In the idyllic surroundings of Philopappou Hill, opposite the Acropolis, in the Dora Stratou theatre, every night regional cultures come to life. 75 dancers, singers and folk musicians reenact folk songs, musical instruments and dances in authentic local costumes, offering a wonderful spectacle and illustrating the continuity of ancient traditions.
Dora Stratou Biography
Dora Stratou was born in 1903 in Athens. She grew up in the upper class urban environment of Athens at the beginning of the century. She went to Palace balls, studied foreign languages and singing, and befriended the offsprings of powerful families.
Her piano teacher was Dimitri Mitropoulos, later famous conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. She followed theatrical performances and concerts, a passion she maintained throughout her life.
In 1952 she saw by chance the 100-member national folk ensemble of Yugoslavia which was touring Europe featuring folk dances, music and costumes of its country. It was something of a revelation for the Athenian public. At that time in Greece there were very few performing groups, among them the pioneering one of the Lyceum of Greek Women, performing only two or three times a year, dressed in the urban Amalia costume.
Dora Stratou, at the age of 50, created her own group performing Greek folk dances. The first costumes were made by painter Yannis Tsarouhis, who also painted embroidery designs on them by hand. She toured villages to collect dances, songs, costumes, and folk jewelry, thus amassing the biggest collection in Greece. She selected the best dancers and instrumentalists to staff the ensemble. They gave successful performances in 21 countries.
In 1964, Constantine Karamanlis, then Prime Minister, ordered the construction of a special theater for the ensemble on the hillside of Filopappou. In 1967, during the military regime, Dora Stratou was arrested for hiding the fugitive newspaper publisher Christos Lambrakis in her home. Melina Mercouri created an uproar abroad and succeeded in having Dora Stratou released. In the same year Dora Stratou was awarded the most prestigious international distinction, the World Theater Award, as well as the Academy of Athens Award and a Ford Foundation grant.
She authored three books “A Tradition, an Adventure”, “Greek Dances, a Living Link to the Antiquity”, and “Traditional Greek Dances”. She issued one of the largest series of folk music in the world: 50 records. In 1983 she retired due to ill health. She passed away in January 1988.
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