Lyra Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society Newsletter

             April 1999

        Previous issues of Lyra

OHFS co-chairs doll exhibit at Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center

Letters to OHFS...

Spotlight on Orpheus dancer...

The Dances of Easter Lazarenes

New Board Installed for 1999-2001

Loyola University Hosts Greek evening

OHFS Anecdotes


OHFS co-chairs doll exhibit at Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center

Over the last several months, the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society (OHFS) has had the great opportunity to co-chair the "Marika's Koukles" exhibit at the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center (HMCC) which is scheduled to run through May 1999.  The exhibit showcases eighty-one handmade dolls, each wearing a different Greek costume.

Marika Theodoropoulou (1904 -1992), an amateur inconographer, began making dolls in Greece shortly after World war II and, through her family's encouragement, continued for some forty years.  Each of the dolls on exhibit is dressed in a specific regional costume.  Ms. Theodoropoulou made numerous trips to Benaki (Ethnological) Museum, Athens, Greece, to study the traditional costumes on display in order to perfect her miniature depictions.

THE HMCC exhibit is organized by region:  Attica, Roumeli, Epiros, Macedonia, Thrace, Peloponnesos, Euboea, Thassos, Sporades, Chios, Aegean Islands, Argo-Saronic Islands, Cyclades, Dodecanese, Crete Cyprus, and the Eptanisa.  The largest number of costumed dolls are those from the island of Chios because Marika's grandmother and mother were both natives of Chios and she spent some time there during World War II.

As a co-chair of the doll exhibit, OHFS's involvement included researching the costume information, developing the graphics used, developing maps, loaning several costumes, dressing mannequins, and even dusting off the dolls and placing them in the display cases.

OHFS member Dina Sianis graciously loaned the HMCC four authentic costume pieces from her personal collection to be displayed along with the dolls:  an Epirotan overcoat, two Thracian dresses, and a complete Thracian Sarakatsana costume.   The exhibit was made possible through the generous donation of the dolls to the HMCC by Ms. Theodorpoulou's brother, Andrew Theodore, a HMCC member who resides in Bethesda, Maryland.  For more information regarding the "Marika's Koukles" exhibit and the HMCC hours, please call 312.726.1234.

Letters to OHFS...

February 19, 1999 

Dear John, 

On behalf of the Hellenic Museum Board of Directors, I would like to thank you most graciously for co-chairing our current exhibit.  Without the help of the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society we would not have achieved such excellence in exhibiting Marika's Koukles.  Your knowledge and professionalism made working with all of you a pleasure.  Please let me know if there is anything the HMCC can do in the future to help promote the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society. 

Thank you once again, 


Jean Costopoulos Weeks 
Executive Director 
Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center


March 17, 1999 

Dear John, 

Though I know the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center has already thanked you for a job well done, I feel that as Exhibits Chairman I would like to add to the accolades. 

While I was enjoying magnificent weather, you and your wonderful group were working diligently in preparing the exhibit.  It is a joy to walk into the gallery and seek the work that was put forth in making it a success. 

The topical maps were a great stroke in identifying the areas of Greece that these costumes represented. 

It is also a great feeling to know that our future is in the best of hands.   The preservation of our heritage is at a crucial point at this time.  My generation remembers and appreciates the sacrifices that were made by our parents to give us the foundation and education that has made the Greeks successful in America.  To know that you and your generation will be carrying the torch is very comforting. 

Thank  you, again, for a beautiful exhibit.


Georgia S. Mitchell 
Vice-President Exhibits and Programs 
Hellenic Musem and Cultural Center

Dimitri Dallas

Spotlight on Orpheus dancer...

Name:        Dimitri Dallas

Hometown:    Glenview, IL

Parents/Family From:
Father:  Karpenesi, Stera Ellatha / Mother:  Athens

Occupation:    I'm a 6th grade student at Pleasant Ridge School in Glenview.  When I'm ot in school or busy dancing, I also like to play
the bouzouki.

Years Dancing with OHFS Youth Group:  Six months

Thoughts on Dancing:    I think it's the most fun thing in the world.  It also reminds me of my pappou (grandfather) because he was the one who got me started with Greek dance.

Favorite Dance:    The Tsamiko because there are a lot of figoures (improvisations) that can be done with that dance and I really enjoy doing them.

Most vivid OHFS memory:    The very first day when I joined the youth group I remember feeling very nervous about making mistakes, but I also felt really excited about joining the dance troupe.  Another memory was the day I sprained my ankle attempting a figoura (improvisation) while dancing the Tsamiko.   After my speedy recovery, I'm back at practice ready to master some more Tsamiko figoures.

Where I heard about OHFS:    Through the Greek "grapevine."


