Looking Back On Ten Years...Memories and
Dagrizikos household, Thursday night was an "E.R." night! Oh, how I loved
witnessing George Clooney's weekly medical miracles and love crises ...... until I joined
the Orpheus Dance Troupe! Thanks to the ever trusty VCR, I can have the best of both
worlds each Thursday night: E.R. and Orpheus. Five years later (and a couple
of new VCRs, too), I am still happy with my choice.
One particular memory stands out in my mind. I still
chuckle when I remember the time I was five months pregnant with my first daughter,
Athanasia, and still dancing! Although I felt fine and wanted to continue, one of
the dance instructors started to get very nervous and kindly suggested I should
stop. Some of the kids were even joking about getting a special Skopelos folk
costume just for me! To this day I wonder if my daughter Athanasia is so bubbly and
non-stop because of my inability to stop Greek dancing while pregnant!
I have very fond memories of the first folk dance workshop
I attended earlier this year (with Yvonne Hunt as instructor and the Zournades musicians
from Flambouro,Greece). Learning, practicing and performing with live musicians from
another part of the world was simply mesmerizing and just about transformed me into a
full-fledged "ellenitha!" I will simply never forget the connection.
Finally, I am especially proud of the launching of the
Troupe's web site. I, along with others on the web site committee, spent hundreds of
hours creating, planning, implementing and maintaining the web site which, by the way,
just celebrated its 1st anniversary on the Internet with over 4,200 visits! The web
site has proved to be an invaluable tool and has connected us with other Greek folk dance
enthusiasts from all around the world! (Our web site address is: http://www.ohfs.org)
Through Orpheus, I have gained insight into teamwork,
commitment and purpose, as well as very fond memories, personal growth and great friends.
I have only been with Orpheus for about a month and a
half and I am having a great time. In addition to learning many beautiful
dances relating to my ethnic heritage, it feels wonderful to be part of such a talented
and friendly group of people. Every minute has been a blast!
Orpheus has given me some great memories: cruising by
the moonlit Statue of Liberty on a boat resonating with the strains of a live Cretan lyra;
practicing for the World Cup performance with hundreds of other ethnic dancers; sharing
pie and ice cream and stories with George & Nancy of the Lyceum of Athens in an
all-night diner; and last, but not least, dancing in the ancient Herodeus Atticus Theatre
on the Acropolis with new friends from dance troupes from around the world. That was
a dream come true for me!
I have other memories, too: dragging trunks and suitcases
of costumes to our (usually very cramped) dressing rooms, dancing in 90' heat in a wool
Sarakatsana costume, leading a dance and tripping over my own feet(!), even ordering food
at McDonald's in full Karagouna dress!
We've had a lot of great times, and some struggles too, but
Orpheus is important to me not just because I love to dance, but most of all because
Orpheus is a group of dedicated young people who work hard and have fun together -- all
for a common goal. I've seen the group grow and mature through many
performances, special events and intense practices but the main element is the
special camaraderie between the dancers.
This is what makes the group strong our commitment
to our Greek folk dance heritage and to each other! Let's look forward to another
ten memorable years!
By reflecting back on how the dance troupe started and has
developed throughout the last ten years, I have also seen a change in my attitude toward
Greek traditional dancing, music, costumes and singing. Having arrived from Greece
in 1984, not having a clue about what a "Kalamatiano" or "Tsamiko"
were all about, if somebody would have told me that I would be wearing a foustanella
during the opening ceremonies of the World Cup or singing "Ola Ta Poulakia," or
teaching Greek dancing, I would have told him that he would have a better chance at
winning the lottery or being the first man on Mars!
It has been an unbelievable ride full of accomplishments,
struggles, and persistence on our road to creating something good and worthwhile -- a ride
that has not stopped and one that will never end.
How do you summarize, in a few words, ten years with the
Orpheus Dance Troupe? It seems almost like an impossible task. Rewarding,
amazing exhausting, sometimes a sentimental roller-coaster could be a few candidates.
