Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society Newsletter
Spring 2009
PDF version of newsletter
Previous issues of Lyra
April 25, Orpheus Celebrates Milestone 20th Anniversary
Reflections about Orpheus
Orpheus Banners Debut in Greek Town
Spotlight on Orpheus

April 25, Orpheus Celebrates Milestone 20th Anniversary

Click here for reflections, pictures, memorabilia

Excitement is in the air. The countdown has started, and the anticipation continues to grow as the target date is fast approaching. For months now, heavy organization and preparation have been underway. Vocal chords have been relentlessly running musical scales. The sounds of a multitude of feet executing dance steps in time with island and mainland rhythms can be heard echoing Thursday nights in Northbrook and Saturday afternoons in Glenview. What’s all the fuss about? The Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society is preparing to celebrate its 20th birthday. And, do we have a show planned for all!

First Performance, December 1989, Macedonian Society Dinner DanceIt all began in the spring of 1989, when a group of approximately 15 young adults came together, on Chicago’s North side, who shared a common interest in Greek folk dancing. Eventually, this group evolved into a performing dance troupe, complete with authentic costumes, instructors and an official name: The Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society (OHFS). As the word spread about OHFS, its membership began to expand, as did its repertoire and reputation in the Chicagoland area.
By 1995, the Lyra newsletter was in circulation, and the OHFS website made its debut, shortly thereafter, in 1997. In 1999, ten years after its inception, OHFS opened its doors to the Greek youth of Chicago, and established the OHFS Youth Group with a handful of members.

Flash forward to 2009. The Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society has enjoyed great success as a folk arts organization. Adult enrollment boasts over 60 members, while the Youth program fills to capacity each year with more than 100 new and returning members. The troupe has become a staple at annual events and celebrations such as 2009 Thanksgiving ParadeChicago’s Greek American Parade, the Greek Consulate Independence Day Reception, Taste of Greece, the Museum of Science and Industry’s ‘Christmas Around the World’ celebration, the McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade, and the Skokie Festival of Cultures program. Anyone passing by either of the two practice venues will probably hear the sounds of various unique instruments coming together to create distinctive Greek melodies, as Orpheus members “leap, two, three” and “step-hop, step-hop” along with the beat.

Orpheus Trip to Kalamata, Greece 2007Since its inception, OHFS has travelled to Greece three times: Thessaloniki, Athens (Odeon of Herodus Atticus Theater at the foot of the Acropolis) and, most recently, Kalamata, Messinia in the summer of 2007. The land that “started it all” continues to motivate and inspire Orpheus’ directors and members alike. The fortunate members who participated in these trips will attest to the “magical” experience of performing in the motherland, and gaining a unique, priceless understanding of their heritage and culture. Recently, OHFS debuted its revamped music ensemble, featuring professional instructors, and a variety of traditional folk and brass band instruments. The music group supports the troupe during various presentations, but also performs on its own. The music group has performed at the annual Orpheus Vasilopita events, the Greek American Rehabilitation Center and at the Orpheus Youth Group’s End of the Year Event. Some of the featured instruments include the clarinet, violin,
toubeleki, daouli, santouri, accordion, trumpet, saxophone, bouzouki and baglama.

Anna Mavrou, Kalamata Greece 2007In the interest of keeping the material fresh and members on their toes, the troupe participates in folk dance conferences, seminars, workshops and lectures, across the country and abroad. Over the years, Orpheus has collaborated with other wellknown, and very talented folk dance instructors and enthusiasts such as the late Paul Ginis, Yvonne Hunt, Joe Graziosi and John Lulias in the US, Nancy Harmanta, George Kotsos, Lefteris Drandakis, Hara Deligianni, Niki Niora, Lazaros hadjipanagiotou, Giorgos Zervas, George Mavropoulos, Kyriakos Moisidis, Tasos Mihos and Anna Mavrou from Greece.

Folk Dance Festival, San Diego, California 2006OHFS’ collaboration with the Chicago Hellenic Choir (CHC), directed by Eftihia Papageorgiou has been especially successful. For over three years, Orpheus has been collaborating with the CHC, practicing and presenting a variety of traditional and modern Greek songs, thereby adding another dimension to the dance troupe. Orpheus and the CHC have joined forces on numerous occasions to perform at various events and venues including, the Hellenic Museum, CHC Spring Concerts, the FDF competition, OHFS Vasilopita celebrations and Kalamata, Greece.