The Dances of Easter Lazarenes

Dances performed during Carnival are not merely the high point of the season merriment.  They also lead to a period of abstention from all kinds of entertainment which lasts until Easter.  In some regions, on Tyrofagos (cheese-eating) Sunday, the last Sunday of carnival, a dance is held at the end of vesper services either inside or outside the local church; the village priest leads the dance.  As village folklore says, the priest "who puts an end to dancing at the beginning of the Lenten period of forty days must be the first to dance on Easter Day."

Easter dances commence even before Holy Week to account for the raising from the dead of an ordinary individual, "Poor Lazarus."  Simple steps and movements distinguish these dances, which are performed on "Lazarus Saturday" and the next day, Palm Sunday.

In one particular dance, only young unmarried girls take part in the ceremonial practice of calling upon every household on Lazarus' feastday.  This dance, conforming with age-old canons of strict demeanor, is one of the most conservative in its movements.  Moreover, the youthful age of the participants means that they lack the necessary maturity as dancers to give their performance a more creative, collective expression by developing or establishing new patterns of movement, or at least by embellishing the old with innovative display.  In the course of the house-to-house round on Lazarus' day, the dance takes two forms.  The first is as a dance performed in the streets or lanes in a manner facilitating the movement of the girls through the village, since they must call on every house and address it with their song.   Although one might expect dancing in village streets would allow a certain freedom of movement, there are limitations once again.  As the Lazarenes accompany their dance with singing, they must maintain a steady rhythm in both their voices and movements for may hours on end a they progress with simple, steady steps without any evolutions.   The second and more conventional form of the Lazarenes' performance is the dance they present on the village square.  Despite the peculiarities of local forms, there are many similarities to be observed in the execution of these dances.  The simplicity of the steps as well as the motion of the dancers distinguishes the basic type of movement.

An exception to the straightforward execution of the dance lies in the minor improvisations introduced by the lead dancer and the initiatives she takes in the front of the line.  In some instances, the lead dancer is one and the same throughout the day; in others, two girls alternately lead the group; while in yet others, each dancer takes her turn in the kavo or lead position.  In contrast with the dances executed in the lanes with a certain sense of haste, the most ceremonious dance performed in the village square is a slow one in order for it to last as long as possible, allowing the lead dancer to complete a full circle.

In some villages, the completion of a full circle of the dance is the sign for the day's festivities to be brought to a close.  Elsewhere, on the contrary, it is the signal for more general celebrations to commence, reflecting the view that the raising of Lazarus, referred to as the First Resurrection, foreshadows the Resurrection of Christ.   These festivities, in which young unmarried men take part, lead on to engagements and marriages, confirming the idea that customs associates with the feastday of Lazarus provide for what may be the most important "bride-market" of the year.


New Board Installed for 1999-2001

Strong leadership is the founcation of every successful organization, and this February OHFS inducted 15 of its members into the Board of Directors for the 1999-2001 term:


Loyola University hosts Greek evening

The Hellenic American Society of Loyola University Chicago hosted a Greek evening at the University's lakefront campus on Chicago's north side.  The event included Greek food, drinks, music and a special Greek dance instruction session which was conducted by OHFS instructor, Yannis Economou.  The workshop was received with great enthusiasm not only by the Greek-American students but from individuals of non-Hellenic descent who were in attendance.  The instruction included a wide range of dances from the Greek mainland and islands along with popular dances.
The event was organized with the help of OHFS members Niki and Christina Rigas who joined the dance line to assist their fellow students.  At the end, John extended an invitation for everyone to join Orpheus and wished them good luck with their studies.


OHFS Anecdotes

One frequently asked question regarding the Orpheus Dance Troupe is:   "Have you even forgotten to take any costumes with you for a performance?"  Even though leaving behind certain costume accessories has occurred, there was one case where the results could have been catastrophic!

Several years ago, OHFS was performing at the Art Institute of Chicago for a Greek event.  As is the case with affairs like this, things were running considerably late and all participating Orpheus members were trying to come up with creative ways to kill time.  Finally, I directed everyone to slowly start getting into costume even though the actual performance time was anyone's guess.  While going through the men's garments, I screamed with horror, "We forgot the foustanellas!!" (the men's pleated skirt).  Everyone froze!  Dancing without foustanellas, only in tights, would make the men look like a bad imitation of the Bolshoi Ballet wearing tsarouchia (pompon shoes)!  The costumes were stored about twenty-five minutes away.  I decided to make a run for it.  OHFS member, Vaggelis Zartaloudis, who now resides in Greece, came along.  We were back and forth from the Art Institute in twenty minutes and all I can remember is Vaggelis' petrified expression during our wild ride.   Offering more details about the drive may result in legal trouble so I will not elaborate any further!  Everyone got dressed and thanks to the very late start, our performance went very well and in full attire. Needless to say, from that moment we have been particularly careful when packing our costume after that almost tragic, but also funny incident.