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The Getty Villa Celebrates Earth Day with Aphrodite  


By Melonie Magruder
Staff Writer

April 20, 2012 -- The Getty Villa will celebrate Earth Day weekend with an innovative tribute to the goddess of love: Aphrodite.

In conjunction with their exhibition “Aphrodite and the Gods of Love,” (running till July 9), the Getty is staging a daylong, free family festival honoring the goddess of passion, beauty and pleasure.

The festival lineup features a number of performances and workshops that will entertain – if not educate - visitors of all ages in paying tribute to one of the most widely worshipped deities in the ancient world.

There will be dance performances by Helios Dance Theater and crafts works that help you create your own wearable wings or shell hand mirror (Aphrodite was born from the foam of the sea, famously depicted by Boticelli).

Helios Dance Theater (Courtesy of the Getty)

Storyteller Carl Weintraub will bring tales that show just how human a goddess can be. You can even fashion your own shrine to the goddess out of shells, pearls, feathers, mint, roses and mirrors – symbols of her special divinity.

The exhibit was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in association with the Getty and features bronzes, sculptures and 3200-year-old household items from ancient Greek worshippers of this complicated deity.

The origins of her myth, however, date back far before the Greeks. Predating Aphrodite were Near Eastern goddesses like Inana from Sumeria, the Akkadian Ishtar and Astarte from Phoenicia.

Typically, Aphrodite wasn’t depicted as merely a hearts and flowers type of goddess. She was vengeful, jealous, sexually aggressive and, above all, fertile. She even had her own martial powers, and sailors would pray for her good fortune. She later morphed into the Roman goddess of love, Venus.

Laura Gorenstein Miller, the artistic director of the Helios (Greek for “light”) Dance Theater, said she focused her choreography and storytelling around some of Aphrodite’s more appealing myths.

“I am centering the performances around Aphrodite and well-known stories like Pygmalion,” Miller said. “I’m also doing a piece about Aphrodite’s first, innocent love. This is a family festival, after all.”

Miller is choreographing to the music of rock band Grant Lee Buffalo and has created site-specific dances for different locations at the Villa.

“I’m so honored to be asked to contribute to this event,” Miller said. “Part of our performance takes place in the gardens, and it is really special to dance for the Greek goddess in those surroundings.”

The festival is part of the Getty’s family and community outreach effort that seeks to remind modern day visitors of the timelessness and relevance of ancient art to today’s society.

“It’s appropriate that we celebrate the goddess of fertility and birth in the spring,” Miller said of the Earth Day weekend. “But this should also be a lot of fun.”

The Getty Villa’s Family Festival celebrating “Aphrodite and the Gods” takes place Saturday, April 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance is free but a ticket is required. More information may be found at


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