Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society Newsletter
November/December 1997
Previous issues of Lyra
Orpheus Performs In Athens
"My Odyssey"
"Snapshots From Athens"
Sister Cities:  Athens and Chicago
Christmas Around The World
Web Site Update
Spotlight on Orpheus Dancer
Personal Announcements
Orpheus Performs In Athens

[Click Here To See Pictures From The Trip To Athens]

      The Orpheus Dance Troupe made its second appearance in Greece this year!  On September 22nd and 23rd, veteran Orpheus dancers Alexander Kapotas and Christina Pagones represented the United States at the 1st Annual Celebration of Greek Artists Abroad in Athens, Greece.  The show was part of the Festival of Athens, which takes place every summer at the Odeon of Herodus Atticus at the foot of the Acropolis.

      A total of ten international Greek folk dance troupes were selected to send two dancers of Greek descent, one male and one female, to travel to Athens to participate in this exciting new addition to this prestigious festival.  Alexander and Christina joined 18 other dancers from Australia, Mexico, Switzerland, England, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Germany to form the first ever performance of the Global Greek Dance Troupe.  By performing as a group, each dancer not only represented their country of origin, but also symbolized the one bond that each of them shared -- their Hellenic heritage and love of Greek dance.  "Today, after a long delay, there is at last in Greece a real concern about Greek communities abroad," commented Stelios Elliniades, coordinator of the festival.  "These people have managed to keep their identity out of a deep inner need and a deep historical awareness."

      After the opening remarks, the Global Greek Dance Troupe began the show with two island dances. They entered the theatre with "Ta Xila", a variation of Syrto and continued with the energetic "Patima" from the island of Limnos, in which each dancer left the end of the line with a series of turns across the marble dance floor to make their way to the beginning of the line.  The female dancers wore a traditional costume from the island of Thassos, complete with a characteristic headpiece consisting of a large floral-patterned red scarf.  The men were dressed in the Cypriot "vraka."

     What followed was a spectacular series of performances, with over 250 performers of Greek descent  sharing the stage of the ancient theatre for two nights of dance, music and song under the illuminated Parthenon.  The show made an incredible effort to gather Greeks from even the most remote areas of the world.  Included in the event were a young group of Pontian dancers from Asia Minor, the nomadic Sarakatsanoi tribe from Bulgaria, a London-based orchestra and a Ukranian choir whose selections included the church hymns "Ti Ipermaho" and "I Yenisi Sou."  In addition to pieces of Greek heritage, some of the performers presented traditional selections from their country of origin, such as the dance "Tarantela," performed by an Italian dance troupe from Sicily.  At the conclusion of the show, the Global Greek  Dance Troupe entered the theatre once again, dancing and singing the refrains of "Tsakonikos", winding their way to the center of the stage.  On both evenings, the audience rose to its feet and could be heard singing the familiar lyrics along with the dance troupe. A "Kalamatiano" concluded the show, and the audience again participated -- clapping and singing to express their enthusiasm to see a group of ethnic Greek young adults from around the world performing traditional songs and dances from the land of their ancestors.  The men wore the traditional "foustanela" costume, while the women danced in the classic Desfina costume worn in villages of the Fokida region of Greece.

      After exiting the stage, each pair of dancers walked to  the center of the stage and announced their names and their home country to the audience, amid appreciative cheers and applause.  It was a very moving moment for the dancers, who experienced firsthand the excitement of performing in Greece!

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"My Odyssey"
By:  Alexander J. Kapotas
I have returned from an incredible adventure. I had the honor of  representing the United States at an international folk festival in Athens.  A third of my trip was spent in Athens as part of this event, and I spent the remainder with my family in Patras.  Since my return, I have had many opportunities to relate the experiences of my trip to my friends and family.  Most of the time, though, words are not enough.  Time only allows for so many words, and in some instances for nothing more than a simple "wonderful" or "fantastic". I don't think I can explain the feeling of leading 19 other dancers of Greek descent at a gathering of Greeks from all over the world with the ruins of the Acropolis towering above us -- the honor of that occasion escapes the limitations of words.  And I can't really say that this was the trip of my dreams, because never in my dreams could I have created such an adventure.  I will, however, say this -- it was something that I always wanted and, as a Greek-American trying to hold on to his heritage, something that I very much needed.

