Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society Newsletter
Fall 2006
PDF version of newsletter
Previous issues of Lyra
Evolution of a dance: Zeibekiko
Orpheus Youth Update
Yvonne Hunt Brings Expertise to OHFS
"Yasoo" 2006 Dance Conference - Seattle
Spotlight on Orpheus Youth Dancer

The Culture of Dance
Orpheus Participates in Zeibekiko Presentation
by Effie Tsaltas

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What comes to mind when you think of Zeibekiko? Is it someone's father or uncle dancing carefree and confident at a recent social gathering? Or is it a lone individual swaying and stepping to the music, seemingly oblivious to the clapping, whistling and cheering of the crowd around him? Sometimes referred to as "the drunk man's dance," Zeibekiko typically conjures up images of men and women, old and young, in one of the most intense displays of self-expression. Dancers are visibly emotionally engaged as the provocative, lamentful songs dictate their smooth, fluid, alluring gestures, undeniably capturing the attention of their audience.

On September 24, at the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium in the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center hosted a unique production that put a new spin on an old favorite. The museum sponsored an entertaining presentation titled, Zeibekiko: The Evolution of a Dance. Directed by Kairol Rosenthal, contemporary dancer Asimina Chremos and members of the Orpheus Dance Troupe combined their talents to juxtapose a graceful and imaginative modern interpretation with a decidedly traditional look at one of the most-loved Greek dances.

Yannis and Kostas Economou, wearing Cypriot costumes danced first, presenting some very early versions of Zeibekiko. They performed two versions of Aptalikos—one from the island of Lesbos and one from Asia Minor, as well as a Salfos-Zeibekiko from Cyprus. They were followed by two very powerful and moving performances: Voula Karahalios-Pandelias sang a doleful song about Smyrna, Asia Minor, while Asimina Chremos performed an original, expressive dance, effectively enhancing the lamentful tone of the song. The audience then silently watched a somber, moving video montage of the 1922 destruction of Smyrna. Asimina and Voula's performances, coupled with the video footage, provided some historical insight into the emergence of the modern day Zeibekiko and the birth of the Rebetika songs that often accompany it.

Asimina noted, "In this project I hoped to honor the complex history of the Zeibekiko dance, and show continuity between the Zeibekiko… and contemporary dance improvisation."

The presentation took a lighter tone once The Orpheus Music Ensemble re-enacted a typical Greek "taverna" setting. Accompanied by Andreas Georgas and Voula Karahalios-Pantelias, they performed classic Rebetika favorites such as "Giftopoula Sto Hamam," "Sinefiasmeni Kiriaki" and "Ela Opos Eisai," creating plenty of "kefi" for the dancers and audience alike.

"The audience’s reaction was very positive,” said Kosta Dovas. “It was obvious they could relate to the music and dance... [And] they commented that they loved the melding of the old and the new styles of dance together.”

Orpheus dancers Dimitri Dallas, Pinelopi Georgakopoulos and Nikos Christakos each gave their own distinct interpretations of Zeibekiko as the audience clapped and sang along. Dimitri, who performed another version of Aptalikos, and a Karsilamas duet with Popi, noted: "An audience member came up to me after the show and told me that I looked like her father when I was dressed in the 'Rebetiko' outfit. For me, it was a great compliment because I was really shooting for authenticity.”

After the lively "taverna" scene, Asimina, an independent choreographer and teacher by profession, performed again. Her extensive ballet background was evident as she executed dynamic and masterful moves in silence. Then saxophonist Dave Rempis performed with Asimina, adding undeniable flair and a new dimension to her dance.

When asked about her inspiration for this project, Asimina replied, "I wished to draw a thread between dancers who stay close to the sources and traditions of Greek cultural expression, and myself, a dancer whose father is from those sources, but still a part of the Greek diaspora."

The presentation ended with a question and answer segment, moderated by Ann Cooper Albright, professor of dance and theater at Oberlin College. Kostas Economou believes the Q&A got the audience more involved with the presentation. This component of the show was also a first for the troupe. Audience members interacted with the performers, asked questions and voiced their opinions. The feedback was resoundingly positive, with people sharing memories and reflections of Zeibekiko.

"The reaction from the audience was moving,” said Yannis Economou. “It is good to see the audience demonstrate such an appreciation for the work presented. Some said their conception of what Zeibekiko was has changed. Others were very proud to see people living outside of Greece putting together such quality presentations.”

