Lyra Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society Newsletter

March 1998

Orpheus Featured in Greek Independence Day Celebrations!
Letters To The Editor
Web Site Update
Folk Custom:  Easter Celebrations - Trata
Flambouro Workshops:  A Study In Movement and Expression
Greek Dance at St. Paul School
Spotlight On Orpheus Dancer
Personal Announcements

Orpheus Featured in Greek Independence Day Celebrations!

     The Orpheus Dance Troupe concluded a series of remarkable appearances during the last week of March by participating in various events commemorating Greek Independence Day. The "marathon" seven days began on March 22, at St. John the Baptist Church in Des Plaines.  The Orpheus Dance Troupe, in what has become an annual tradition the last eight years, performed at an event that was sponsored by major Cultural & Scientific Greek American organizations such as KRIKOS, the Hellenic Professional Society, the World Council of Greeks Abroad (SAE) and many others.  Orpheus performed folk dances from the Greek islands in dedication to the heroes of this region who contributed greatly to the Greek Revolution of the 1800's.  The performance was received enthusiastically by an appreciative audience. The General Consul of Greece, Mr. Zafiropoulos, commented "...The Orpheus Dance Troupe looks better every time I see it and you always seem to pleasantly surprise us. Congratulations!" His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos, while he was shaking the hands of Orpheus members, exclaimed "Bravo!"  Part of the performance was shown on WBBM-TV, Channel 2 during the Saturday evening news.

     During the same week, a number of other events took place, such as Mayor Daley's reception for the Greek Independence Day at the Chicago Cultural Center and the General Consul of Greece's reception again at the Cultural Center during which the foreign minister of Greece was present.   On a musical note, the Hellenic Cultural Organization sponsored a concert that featured the "KLANG" ensemble under the direction of James Boznos.  The program took place at the Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie and included musical pieces of modern Greek composers.

     The week ended on Sunday, March 29 with the annual Greek American parade along Halsted Street in Greek Town.  The Orpheus Dance Troupe joined the float of the National Bank of Greece under very favorable weather conditions (especially for this time of year!).  A big "Thank You" is extended to Mr. Nikos Sarantopoulos and the staff of the National Bank of Greece who so generously hosted Orpheus on their float.  The day, though, was far from over!  That same night the Troupe performed at the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton & Towers for the Kalavrytinon Society Dinner Dance.  In what has become another annual tradition, the Orpheus Dance Troupe offered a memorable demonstration of folk dances from the Greek mainland.

    Apart from Orpheus' series of performances scheduled during that period, over a thousand flyers were distributed at the above events promoting Orpheus' 10th Year Anniversary Benefit.  The event will take place on Friday, November 6, 1998 at the Chicago Cultural Center.  Judging from the community's initial response, the November 6 event is already highly anticipated.  Save the date for this important milestone in the history of the OHFS!

Top of Page 

Letters to the Editor...

Orpheus received the following letter from the Chicago Sister Cities International Program, Inc.:

March 4, 1998
"Dear Mr. Economou, On behalf of the Chicago-Athens Friendship Committee, it is my pleasure to officially endorse your 10th year anniversary benefit, which is scheduled to take place at the Chicago Cultural Center on Friday, November 6, 1998. 

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the wonderful Greek folk dance presentation by Orpheus at the dinner dance commemorating the historical signing of the Chicago - Athens Friendship Agreement. 

"I wish you great success with your upcoming anniversary program.  If I can be of further help, don't hesitate to call." 

Demetrios L. Kozonis, Chairman (Chicago - Athens Friendship Committee)

Editor's Note: The Chicago Sister Cities International Program, Inc. is a subsidiary of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. 

Top of Page 

Web Site Update

Greek Dance...a common thread woven between us.
Orpheus has received emails from people of all walks of life:  from educators, researchers, dance directors, dance troupes and churches to the Greek dance novice, hobbyist and musician.  We would like to share some of these comments with you. 

Dora Zafriopoulos - Toronto, Canada 
"Hello, my name is Dora Zafiopoulos and I am a dance coordinator.  I was on your web page for quite sometime and I would like to congratulate you on the fine job." 

Larry Halfhill - Pasadena, California 
"I would like to commend you on your site.  As a Greek dance director, I have searched the web for dance sources and was pleasantly surprised when I encountered your site." 

George Deliolanes - Thessaloniki, Greece 
"...Right now I am a student in the field of Graphics at the University of Wales, Newport (England).  Congratulations on your effort for all these years...I am a member of Xoreftikos Omilos Thessalonikis and would like to know whether you are familiar with any other Hellenic folklore societies and clubs near Manchester.  Congratulations once again." 

Peter Millili - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
"...I have been asked to design a web page for my dance group.  Do you have any suggestions on where to start?  Your web page is excellent and I would appreciate any help you could give me." 

John Harisiadis - Chicago, Illinois 
"Congratulations for the excellent web page that you created.  It is very informative, well organized and very appealing.  I believe this would help many more people to learn about your organization with its interesting programs.  Please keep up the good work.  All of you deserve A BIG APPLAUSE!" 