Oprah Winfrey Show - "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"Through the years, OHFS has made over 700 appearances, both near and far. The troupe has traveled throughout the Chicagoland area and surrounding states, and as far as Canada and Greece. Media credits include appearances on such networks as ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and FOX, as well as the troupe’s 2002 appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. In addition, Orpheus has made several appearances in media outlets in Greece and has been featured in magazines and newspaper articles. Furthermore, OHFS has the distinction of representing Greece by performing in the 1994 World Cup opening ceremonies, at Soldier Field in Chicago, in front of 65,000 fans, including U.S. President Clinton and an estimated worldwide television audience of over 1 billion!

Dates that at one point seem ‘so far away’ have a tendency to sneak up on you. Such is the case with Saturday, April 25, which, for Orpheus members, will arrive sooner than we think!  That night, Orpheus will celebrate its 20 years of existence with a special program to be presented at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. The program will feature the OHFS adult and youth group members, performing folk songs and dances in a variety of colorful, authentic, one of-a-kind costumes. The dancers will be accompanied by members of the Orpheus music ensemble, the Chicago Hellenic Choir and special guest performers from Greece and the US. An audio visual presentation will feature highlights from the past 20 years and patrons will also enjoy various OHFS exhibits as well as several other surprises. Join the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society as we take a look back and celebrate two decades full of song, dance and memories, and, at the same time, look forward to another 20 years full of culture, heritage and even more memories!
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Reflections about Orpheus

It is my great pleasure to congratulate the Orpheus Dance Troupe of Chicago on celebrating its 20th anniversary. Almost since the beginning of Orpheus, I have had a relationship with the group and the directors, the Economou brothers. Remembering the beginning and seeing now what the group has become is an incredible story and journey.

Tapron Springs, Florida 2008So many times the dancers have come to Tarpon Springs to participate in the many dance conferences we have had. They have supported the folk dance scene and through their participation they have helped many other groups. The Economou brothers have given so much of themselves and I hope that is realized by the many that have benefitted from their hard work.

Congratulations again and good luck on continuing another 20 years!!!
Keep up the great job you are doing.

John Lulias,
Director, Levendia Dance Troupe,
Tarpon Springs, FL

We, as Greeks, carry with us our history and our identity through our traditions, dances, songs, and ethnic dress. This is why we are able to retain our characteristics and our self-knowledge during difficult times, and in far away lands. I verified this while visiting many U.S. cities, teaching Greek dances to hundreds of Greek-American youngsters.

Tarpon Springs, Florida 2008Even though I never had the chance to visit Chicago, I did have several opportunities to meet and teach young members of the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society, and naturally, its instructors, Yanni and Kosta Economou. Orpheus has done an excellent job in dutifully imparting traditions and knowledge to our younger generations, having devoted 20 years to passionately perpetuating the Greek culture abroad.

It is my pleasure to have taught these kids, and I sincerely wish them continued success for many more decades to come, as they continue their efforts with even more zeal and passion, with the support of Chicago’s Greek community.

Kyriakos Moisides,
Dance instructor and researcher of Greek dance traditions,
Thessaloniki, Greece

Dancer, youth instructor, board member and editor of the Lyra newsletter: I’ve contributed to OHFS in many different ways and it’s truly been a wonderful part of my life! I’m proud to say I was a member for over 10 years (my brother Andy also a member) and I can spend many hours relating fun, crazy and yes, sometimes even maddening experiences which come from being a member of OHFS.

Herod Theatre, Acropolis, Athens 1997Let’s go down memory lane... Some of the girls will remember that most of the female costume hats didn’t fit me and I usually needed help to secure them (why—my head is too small!). Late nights spent writing and editing the newsletter with Kostas, Yannis and Christina K.—always on deadline, but determined to make it perfect! Or the time we descended on a Denny’s restaurant in the wee hours of the morning accompanied by instructors Nancy and George from the Lyceum in Athens, who related stories of traveling to remote villages to learn obscure dances—legendary. Outside a hotel on an Athens street, joining a Bulgarian troupe dance their version of Baeduska, and smiling at the surprise on their faces! Or wandering through Athens at night with Alex and trying to sneak onto the Acropolis during our trip abroad to perform in the Athens Summer Festival…

So many wonderful memories…innumerable dances we’ve learned, friendships forged, countless performances, but the integrity and collective mission of the group remains.

