou-Balana’s sketch captures a moment from the second act of “Swan Lake,” performed by the Kiev Opera Ballet, and accompanied by the Athens State Orchestra conducted by Vyron Fidetzis, at the Athens Concert Hall.

The last performances are taking place this weekend, with Polina Semionova as Odette/Odile and Artem Shpilevsky as Prince Siegfried today and Saturday, and Svetlana Zakharova and Sergei Filin on Sunday. Tickets have already sold out.

Season’s greetings from a 10-year-old December 16, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Culture, Shopping.
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The lights went on Thursday night on the tall Christmas tree, and the carousel started turning in Syntagma Square.

But the real warmth of Christmas came to us from the card that accompanied the lucky charm in the shape of a golden ship sent by the Greek Society for the Protection and Rehabilitation of Disabled Children (ELEPAP).

In touching detail, the 10-year-old artist, who is learning to take steps in life through ELEPAP, has carefully drawn the footsteps of Father Christmas in the snow.

Thanks to Mary Karella and all the board of ELEPAP, and congratulations on their mission. The attractive card is on sale to raise funds for ELEPAP.

Tracing family roots on Hydra December 16, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life Greek.
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The Terpsichore, a schooner built on Hydra in 1818, was owned by Manolis and Iakovos Tombazis. It was captained, permanently and in rotation, by Eleftherios, Antonios and Alexandros Raphael.

The sight of Hydra, with the stone houses of ships’ captains clinging to the historic rock, inspires a sense of wonderment as the ferry takes the last turn into the warm embrace of the island’s port. Visitors become friends. Many Greek and foreign artists have built homes there and have become one big family with the friendly, hospitable Hydriots.

Whoever really loves Hydra respects the islanders and their rights, such as the unique ban on motorized traffic. “Our Hydra: Exploring Pages from Its History,” is a handsome illustrated volume that recounts the story of the Raphael family of Hydra since 1596, in both Greek and English editions.

The product of meticulous research by Professor Emeritus Marios Raphael, the book was launched yesterday at the Aigli venue, next to Zappeion Hall in the Greek capital. Helping to present the book were Professor Dimitris Dimitrakos, columnist Telemachos Maratos from the Greek History Studies Association, and Helbi, who has a special interest in Hydra. The writer is a member of the Raphael family whose deep roots on the island he has explored.

Of its origins, he writes: “It can be concluded that in 1596, a family of seven bearing the name Raphael or Barou Raphael or Raphalias Barou left Kythnos and settled on Hydra, and that since then there have always been families by the name of Raphael or Raphalias or Raphelias or other families with the surname Barou on the island. The family obviously settled on Hydra to escape Turkish rule on Kythnos when the Turks drove out the Venetians and occupied the Cyclades… The name Barou is probably from the nobility title, Baron. Indeed Kythnos belonged to the Duchy of the Aegean, which had its seat in Naxos and was founded by the Venetians in 1207.”

The family was active in the Greek struggle for independence: “During the 1821 War of Independence, there were four brothers, Antonios, Eleftherios, Ioannis and Alexandros Raphael who were captains of various ships during the war, chiefly the Terpsichore.” And so the author traces his family’s history down to the present day.

UEFA Cup December 16, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Greek sides drawn against French teams in competition’s round of 32

Both Greek soccer teams left in the UEFA Cup will face French opposition in the next round. Panathinaikos will need to overcome Lens to make it into the last 16 of the tournament while AEK will take on Paris St Germain (PSG).

The two legged ties will be played on February 14, 15 and 22. Panathinaikos will play the first leg away from home and AEK will host PSG at the Olympic Stadium in Athens before traveling to Paris for the second leg. Meanwhile, an airplane carrying Panathinaikos fans from Milan to Athens yesterday had to land in Brindisi, Italy, after a brawl broke out on board the flight.

Development of Olympic venues draws many bidders December 16, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Athens 2004 Olympics.
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Three contracts already signed, with four more tenders under way

Officials at Olympic Properties SA are quite satisfied with the progress achieved in the sale of Olympic venues for development, as three tenders have been concluded, while four more are in progress.

Olympic Properties was set up to develop all the venues used for the 2004 Athens Olympics except for the main Olympic complex, the Peace and Friendship indoor arena and the soccer venues.

Olympic Properties’ management is also satisfied with the interest expressed by private investors, making for competitive tenders and satisfactory bids. Real estate companies have been at the forefront of the bidding, a fact explained by the prime location of Olympic venues.

Olympic Properties’ commitment to deliver the properties to private developers free of any legal claims or conflicts with town-planning regulations makes its portfolio even more attractive to private developers.

“Competitive tenders began in July 2005. During these months, with seven tenders having begun, and some completed, I think we are on schedule. We conducted the tenders as fast as we could. In this respect, we are happy with developments so far,” Olympic Properties’ President Christos Hajiemmanouil said.

Beach Volley: The tender for the seaside venue that hosted one of the Games’ most popular events is at its first stage, in which interested bidders have been invited to express interest, but not binding bids. The interested parties are three Greece-based groups (Village Roadshow Operations Hellas, the Everest/ATESE consortium and the GEK/J&P Avax/Vioter consortium and France’s Altarea and SEPI groups).

However, a recent agreement between the Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works and the Municipality of Kallithea for the transfer to the latter of a nearby playground and buildings means that the tender must be called anew. The new call for expressions of interest will be published on January 8.

Sailing center: The installation at Aghios Cosmas is being leased for 35-40 years. The tender is at its final stage with the submission of binding offers by five bidders (Intrakat, Hellenic Technodomiki, Acropol Haragionis, Lambert Smith Hampton; Sirius Technical Commercial Industrial Auto Stations Development Company; the S.CAPE consortium made up of J&P Avax, GEK, Vioter SA and Autodynamiki; Aegaion Oil, Hellenic Environmental Center Oil Residue Management and Processing Company, Majestic Marine Company, Oceanic Cruise Corp, Gantzoulas Technical Co, Pantechniki; Waterfront SA).

Canoe Kayak Slalom: There has been considerable interest for this venue at Hellenikon, especially from leisure and catering companies. However, no big foreign firms have competed. The winning bid is expected to be announced early next year among two bidders: Audiovisual, in cooperation with Allou Fun Park and the J&P Avax/GEK consortium. Village Roadshow withdrew at the last moment, apparently because Olympic Properties insisted that the water course be preserved intact for sports purposes.

Faliron Convention Center: The arena that hosted the tae kwon do competition in the Olympics has also attracted a lot of interest, although the tender is still at an early stage. There are, potentially, over 20 bidders, mostly from the construction sector. Olympic Properties has said that the winning bidder must have significant experience in organizing conventions and conferences.

The badminton venue at Goudi has been leased for 20 years and an estimated total of euro 20 million to a consortium comprising Adam Productions, the owners of the Half Note Jazz Club and Allou Fun Park. They will invest euro 6 million in a 2,500-seat theater/entertainment space.

The Galatsi Olympic Center will become in 2008 a commercial complex to be developed by Sonae-Haragionis, which will initially pay euro 3 million annually for a 40-year lease. The developer will invest euro 78 million. Lamda Development will spend euro 60 million to develop a new commercial center at the site of the former International Broadcasting Center, leased for 40 years at euro 7.25 million per year.