What makes me particularly proud about the accomplishments
of Orpheus is not just the hundreds of young people that have joined its ranks throughout
the years, or the hundreds of performances that the dance troupe has given.
My greatest pleasure comes from the fact that the
Greek-American community in Chicago has a team of dynamic and dedicated young adults to
represent it throughout the world, with professionalism, solid organization, dedication,
honesty and enthusiasm. The wide recognition that the Troupe presently enjoys both
in the Greek and American communities has been a result of exactly these qualities.
The Greek-American community can be proud of a successful
and consistent ten-year old program that has provided an outlet for young adults in the
Chicagoland area to interact and offer their talents in promoting and enhancing Hellenic
It brings to mind a familiar phrase from a movie which
says, "if you build it (right) they will come". And indeed they have.
Let's move forward into the next ten years!
My experience with Orpheus has helped me to apply a
"never-say-die" attitude in life. Whenever an opportunity that seems like
a long shot arises or an obstacle comes in the way of success, the group always takes on a
can-do attitude. Amazingly, they always follow through.
Orpheus' success is due to outstanding leadership and
cooperation with strong support both within the troupe and in the community as well.
Without a doubt, they have set the standard in this community as being innovators and
achievers. We are consistently reaching out to the community and growing stronger
with each effort and endeavor.
Although there are hundreds of thoughts and recollections
that come to mind when I think of my years with Orpheus, they all add to a collective
experience that proves how a little bit of interest, determination and commitment can make
a profound difference in a community.
A decade sounds like a long time. It's over half a
lifetime when you're not yet twenty years old! It does not, however, seem that long
ago when I first met Yiannis and Kostas. We were all learning the elements of folk
dance and performance technique from Nikos, an experienced member of a Greek troupe.
That was even more than ten years ago, yet the memory is still fresh.
The experience of learning something new that you
"know" you will forever love is not something that is easily forgotten.
Our steps were faltering at first, but our enthusiasm was boundless! We tried to
drink in every aspect of folk culture and dance technique that we could find. We fed
off of each other's energy and grew by leaps and bounds (leap, step, step... inside
joke ). In the process we laid the foundations for a cultural awakening among
young people living in our culturally ailing society.
The heady feeling of the early years has a way of mellowing
over time, but rather than a feeling of loss comes a feeling of maturity. We seek
greater depth and subtlety to our movements and activities. Even more so, we
fervently hope that the fruits of our experience may be tasted by others: our new
dancers, our supporters, and our greater community. May the next ten years be an
even more invigorating, exhilarating and maturing experience for the next generation than
what we have received from those before us -- and will continue to pass on to those who
come after us.
"Xpovia IIolla" Orpheus! Many more years!
Ever since I was a little girl, I always loved to watch
the dance troupe performing at church picnics. I loved to see the joy on the faces
in the audience while they danced. I said to myself that one day I would also be in
a dance troupe. What started out as a dream came to be true, thanks to my friend
Voula Drougas who introduced me to the dance troupe in December, 1995.
One of my biggest dreams came true in the summer of 1997
when we went to perform in (Thessaloniki)Greece. My most memorable performance was
dancing at Dion. Just the feeling of dancing for your own country and people was
great! It felt awesome being up on that stage and seeing people clapping and smiling
at us while we danced. It was an experience that I will never forget.
My next dream with the dance troupe is to perform at the
Olympic Games in Athens 2004. If we did it in 1997, we can do it again! We
just have to think positively! Just the thought of it gives me a rush! Thank
I like traveling a lot with the dance troupe because we
get to see different places and we get to meet different people. I feel proud
performing dances that came from my country. Thanks to Orpheus and other dance
troupes, we keep our culture alive here in Chicago and for the next generation.
I have so many fond memories. Some of my favorites
include dancing outdoors at the St. Louis Dance Conference two years ago. We
were all singing and dancing as if we were in Greece, having fun at a panegyri. I
also enjoyed helping launch the Orpheus Youth Group. It's a dream come true for our
youth and their future.