The 20th anniversary is an important milestone—here’s to many more!

Christina Pagones,
former OHFS member

Columbia College, Chicago 1990It’s hard to believe that it was 20 years ago that my sister, Tina, and I started Greek dancing! We started with just a few of us with our instructor, Nikos. We were always trying to recruit new members—I even persuaded an Irish girlfriend of mine to join! But when I think about Orpheus, most of my memories are at River Park.
Yanni and Kosta forever stopping and rewinding the tape player (pre-iPod days!), and of course, I can’t think of those days without thinking of all the times spent trying not to laugh too hysterically with Christina Kakavas while learning new dances!

But it wasn’t all about practice—some of the best memories are the times we spent at performances, getting dressed, talking and, of course, laughing. One performance I will never forget was one at Daley Plaza. We were dancing on a 3-4 foot high platform and during Zonaradikos one of the girls stepped just a little too far back and fell off the back of the stage! What was hilarious was that the dancers she was next to just joined hands and kept dancing! It was definitely a moment we all would never forget!

When I think back to those early days, it’s really impressive to see how the dance group has evolved. Though I’m no longer dancing with Orpheus, I have wonderful memories and friendships that have remained.

Congratulations on all of your success, Orpheus!

Linda Damianides,
former OHFS member

Dear friends,

I am very happy to be able to participate, through this message, in this very important celebration. Naturally, I would have preferred to be there in person, like old times.

Macedonia Palace Hotel, Thessaloniki, Greece 1997For me, my participation with the dance troupe was more than just an activity to occupy my free time or an opportunity to meet new people or simply to grant my parents’ wish for me to learn Greek dance. I believe that the powerful and touching memories I have of my years in Chicago and with the dance troupe, that have followed me in life even until today, are priceless and I feel lucky to have had this privilege.

Orpheus was, for me, a true school of sorts, fostering the self-growth, development and evolution of my Greek identity, which had a significant impact not only on the development of my personality and character, but also on my conscience. This is
something that I would like to believe also holds true for other young adults in our society. After so many  service and dedication, it would not be an exaggeration to state that Orpheus is the most priceless depiction of Greek cultural tradition in Chicago, and in the US in general.

This journey certainly would not have been possible without sacrifices, and was made possible because of your love, enthusiasm, patience, determination and tireless efforts. I hope that this astonishing, priceless, immense undertaking, with the immeasurable contributions from all the participants, will continue with endless perseverance for many more years to come. The legacy or “dowry” that Orpheus carries on its shoulders is a direct result of contributions from all its members, particularly the younger ones, and becomes richer and grander, day by day.

Congratulations to all of you for your great efforts, and solid commitment that you have demonstrated throughout the years, because I know how demanding and labor-intensive it can be. Continue to perpetuate the worthy traditions, ideals and all those elements of the genuine Greek traditions and culture that make us stand out in the history of the world. Traditions that only the Greeks of the diaspora know how to honor in the proper way.

And remember that…

It’s not the destination that’s important, but the journey.

Vaggelis Zartaloudis,
former OHFS member,
Thessaloniki, Greece

Yvonne Hunt conducting a workshop with Orpheus, June 2006Twenty years--truly an accomplishment worthy of praise! It has been my privilege to work with members of Orpheus Dance Troupe at various times for more than half of that time, both in Chicago and elsewhere. The instructors, Kostas and Yannis, as well as the dancers and other members with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working have always had open, inquiring minds, always ready to listen and learn. That attitude has undoubtedly helped them to achieve and maintain their high standards through the years.

It’s been a great 20 years of steady growth and I’m very pleased to have been a small part of it. I am looking forward to what Orpheus’ next 20 years will bring. Congratulations to all Orpheus members past and present!

Yvonne Hunt
Instructor/researcher of traditional Greek dances
and related traditions
Seattle, WA

Αγαπητοί  φίλοι, 

        Με  αφορμή  την  20η  επέτειο του  χορευτικού  συλλόγου  σας,  χαιρετώ  την  Ελληνική  καρδία  σας  που  κρατά  τόσα  χρόνια  άσβηστη  τη  φλόγα  του  Ελληνισμού!

