One of Greece’s most popular literary heroes, Zorba, is taking center stage in a ballet at the Herod Atticus Theater tonight and tomorrow, as the Hungarian National Ballet presents the work by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis within the context of the yearlong celebration of his 80th birthday. The ballet was written in 1987 at a commission of the Opera of Verona, using the same basic motifs as heard in the highly popular 1964 Michael Cacoyannis film «Zorba the Greek.» The legend of Zorba persists through time and always strikes a chord with audiences because it symbolizes the small great moments in life – when death with heroism is coupled with a tireless joie de vivre. Man’s resistance to the passage of time and death is also a central theme that makes it a timeless work of art. The music for the ballet «is a tribute to this battle against death while it is also simultaneously a hymn to man and his sparkle,» says the composer. The music, he says, is «festive.» The choreography by Gabor Kevehazy for the production to be staged at the Herod Atticus is new. The sets are designed by Miklos Borsa and the costumes by Anna Burda and Kalman Varga, while the ballet is directed by Gyula Harangozo. At a press conference earlier this week, the members of the ballet also discussed dance in Hungary more generally, noting that ballet has been around for over 200 years in their country. Today, Hungary has numerous acclaimed dance companies which have distinguished themselves throughout Europe. The National Ballet is among the top-ranking ensembles, distinguished for preserving Hungarian and Russian dance traditions as well as for reaching out to new and evolving trends. Tickets cost 90, 75, 54, 38 and 28 euros and can be purchased from the Hellenic Festival box office (39 Panepistimiou, in the arcade) or at the theater box office, on Dionysiou Aeropagitou. Information and reservations on tel 210.928.2900.