Violins fly over Athens, Piraeus

All of a sudden, right in the middle of the city center, a group of artistes banging drums bursts onto the scene, running around, playing tricks on passers-by, cornering them and cajoling them into following the merry band of performers. A long parade gradually develops and heads for a nearby central spot (such as Kotzia Square in Athens, for example, or Korai Square in Piraeus), where the spectacle, which takes place both on the ground and in the sky, begins. The crowd is riveted, eyes turn skyward where there is more than stars or the moon: A string quartet plays jolly melodies, acrobats dance, a mobile sculpture swings to the rhythm of the music and a singer performs opera arias. This is a description of one of the key events offered by Olympic Games organizers Athens 2004 to the public in Athens and Piraeus, beginning today and running until next Sunday at the central locations of Korai and Kotzia squares. The production is a 2000 creation by a multifaceted French group that is hard, however, to pigeonhole as the single genre of performance art. Mixing music and circus acts, dance, art, literature and drama, performances apply the techniques of metallurgy and mechanics, all the while creating spectacles that blend into the surrounding environment. The street performance group, Transe Express, is based in a public park of the city of Crest in southern France, and was founded in 1982 by dancer, choreographer and musician Brigitte Burdin and Gilles Rhode, an actor, playwright and stage director. In the past 14 years, the company has created numerous productions that have catapulted it to fame in France, while it has also been invited by esteemed institutions to perform at events around the world, such as the opening ceremony of the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics and the millennium celebrations in Paris. The company’s originality lies in the manner in which its productions take in the street and the sky, with floating mechanical devices and acts complementing more usual street performances. The production they have prepared for Athens and Piraeus this week is titled «Lacher des Violons» (Violins Released) and its main feature is a float supporting a giant drum that is played by floating drummers as it meanders through the streets, while a group of four floating violinists accompany it from the sky. It is flanked by acrobats and dancers. Transe Express will be performing «Lacher des Violons» at Korai Square in Piraeus tonight, tomorrow and Thursday and in Athens’s Kotzia Square (located directly across City Hall) on Saturday and Sunday.

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