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The Open Theatre of Dora Stratou in Athens, in Greece: The National Greek Dances Theatre of Dora Stratou is situated on the slopes of Philopappou Hill, just opposite the Acropolis Hill and a walking distance from the picturesque quarter of Thissio. Founded in 1953, it is actually a living museum since, every summer, five days a week, there are live performances of Greek traditional dances.
This museum is open and has a large permanent stage designed by the famous Greek painter Spyros Vassiliou, large enough to allow different movements of the dancers. It has a seating capacity of 800 people and it is built amidst tall pines. The performers dance all kind of traditional dances, from every region and island of Greece. They wear traditional, handmade costumes with precious jewelry on them.
The performers have a repertoire of 200 dances representing many areas in Greece. The dances are not choreographed but learned from close observation of how they are performed in the villages. The groups consist of men, women and permanent musicians and singers who provide live music.
The Theatre was founded by Mrs. Dora Stratou and constitutes the result of her desire to keep alive traditional forms of dance, music, and song. She spent many years gathering traditional costumes, folk jewelry and hand made objects such as shoes, swords, bells, kerchiefs and various other items. The theater has an astounding collection of 2,000 traditional costumes, the largest of its kind in the world.
Dora Stratou was born in Athens in 1903 and was coming from a rich family. His father was a politician, but unfortunately, he was charged with high treason and sentenced to death in 1922, after the Asia Minor Disaster. This was a great shock for Mrs. Dora Stratou, who left with her family abroad, having lost their fortune. She returned to Greece in 1932. She got married and divorced twice.
In 1952, Mrs. Stratou saw a performance of a Yugoslavian folk ensemble and realized that there wasn't such a group in Greece, apart from the Lyceum of the Greek Women, who used to give only two or three performances a year. Therefore, she founded a Greek folk ensemble and in 1963, the construction of the National Greek Dances Theatre was ordered. Dora Stratou was the president of this Theatre for 30 years. She withdrew in 1983 due to ill health and passed away in 1988.
The Dora Stratou Theatre gives performances from May to September, every week from Wednesday to Sunday. Each performance lasts for 80 min and includes dances from many parts of Greece and the islands. Apart from dancing performances, the Theatre organizes dancing lessons, lectures and research programs all year round. In summer, there are also Greek traditional dancing courses for foreigners in English.