My funniest memory was of my first day of dance
class. I showed up with all three of my children and tried to let them watch me
while I was in the dance lesson. As you can imagine, they were all by my side,
trying to dance with me. Kostas just laughed! And I showed up the next week
solo, thanks to getting Yiayia to babysit! Thanks, Mama!
I've seen it all! I'm proud to say that I have
belonged to Orpheus since its inception (that's why I can change into my costume so
quickly, girls!) I've seen many things change over the years troupe members,
dancing styles and how the girls wear their hats, to name a few. But one thing that
has always remained constant, and what I think has kept the troupe going strong for ten
years, is our fundamental goal: to provide our audiences with authentic Greek dances and
songs performed with quality and integrity.
When I show up at practice or a performance, I am among
friends, and for this I am most grateful. We transport ourselves to another time and
place as we dance and sing to the music of our ancestors.
It has been three years since I joined the Orpheus Dance
Troupe. These past three years have been a great learning experience. Through
the dances we learn and the costumes we wear, I have learned about my ancestors in many
ways. I have learned what they used to do and what they used to wear. While I
am dancing, I feel like I am keeping the spirit of my great-grandparents and my other
A time in my life I will never forget is the trip Orpheus
took to Thessaloniki in the summer of 97. I was able to dance in the country
where my ancestors had danced many years ago. In Thessaloniki I got to know my
fellow dance group members better and also the members of groups from New York and Canada.
I believe that dancing with Orpheus has allowed me to meet
new people and learn what it is
like to work as a group. I have realized how important it
is to work together to get the project done, whether it is a performance or a dinner
dance. I I have made many new friends through the dance group, and even though these
friendships may not last forever, my memories always will. Orpheus has held strong
for ten years and hopefully will hold strong for many more.
Happy Ten Year Anniversary, Orpheus.....
-- Katerina Tomaras.
"As The Thursdays Turn..."
I had seen my sister perform a hundred times and always
thought it was pretty geeky of her. The thought of sacrificing every Thursday night
for dance practice was inconceivable! What a commitment! Beginners' practice was
repetitious and it seemed like it would be eons before I would learn every dance well
enough to ever perform. Before I knew it, I was performing at the Museum of Science
and Industry to a sea of smiling friends and relatives who were unaware of the numerous
mistakes I had made.
Two hundred thirty-four Thursdays later, I have an
assortment of memories and experiences full of fun and laughter. Not to mention many
dear friends and new relationships I owe to Orpheus.
Now I can't imagine how I would fill my Thursday nights if
it wasn't for Orpheus. Gee, how ironic. I guess I'm a geek now too.
This past year with Orpheus I have had fun dancing,
meeting new people and learning about our culture.
One of my favorite memories is of the time we spent with
Hara (Deligiannis) from the Lyceum of Athens. She taught me how important it is to feel
the music when dancing -- you've got to feel it!
Happy anniversary Orpheus!!
Anniversaries are celebrations, and I have many memories
to celebrate over the last ten years as a member of Orpheus. They are also a time of
reflection and sharing. As I look back over the last ten years, I can see why I
committed my time and energy to such an endeavor. There is no doubt that my primary
motivation was that I love to dance, but it developed into something more than that over
the years something more worthwhile.
Teaching one's heritage to others, sharing the music and
dance and seeing others' enthusiasm and ability to express their pride and heritage, is
one of the greatest rewards of all.
Above all, my respect, friendship and love go to Yiannis
and Kostas who helped make this last ten years a memorable and fulfilling
experience. Their tireless dedication and sheer determination to perpetuate our
heritage has never failed. By drawing on the strength of others and keeping a
positive attitude, they have created a group that not only takes pride in its heritage,
but exemplifies a character and spirit that is the hallmark of the group.
It is with these memories of the last ten years that I
celebrate and look forward to the next ten years!
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