a huge territory deep under the ground come strong
sounds of invigorating music and a crowd freely
dances while others line up at the bar, trying
to catch the attention of the bartenders who in
their turn are doing their best to get all the
A couple of months ago for an average Yerevan
citizen it would sound like a scene from movies
they've seen or a place somewhere abroad. The
truth is different today.
Besides the opportunity to enjoy ballet and other
classical dance at the Opera House Yerevan's youngsters
have now a chance to do some other kind of dancing
in the same area.
Over the past two months, two disco clubs have
been opened in the area of the Opera House, Astral
Atlantic maintains an atmosphere of more familiar
Yerevan discos, Astral is something new. Its attitude
matches the free feeling that patrons became used
to at Yerevan's other most popular disco, Monte
Cristo. But here, in the city's famous entertainment
square, Astral is an unexpected twist of pop culture
in the shadow of the classical Opera House.
Astral is a successful transformation into a
disco club of what used to be public toilets throughout
Soviet times and the first years of independence.
Even if passersby don't visit the disco, they
can appreciate the transformation, if only for
the fact that the area smells better.
According to the founder of Astral Armen Stepanyan,
it took about two and a half years to complete
the construction of what now is a 750 square meters
disco club deep under the ground, which is only
one third of a future entertainment complex including
a jazz club and an open air restaurant.
Opening a disco club meeting western standards
has been Stepanyan's long-standing wish.
disco is a very good place for our youngsters
to learn how to dance. It frees one from complexes,"
He thinks the younger generation is self-conscious
and he hopes that Astral is his small contribution
to improve their need for freedom of expression.
"The atmosphere is lacking freedom. People
act very restrained," says Tigran Shakarov,
18, who lives in Volgograd (Russia) and claims
that though there are no such discos where he
lives, people there are much more free spirited.
Still, starting from the time of its opening
Astral became very popular among young adults
who prefer it to many other disco clubs in Yerevan
claiming that the difference is not only in the
"This is the best disco I've ever been to
and I'd love to come here every night. The music,
the DJs, the people are different," says
Martha Badikyan, age 20, whose opinion coincides
with most patrons.
a disco club every night may not be affordable
for many students whose average scholarship is
5,000 drams (about $8.50) and the entrance fee
to Astral is 1,500 drams ($2.50). However, it
is an average price for Yerevan discos.
A disco club of such a size and scope is something
new for Yerevantsis. Probably the only other place
where one can see so many Armenians (the club
fits about 850 people) gathered together is at
some demonstration. The difference is that those
850 all together are not complaining about the
system and other things, but they simply are dancing
and having fun.
Stepanyan is also happy to mention that in spite
of the so-called Armenian mentality and hot-temperedness,
they managed to create an atmosphere where both
locals and foreigners can relax and enjoy themselves.
"Whatever their style is, whatever color
their hair is, whatever sex they are, they can
be calm, because they know that their rights of
citizens are protected here. It's a very important
thing and, thank God, we managed to achieve that,"