Many audience members were familiar with Orpheus’ traditional choral presentations and performances, but were pleasantly surprised to see the Troupe presenting material from a different genre.

"This performance was different than other Orpheus performances because it dealt with the Rebetiko and Laiko elements in terms of music,” said Kosta Dovas. “These are more modern styles of music than what we typically see at the dance troupe, but have quite a bit of cultural significance. So it was definitely nice to have an opportunity to showcase some of the music that I love so much."

Perhaps one reason why the audience enjoyed the show was because the performers clearly enjoyed what they were doing. This made the entire production seem natural and effortless. But make no mistake—Zeibekiko: The Evolution of a Dance was definitely a challenging undertaking. For Orpheus, the biggest challenge was deciding what to include in the presentation. This is because it was difficult finding a suitable context of combining different elements and styles of the folk and Rebetiko version of the dance from Orpheus’ perspective and the modern interpretations that Asmina projected.

Add to this the fact that the director, Kairol Rosenthal, was non-Greek and unfamiliar with the Zeibekiko dance, but she still had to put all the pieces together for the presentation. Probably the most difficult aspect for Kairol and Asimina was alternating between the traditional and modern while keeping the two tied together.

"Both Asimina and Kairol had to deal with a subject that they were not very familiar with, but in a very short period of time they knew exactly what to project onto the stage and how to go about it,” said Yannis Economou. “It looks easy but it takes hours of preparation to make it a reality."

In retrospect, Asimina makes an excellent observation: “In this age of Internet access and jet travel, it is easy to forget that ethnic dances are not just about a certain move, a kind of music or a distinctive costume. Dances are rich receptacles of culture, in which people embody their values and beliefs."
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Orpheus Youth Update

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Within the last few months the Orpheus Youth Group bid farewell to the previous year and launched the beginning of a new and exciting year!

The End of the Year event for 2005-06 took place last May at St. John the Baptist Church in Des Plaines. Over 80 children performed Greek folk songs and dances in front of the largest audience we have seen so far for this event. The Orpheus Music Group accompanied the various groups during most of their dances. One of the highlights of the afternoon were the speeches that several Youth members made as they transition to the adult group. They all spoke about their experience with the Youth group and how they are looking forward to continuing as members of the adult group.

What made this year’s event more poignant was the presentation of the first “Dina Sianis Merit Awards” to one male and female youth member. These awards celebrate the memory of one of the warmest supporters not only of the Orpheus Dance Troupe, but of the Hellenic community in general. Dr. George Sianis presented the awards to this year’s recipients, Christina Grosso and Christos Michelis. These awards will be given annually at this event, with the hope that they become an inspiration for the younger generation to continue Mrs. Sianis great work and share her love for Hellenic culture.

At the conclusion of last year’s event, all youth members and their families headed to Giordano’s on Dempster Avenue, where they were treated to pizza as guests of the Mavrakis family. It was a great fellowship time for all and a fitting end to a very successful year.

The summer went by quickly and over 90 members started off the new youth year with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. Children, parents and instructors are collaborating very closely so that this program continues to succeed. Come and watch the Orpheus Youth Group as they perform at the Museum of Science and Industry on Saturday, December 9 at 2:45 p.m., as part of the “Christmas Around the World” festival.

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Yvonne Hunt Brings Expertise to OHFS
by Amalia Deligiannis

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More than 30 years ago, Yvonne Hunt went to Greece to study and master the country’s repertoire of traditional folk dances. But she soon realized this would be impossible. The reason: Every region had its own unique style of dancing and traditions.

So while Yvonne was researching dances from all over Greece, one particular region caught her eye: Serres, Macedonia. “I was researching in many parts of Greece concurrently with the Serres region,” said Yvonne. “But the research in Serres became more in-depth because I kept uncovering more and more information that no one outside the villages of the region knew. And I'm still uncovering it.”

As a result, she’s focused much of her study on Macedonian dances from the Serres region. Today Yvonne Hunt is considered one of the preeminent experts of traditional Greek folk dance. She brought this expertise to Chicago last June and taught a series of workshops that were hosted by the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society.

Members of Orpheus, along with other regional dance troupes, including the Apollo dance troupe of Aurora, Illinois, and the St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church dance group from Palos Heights, Illinois, participated. The group seminars were held at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Des Plaines, Illinois. A private seminar for the Orpheus troupe took place at its home base in Northbrook, Illinois.