John - Daytona Beach, Florida 
"We would like to invite you to meet, instruct, or participate with our group - "The Greek Kefi Hellenic Dancers" - should you find yourselves in Florida." 

Nihat Mese - Edirne, Turkey 
"I am a Research Assistant in the Department of Archaeology of Trakya University in Edirne.  I am writing a thesis statement on Orpheus and Orpheism in Thrace.  I would be pleased if you sent me more data on this subject.  I am looking forward to hearing from you." 

Thank you for sharing your comments, suggestions, queries, invitations, etc.  Orpheus is grateful for your feedback -- it is crucial to the development and growth of our web site.  Keep visiting us at:

 Sas Euxarestoume !!

Top of Page 

Folk Custom:  Easter Celebrations - Trata

     The city of Megara is located about 40 kilometers from Athens.  In the old days its inhabitants were sailors who traveled often to Constantinople and Smyrna (Asia Minor) and upon their return, artists such as singers and violin players from those areas would accompany the sailors back to Megara.  This is  probably why the dances and songs from Megara have a different style than the typical ones found in Central Greece.  The people of Megara tried to maintain their community identity, and in the process were able to develop a unique cultural identity.  The most significant celebrations involving dance in Greece are the Epiphany, the Carnival season, Easter and of course weddings, engagements and baptisms.  The dance of Trata, which is performed the Tuesday after Easter outside the church of St. John the Dancer in Megara, is one of the most impressive expressions of local folk tradition.

     There are several traditional tales regarding this custom. One story relates that in Megara there was a well that caused a lot of harm. Even birds who flew over it would be killed.  The locals tried to seal the well's opening with concrete during the morning, but the seal would break open at night. Then, on Easter Tuesday, the whole village got together and built the church of St. John on top of the well.  When nightfall came, the church remained untouched. The people celebrated by performing the dance of Trata, which was then danced on subsequent years on the same day to commemorate this occasion.

     Another folk tale claims that during the Turkish occupation, the people of Megara sent a request to the local Sultan to allow them to build a church.  He granted them permission to build it on the condition that they finish before sundown of the same day. Indeed, the men and women of Megara made a big chain, carrying the building materials, and were able to complete the church on time!  The handhold of the Trata dance symbolizes the chain that the people of Megara made during the construction of the church.  Whatever the facts may be, there are many songs in Megara that fall under the Trata category and are performed during festive occasions throughout the year in various ways.  They are performed only by women and without the accompaniment of musical instruments.   "Lampri Kamara" is one of the fundamental Trata songs and was danced exclusively the Tuesday after Easter.  Other Trata-style songs such as "To Mikro Mou" and "Moe na ne na" were performed after "Lampri Kamara", with slight step variations.  The above traditions are still alive today at functions organized by local authorities and participating dance groups.  The dance of Trata when presented today is accompanied by musical instruments and is performed outside the church. 

Reference: The Lyceum of Greek Women of Athens Newsletter, April  ‘97

Top of Page 

Flambouro Workshops:  A Study in Movement and Expression

Orpheus was honored to host culture enthusiast Yvonne Hunt and the Christos Karakostas Zourna Ensemble during their weekend-long workshop at the University of Chicago.  A native of the United States, Ms. Hunt has traveled extensively throughout the northern regions of Greece, spending most of her time researching and documenting the traditions and customs of the village of Flambouro in the Serres region of Macedonia.  The Christos Karakostas Zourna Ensemble (the "Zournades"), also from Flambouro, joined Ms. Hunt for what was their first visit to the Midwest.

 The entire weekend was inspirational as well as educational.  Ms. Hunt presented dances from Flambouro, Thrace and Epirus, and as we learned the new dance steps, she also pointed out their cultural and technical elements.  She explained how changing one small detail of a dance could change its entire expression.  For example, the dances of Flambouro are danced with a heavy flat-footed step, as opposed to the more common step with the weight distributed mostly on the balls of the foot.  There is a very practical reason for this, as Ms. Hunt explained that dancing any other way would very likely kick up a great deal of dust and soon the entire plateia (the square where many dances and celebrations take place) would become engulfed in a dusty cloud! 

     The Zournades' contribution to the workshops were just as memorable.  For Orpheus, dancing with live musicians is something very rare, as most practices and performances are conducted with recorded music.  The live music created a synergy between musician and dancer, making each dance a unique and personal expression.

     Some of the most powerful moments of this synergy were felt in the Flambouro version of Gaeda.  Many versions of Gaeda exist throughout Macedonia, and the more familiar versions are danced primarily by men.  This Gaeda, though, was unique not only in step but also in that it is danced by both men and women.  The power of the dance was intensified by the two instruments of the Zournades, the daouli (a large drum which rests vertically on the hip of the player) and the zourna (a type of clarinet).  These instruments seemed connected to two different parts of the dancer - his expression and his step.  While the melody of the zourna brought out the expression of the dance, the daouli guided the step with its very heavy rhythm.  As the dance progressed and the tempo quickened, the dancer's steps naturally fell into the faster variation, giving credence to Ms. Hunt's assurances that the rhythm of the music would naturally guide our steps.  It was truly a powerful experience, and it definitely reinforced the synergy created by live music. 