     On my last day in Greece my cousin Dimitri took me to a cafe for some coffee and a final farewell.  "It was not Ithaca," he told me (referring to the story of Odysseus), "it was the trip to Ithaca," and we spoke about what that meant not only to my stay in his country but to our other travels as well.  I found a peculiar connection between the Odyssey and this trip to Greece, as it had been ten years since my last visit.  That was the first time my eyes were opened to a vision of history and heritage they had never before seen, and I found a home.  When I returned, I felt displaced, as if a part of me was left overseas, and for the next few years I longed to find that home once again.  Little did I know that, just as Odysseus had to battle monsters and deities, I had to battle the obstacles of growing up before I could go back to Greece.  I lived my life for many years wondering when I would find the time to return to that home.  But I never found the right time -- it found me.

    Many people, myself included, return from Greece only to wish they were still there.  For me, though, this time was different.  I don't believe I was sent there to come home and feel empty.  I was sent there to fill myself and my soul with the life and spirit that is the country of our fathers and mothers.  I went there to discover their dream, and to bring it home to my brothers and sisters.

   This trip was not defined in my itinerary.  It began long before my plane took off.  It began ten years ago when I first felt the warmth of not only the shining sun but the shining hearts and faces of my loved ones there.  It began with my father's dream to find a better life in this country.  It began with the sacrifice of my grandparents to want the best not only for their children but their children's children as well.  It began centuries ago when the ancients created a language, history and culture that formed the foundation of civilization and became the pride of its modern-day people.  It began with the Greek-American's desire to hold onto the set of customs and traditions which identified them as a people and unified them as a body.

   I know that one day I will have told the last story of my trip.  And when that day comes, I will start again at the beginning and tell the first.  Along the way I will meet people who, like myself, have found their "patrida," and we will recognize each other right away.  For us, Greece is not a place to visit, it is a place to live life.  We taste the land and drink the sea and by doing so she becomes a part of us.  We see a side of Greece that no other people see, because she is not a place that is foreign to us -- she is ours.  She is our home.

     If I learned one lesson on my trip, it was that my heritage is a gift that is thousands of years old.  The future of this gift depends upon us.  Let us take its design and give it to others that they may be a part of it.  Let us not take this gift and put it away.  Let us never forget where we came from, so that we may always know where we are going.  This was my trip.  An adventure -- an odyssey --  I will never forget.
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"Snapshots From Athens"
By:  Christina Pagones
     Dance, and in particular, Greek folk dance, has always been a special joy for me, and I had secretly hoped to someday perform in my grandparents' homeland, never thinking I would have the chance to do so.  This September, that lifelong dream came true for me.  I, along with another member of the Orpheus Dance Troupe, Alexander Kapotas, had the privilege of performing at the famous Herodus Atticus Theatre on the Acropolis.  The significance of this trip to me was experiencing firsthand how deeply ingrained our Greek roots are in those of us who live outside of Greece and how much it means to us to continue the old customs and traditions.

     The Hotel Stanley in Karaeskaki Square in Athens became our headquarters: 250 performing artists, dancers and singers from all around the world who shared two things:  our Greek heritage and our love of Greek folk music and dance.  Alexander and I were part of a global dance troupe, with folk dancers from Australia, England, Czech Republic, Mexico -- but we also shared the program with Greek-Bulgarians, Greek-Italians and Greek-Ukranians.

      My favorite moments are mere snapshots of the trip, but remain my strongest and fondest memories.  The first morning in the hotel, I woke up to the music of a clarino playing a familiar tsamiko through the open door of our balcony.  I stepped outside, and perched on the railing of another balcony was a man playing his heart out.  Later that day, I met the musician from Bulgaria who had greeted the morning and me with his folk song.  At dinner one night, we shared our table with a musician from England, who has dedicated his life to the gaida.  He described the intricate craftsmanship needed for him to make his instrument and explained how each piece works; then he played for us, the bagpipe-type notes echoing through the hotel dining room (much to the dismay of the hotel manager!).

      One of my favorite moments was an impromptu panegyri we had one night on the street outside of the hotel while we were waiting for a bus to take us to the Acropolis for a practice.   The group of Bulgarian musicians took out their daouli and clarino and just started playing, one song after another, and we took over the street in a continuous set of folk dances and improvisational tsamika.  We were from different countries, but we all recognized the familiar steps of tsourapia (a dance from Macedonia) and tsestos.  We communicated not in our native languages, but in Greek, and through our music and dance.

      On our last night in Athens after the performance, we were treated to a dinner in Plaka by the event's coordinators, and the friendship and filoxenia we all felt was electric and truly indescribable.  It was well past midnight, but our energy was palpable and we broke out in the song  from "Tsakonikos", one of the dances we had performed that night, while the musicians played together for the last time of our stay together.

