Her name is Juliana Chen and she hails from China, where she grew up dreaming about becoming «a beautiful and mysterious woman.» By the age of 10, Chen had already enrolled at China’s School of Fine Arts, while also attending classes in ballet and acrobatics. She ended up becoming a magician and now rates as the only female medal winner at the World Championships of Magic in Dresden. The artist is just about to begin a series of performances in Athens as part of a recently introduced annual festival here, the Art and Illusion Magic Festival, which also features several other renowned visiting acts. Besides performing, Chen is also the curator of the event, an elaborate and thrilling production that runs for two-and-a-half hours and features magicians, dancers and clowns. Leading illusion artists from around the world will participate in this grandiose production, which is spilt into two parts. The first part, running from tonight until March 27, will feature Mr Shimada from Japan, Valerie Mageux from France, Shawn Farquhar from Germany, Guy Barrett and James Goodwin from the UK, Erix Logan from Italy and Chris Randall from the USA. The lineup for the second part, which runs March 29 to April 19, consists of Chen, Kevin James from the UK and Omar Pasha from France, as well as Farquhar and Randall from the first part. Shows will be held Friday to Monday at 9.30 p.m. with additional shows on Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at noon and 5 p.m. Unlike this year’s multinational cast, last year’s event had featured a team of magicians from Las Vegas. «It’s a multicultural festival of contemporary magic,» explained the performer, currently active in theater, pantomime, and magic, in an interview ahead of her Athens performances. Chen was introduced to the world of magic by her grandfather, who taught the youngster her first tricks, even though, at the time, the art form was banned for women. «Fortunately, I was always driven by something inside that kept telling me to carry on. There was also my instructor who had drawn the line for me between logic and illusion,» recalled Chen. «He told me to keep logic aside when it came to the world of the heart, beauty and the inexplicable.» Which is exactly what Chen ended up doing. Responding to a question about her durability in her field, Chen attributed her endurance to variation. «A good magician never sticks to the same old tricks. He or she endeavors to adjust to personal aesthetics, culture, and personality,» said Chen. «The most important thing of all is to adjust magical tricks to your measure.» Some of the show’s many highlights include Logan, a magician-doctor, and a Charlie Chaplin look-alike. «Lots of tricks, including vanishments, suspensions in midair, and card tricks,» Chen said. Commenting on her part of the show, titled «The Mask of Logic,» Chen noted: «It’s a performance of magical things that happen when we take off the mask of logic and surrender to dreams, the inexplicable, the unknown. Or, what we used to do when we were children…» Gyalino Theater, 143 Syngrou Avenue, tel 210.931.5600. Tickets cost 20-50 euros.