     I am sure that everyone who participated in these workshops learned something that weekend, for our practices are no longer the same:  there is more spirit in our step and more fervor in our purpose.  Ms. Hunt truly was the embodiment of spirit and enthusiasm, and it does not take much to recapture her spirit and all the inspiration felt that weekend!

     We will also remember the talent of some very unique musicians playing equally unique instruments who were so willing to share with us their art, their culture, and the stories of their homeland.  And every time we dance one of "Ms. Hunt's" dances, we will picture in our minds a spirited woman, full of life, who, through movement and expression, shares with the world the joys of dance she has found in her many travels. 

Top of Page 

Greek Dance at St. Paul School of Chicago

      "Opa," "Bravo" and "Yeia Sou," along with the music of Tsamikos and Kamakaki, filled the halls of St. Paul parochial school in Chicago.  On March 12th, Tassos Nassis and I had the pleasure of taking part in an educational endeavor.  Eighty-five 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders joined us for a one-hour presentation on Greek customs and traditions.

      This informative, fun-filled session was part of a multi-cultural unit organized by Donna Mandle, a residency artist working with St. Paul's School.  As a dancer and residency artist with Urban Gateways, Ms. Mandle runs 8-week programs at different schools that focus on dances from a variety of cultures and Orpheus was chosen to present information on Greece. 

     The students of St. Paul were great!  They showed enthusiasm and interest and didn't hesitate to participate in the presentation.  Our lecture covered various aspects of Greek culture and tradition including language, religion, geography and the history and traditions of Greek folk dancing. 

     In the area of dance, we focused on line dancing as well as freestyle dancing.  The line dances we demonstrated were Kalamatianos, Tsamikos, Kamakaki and Pentozalis.  The history of each dance was explained to the students as each dance was performed.  The students particularly enjoyed learning Tsamikos and Kamakaki - and they did an outstanding job!  As a finale, I demonstrated Pentozalis, much to the delight of one of the girls, who told me I was "really good!" 

     We would like to thank Donna Mandle for offering us the opportunity to share our knowledge of Greek culture and dance with her students and for all  her help in preparing this event.  We would also like to thank the teachers and staff at St. Paul's for their  support in making this presentation a success.  We are especially appreciative of Ms. Mandle's interest in teaching children the dances of different cultures.  In a diverse society such as ours, it is crucial for us to learn about different cultures.  Ms. Mandle has continued to teach Kamakaki to her students and reports that they are progressing very well!  Keep up the good work! 

Top of Page 

Personal Announcements

  • The Orpheus Dance Troupe welcomes Soula Skokos, Antoniou Konstantinos, Jim Thanopoulos, Vasilios Prassas, Angelina Marie Panovic, Dina Maglanes, Alexandros Pavlos, Jamie Kogos and Karen Florest who joined the troupe in February/March.
  • Congratulations to Angelina Marie Panovic, Anthony Gianopoulos and Diana Kekatos  for their first performance with Orpheus!
  • The Orpheus Dance Troupe was featured twice on WBBM-TV, Channel 2 News! The first time was during the performance at St. John's Church and the second during the Greek American Parade on Halsted Street!
  • More TV exposure!  The Orpheus Dance Troupe was also featured recently on the Skokie Cable TV Channel during a promotional segment for the Skokie Festival of Cultures! The Troupe will perform at this year's event on Sunday May 17, at 4:00 p.m. Orpheus has been participating at the festival since its inception.
  • The 10th Year Anniversary Benefit of OHFS is on November 6, 1998 at the Chicago Cultural Center.  Make sure you save the date and invite your friends and relatives!



    Top of Page 



Spotlight On Orpheus Dancer...
Bessie Kouchoukos-Grosso
Chicago, IL

Parents/Family From:

Mom:  Lahanatha, Finnikouda - Messenia
Dad:   Tsaratsa, Harokodio - Messenia


Human Resource Generalist, Teacher and Mother of 3
Years Dancing with Orpheus:
Since 1995

Thoughts on Dancing:

Anyone can do it if they want to -- to me, it's fun and a great way to get together with other people and enjoy life.  If I'm having a hard day or I'm feeling tired, I just put on some Greek music and it really gets my blood moving!

Favorite Dance:

We're learning new dances every week - but I still enjoy the Kalamatiano.

Most Vivid Orpheus Memory:

There are too many to mention.  But the most thrilling one for me was during Patriarch Bartholomew's visit to Chicago this past year, when Orpheus had the honor of performing for him at the youth rally held at Navy Pier.
Where I Heard About Orpheus:
Through a fellow teacher at a local parish Greek school.

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

Top of Page 

Return to Newsletter