      How exhilarating it was to know that we have not lost our heritage -- it remains strong within our hearts, along with the melancholy strains of the bouzouki and the plaintive tune of the clarino.
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Sister Cities:   Athens and Chicago
      In September, the Orpheus Dance Troupe performed at a gala dinner dance celebrating the friendship agreement between the cities of Athens, Greece and Chicago.  The event took place in the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton and Towers and was sponsored by the Sister City Program of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and the local friendship committee.  Present were local officials and dignitaries from the city of Athens, led by Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.  Athens' mayor was one of the instrumental figures in the city's successful bid for the 2004 summer Olympic Games.  The capacity crowd had the opportunity to watch a video presentation that was part of Athens' bid for the Olympics.

       In addition, accompanying the Greek delegation was the renowned Athens Chamber Orchestra which performed classical and popular musical pieces.  During his meeting with Orpheus members, the mayor of Athens was informed about the troupe's recent participation in the Athens Festival and was particularly interested in the specifics of the trip.

      The Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society was honored to be part of this historic event which is only the beginning of a broader relationship between Athens and Chicago in the cultural, commercial and scientific sectors.
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Christmas Around The World
     Mark your calendar for Sunday, December 14  for an afternoon filled with Hellenic Christmas traditions!  The holiday season is fast approaching and the Orpheus Dance Troupe is preparing for another presentation at the annual "Christmas Around the World" festival at the Museum of Science and Industry.

     The festival features Christmas trees and holiday decorations from many ethnic groups  from the Chicagoland area while an array of ethnic performances will be featured.  Last year, the event was ranked as the most popular Christmas attraction in Chicago with over 350,000 visitors!  The Orpheus Dance Troupe will perform on Sunday, December 14 at 2:45 p.m.  This year's performance will include Greek folk dances from mainland Greece and the Greek islands.  Traditional costumes representing the corresponding regions will be worn by the dancers.
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Web Site Update

     Our Web Site has been a cybercosmic success!  Thank you to everyone who has contacted us through the Web from as far away as Australia, Alaska, and Greece!   Some recent comments:

BUTTONbbal.gif (1028 bytes)Mady Newfield from the Folk Dance Council of Chicago writes, "I'm very  impressed with the look and richness of  information offered by your web page.  It's  a fine example of what can be done with  this information resource."

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Maria Psaroudis, a dance instructor from  Ontario, Canada says, "What a wonderful and informative web site!!  I'm always  thrilled to see dance ensembles thrive and  succeed as yours obviously has!"

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Missed us on TV during the 1994 World Cup Opening Ceremonies?  Now you can see Orpheus' performance on our Web Site simply by clicking on the World Cup button!

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Also new are pictures from Alexander and Christina's recent trip to Athens during the First Annual Celebration of Greek Artists Abroad!  You can find them under "Orpheus In Greece".

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Spotlight on Orpheus Dancer...

Nikos Paraskevopoulos


Parents/Family From:

Dad:  Tripoli, Greece
Mother:  Argos, Greece


Student at University of Illinois at Chicago

Time Dancing with Orpheus Youth Group:

Since 1995

Thoughts on Dancing:

I think Greek dancing is a great way to express our Greek pride and heritage.  Otherwise, we will forget how to be Greek, and in the end forget who we really are.

Favorite Dance:

Pentozalis (from the island of Crete)

Most Vivid OHFS Memory:

Orpheus' trip to Thessaloniki Greece (during the 1997 Pan-Macedonian Convention)

Where I heard about Orpheus Dance Troupe:

From school


Editor’s Note: The preceding feature "Spotlight On Orpheus Dancer” will include short biographical profiles of Orpheus members.

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Personal Announcements
Orpheus welcomes Vicky Karabelas, Constandina Giannakopoulos, Vasso Melachrinidis, Xanthie Melachrinidis, Panagiota Pappas, Joanne Antonopoulos who joined the troupe in September.
Congratulations to Vicky Karabelas, Maria Tottas, Constandina Giannakopoulos, Tom Bonaris, Christina Rigas, Panagiota Pappas, Elias Christopoulos on their first performance with the Orpheus Dance Troupe!
Congratulations to James Papanikolaou and Demetra Callas on their engagement.
Congratulations to Michael and Patricia Dimoutsikos on their wedding.

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Last Revised:
12/02/2012 11:40:15