Ten days of Athenian Carnival

Greece is gearing up for the annual Carnival season and the capital has put together a marathon series of events organized by the Lyceum of Greek Women – a cultural center involved in preserving Greek dance and musical traditions. The events will take place over the course of 10 days and will involve seven different areas of the Municipality of Athens. The Athenian Carnival, as it has been dubbed, will kick off on Thursday, February 12 – a day known as Tsiknopempti, when Greeks gather for carnivorous feasts – and will end on Clean Monday, February 23, in a kite-flying gala on Philopappou Hill. The main events will be held between Syntagma Square, Kotzia Square and Monastiraki. In the early afternoon of February 12, therefore, the Carnival will be heralded in at the Varvakeios Market on Athinas Street by a clarinet and brass band from Igoumenitsa, as well as 100 dancers from the Lyceum who will be joined by actors Constantinos Tzoumas and Dimitris Piatas in the traditional Trata (a fishing boat) parade from Skyros. On the evening of the same day, groups of rhythmic gymnasts with batons and hoops will perform at the three main squares in the Plaka district, accompanied by the Athens Municipality Philharmonic Orchestra in tunes from well-known musicals. Meanwhile, in Monastiraki, the well-known Karaghiozis shadow-theater performer Haridemos will present the antics of one of Greece’s foremost traditional entertainment figures, followed by a concert of music from Smyrna performed by the Estudiantina of Nea Ionia group from Volos. Love songs vs rock On Friday, February 13, dancers from the Lyceum, along with the choir and balladeers of Dionysis Lavrangas will weave their way around Plaka singing romantic Athenian melodies from the pre-World War II period. At Kypseli’s Fokionos Negri Square, the festival will be given a humorous rock feel as Dimitris Poulikakos and his band play well-known hits (8.30 p.m.), while traditional dances of the Aegean take center stage at Aghios Andreas Square (6 p.m.). Saturday, February 14, will be ushered in with the Philippos Nakas Conservatory Band in works by Piazzolla, Nino Rota and Gershwin, among others, at the Syntagma metro station at noon. An hour later live radio music shows will air in Kotzia Square with Valentine’s Day ballads, while traditional songs from around Greece will ring out in Thiseion Square with a performance by the Manos Achalinotopoulos band with Sofia Papazoglou and Areti Ketime on vocals. The highlight on Saturday evening is a concert by the young Greek crooner and teen heartthrob Michalis Hadziyiannis at Kotzia Square, during which he will also present three as yet unpublished songs. Children are the guests of honor on Sunday at noon at the Technopolis arts complex in the Gazi district as the Athens Municipality has put together a fun-filled party for tots which includes performances by clowns and stilt-walkers, games and a kite-making workshop. Meanwhile, traditional Greek Carnival figures and songs from different eras – performed by Babis Tsertos and Stelios Vamvakaris, among others – will be featured in Monastiraki from 1 p.m. onward. Skipping to the next Friday, February 20, folk rocker Nikos Portokaloglou will perform older material and new songs in Kotzia Square at 8.30 p.m.; the Dionysis Lavrangas Choir will serenade visitors in Plaka in the evening, while earlier on, at 6 p.m., the Lyceum of Greek Women will be dancing and singing traditional Greek numbers at Aghios Thomas Square in Goudi. Saturday, February 21, promises to be a busy day with a wide-ranging and multiethnic bill of activities. Highlights include performances by the lively Cuban orchestra Havana Viva in Kotzia Square at 2 p.m., followed by a concert of colorful Neapolitan tarantellas performed by the Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare and a children’s mask competition. Romany and Latin Syntagma Square will host Gypsy violin music starting at noon and Pangrati’s Chremonidou Square will be dancing to the rhythm of the samba with the Brazilian group Sambaxe (1 p.m.). In the evening, events turn to Metaxourgeio at 8.30 p.m. with a street acrobatics performance by the Plefsis Troupe, followed by an ethnic-jazz concert at 9.30 p.m. featuring Yiotis Kiourtzoglou, Giorgos Kaloudis and Miltiades Papastamou. At the beautiful Roman Agora on Sunday, February 22, the Athens Municipality has organized a theatrical performance of extracts from old Greek Carnival-related plays and period songs and operettas. The music for the event has been compiled by the popular singer Loukianos Kilaidonis, with a nine-piece band conducted by Giorgos Niarchos. Texts have been prepared by Yiannis Xanthoulis and the sets and costumes are designed by Antonis Kyriakoulis. The cast includes Christos Valavanidis, Eleni Gerasimidou, Olia Lazaridou, Argyris Bakirtzis (frontman of the band Heimerini Kolymvytes) and Melina Tanagri. The Athenian Carnival ends on Clean Monday with the Athens Municipality Philharmonic Orchestra performing at the entrance to the Herod Atticus Theater and on Philopappou, the center point of activities, traditional songs from Epirus with Thanassis Polykandriotis and Savvas Siatras, and Cretan songs and dances with the Kontaros band and the dance troupes of Eleni Tsaouli, the Kouritas and the Lyceum of Greek Women. The Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare will also be making an appearance.