“We are very fortunate there are individuals like Yvonne Hunt, who have sacrificed themselves to research and teach the rich traditions of Greece with barely anything in return other than the satisfaction of being immersed in this rich culture,” said Yannis Economou, president and principal instructor of the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society.

Hunt, who’s from Seattle, Washington, taught dances predominately from Serres, but she also teaches dances from all over the country. Some of her special focuses include dances from Kythnos, Karpathos and Kriti, as well as other islands.
Though not of Greek descent, Hunt speaks the language fluently and is considered one of the foremost authorities in folk material from that area. As a result, she’s been asked to judge Greek folk competitions such as the annual FDF event in California. She also hosts 10-day seminar on the Greek folk dances of Serres, Macedonia every year. She’s even written a book, Traditional Dance in Greek Culture, and produced a CD with Neal Sandler and Christos Govetas that features musicians from Flambouro, Serres, called Zourna Masters of Flambouro.
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"Yasoo" 2006 Dance Conference - Seattle
by Kostas Economou

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When I first came across the announcement that the “Yasoo” 2006 dance conference would take place during the 4th of July weekend I was presented with an excellent opportunity. I could spend a weekend full of Greek folk dancing as well as a couple of days visiting the beautiful city of Seattle and its surrounding attractions. This would be the third time that Orpheus members would have the pleasure of attending the Yasoo conference hosted by the Saint Demetrios dance group.

The first night of the conference offered a special treat. The Artemis dance group from the island of Leros, Greece gave a performance at the Museum of History and Industry. A suite of dances from the island of Leros were presented along with a suite of dances from various islands of Greece. It was a pleasure to watch the confidence of these young kids as they expressed themselves not only through their dancing but through their singing. Later that night we had the chance to join members of the Artemis dance group and guests of the conference for dinner.

The second day of the conference included an array of dance workshops. Dances from the island of Leros were taught by the directors of the Artemis dance group, Antonis and Roula Dallaris. Seattle’s very own Yvonne Hunt presented a suite of dances from the island of Karpathos and Dimitrios Kontogiannis from Vancouver, Canada presented a suite of dances from Epiros. Last June, we had the pleasure of having Yvonne Hunt as a guest instructor in Chicago. The night’s program included a dinner dance co-hosted by AHEPA. Music for the night was provided by the Pangeo band and violinist Nikos Koutouzos from the island of Leros.

On Sunday, after the Divine Liturgy, we had a chance to review the material presented the previous day and then it was time to relax by enjoying a picnic hosted by Nick and Cindy Theodorou of Seattle. This has been the trademark of each Yasoo conference. A picnic or barbecue is organized for the last day where instructors, members of the organizing committee, guest and friends of the conference have a chance to mingle and get to know each other.

The last couple of days of our visit, my wife and I had a chance to visit the city of Seattle and its many attractions, take a ferry to Bainbridge Island, visit the towns of Port Townsend and Port Angeles and enjoy the breathtaking views of Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park.

Many thanks to the Yasoo organizing committee for putting together a most enjoyable and successful dance conference. Hope to see everybody soon again.

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Spotlight on Orpheus Youth Dancer...



Northern Chicago Suburbs

Parents/Family From:

Both of my parents are from Neos Skopos, Serres, Greece

Time Dancing with Orpheus Group:

Four years

Thoughts on Dancing:

Dancing is a great way to learn more about my heritage and have fun in the process. Dancing lifts my spirits and it's a great way to meet new friends.

Favorite Dance:


Most Vivid OHFS Memory:

My first performance with the adult Orpheus group at the Hellenic American Academy.

Favorite Greek Dish:

My Yiayia Elli's homemade tiropita and my Mom's spaghetti with ground beef.

Favorite Place in Greece:

Haniotis, Chalkidiki

Hobbies/Sports/Other Interests:

Soccer, Tennis, Swimming, Skiing, and of course Greek Dancing.

Nobody knows I:

I collect baseballs from every city I visit.

Best Childhood Memory:

Spending my summers at my grandparents beach house in Chalkidiki where my pappou Thanasi taught me how to ride a bike.

Someone I'd like to meet:

Christiano Ronaldo.

I'm currently looking for/forward to:

The Rolling Stones concert.

I stay home to watch:

LOST & The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Prized possession:

The baseball l caught at a White Sox game when I was 10 years old.

Where I heard about Orpheus Dance Troupe:

Some of my Greek school friends were already involved with Orpheus and my mom an ex-folklore dancer herself, decided to sign me up. It has become a passion ever since.

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Last revised:
12/30/2012 03:31 PM