Agis conducting a workshop with Orpheus, Kalamata, Greece 2007Το  ταξίδι  σας  στην  Καλαμάτα, το  προσκύνημα  στον  ιερό  τόπο  των  προγόνων  σας,  τα  τραγούδια  και  οι  χοροί  σας, με  πλημμύρισαν  από  αισιοδοξία  και πίστη,  καλώντας  με  να  φωνάξω  ότι  ο  Ελληνισμός  της  διασποράς είναι  πιο  Έλληνες  και  από  εμάς της  Μητροπολιτικής  Ελλάδας.

         Πρεσβευτές  εσείς  της  πατρίδας  μας  έχετε  χρέος  και  η  αδάμαστη  ψυχή  σας  το  αποκαλύπτει, να  κρατάτε  ζωντανό  τον  οικουμενικό  Ελληνισμό  όσες  γενιές  και  αν  έρθουν και  με  όποιο  τίμημα. 

         Και  τούτο  γιατί  δυστυχώς  ο  κόσμος  μας  οριζοντιώνεται  και  μαζοποιείται   αντί  να  υψώνεται  κάθετα  και  να  έχει  ως  λάβαρο τη  διαφορετικότητα.

         Διατηρώντας  λοιπόν  τη  γλώσσα  μας, τους χορούς  μας και  την  παράδοση μας  ζωντανά, παραμένουμε  και  εμείς  όλοι   ζωντανοί  μέσα  στην  οικουμενικότητα!

Η  σκέψη  μας  είναι  κοντά  σας!

Αγησίλαος   Τσακαλάκος
Δάσκαλος  Λ.Ε.Κ

In light of your dance group’s 20th anniversary, I salute your Hellenic heart which has been keeping the flame of Hellenism alive for years now.

Agis demonstrating some Tsamiko variations, Kalamata, Greece 2007Your trip to Kalamata, the worshipping of the sacred ground of your ancestors, your songs and dances filled me with optimism and faith, prompting me to declare that the Greeks of the diaspora are “more Greek” than those of us who were born, raised and are living in Greece. You are ambassadors of our country, keeping Hellenism alive for current and future generations, and this is evident by your untamed soul and spirit.

Unfortunately, we have learned to assimilate rather than elevate our culture, like a banner in this world, and celebrate its uniqueness.
  By maintaining our language, our dances and our traditions, we are keeping our sense of self alive in society!

Our thoughts are with you!

With brotherly regards,
Agisilaos Tsakalakos
Dance instructor, Lyceum of Ellinidon, Kalamata Greece

Αγαπητέ Γιαννη,

Θα ήθελα κατ’ αρχήν να στείλω τις θερμές μου ευχαριστίες για την πρόσκληση να είμαι απόψε σε αυτήν την υπέροχη βραδιά.

Περίμενα αυτήν την πρόσκληση με λαχτάρα εδώ και πολλά χρόνια. Ειλικρινά λυπάμαι που δεν κατόρθωσα να βρίσκομαι κοντά σας.

Θα ήθελα πολυ να σας δω μετά είκοσι χρόνια μπροστά στο υπέροχο κοινο του Σικάγου να χορεύετε , να πετάτε ψηλά ,να ενθουσιάζετε τον κόσμο.

Μαζί με τον χορό θα ήθελα να μου πείτε περισσότερα για αυτό το μακρύ ταξίδι, αυτήν την Οδύσσεια, των είκοσι χρόνων, που είναι γεμάτο με επιτυχίες αλλά φαντάζομαι μέσα από μεγάλες προκλήσεις και τεράστια εμπόδια.

Μείνετε σταθεροί σε αυτό που εδώ και είκοσι χρόνια με αφοσίωση και συνέπεια , μέρα με τη μέρα.έχετε οικοδομησει.Μοιάζει θεόρατο.

Κρατήστε το σεβασμό στους ανθρώπους και την παράδοση.

Νάχετε πίστη στην ελπίδα. Νάχετε συγνώμη στην καρδιά σας. Το ίδιο ζητάω και εγώ από σας.

Είμαι πραγματικά πολύ συγκινημένος.

Όταν ξεκινούσαμε ποτέ δεν θα μπορούσα να φανταστώ την τεράστια επιτυχία που θα έφερνε αυτό το εγχείρημα.

Όλα τα συγχαρητήρια ανήκουν σε σας. Σε σένα Γιάννη. Σε σένα Κώστα. Σε σένα Μαριαννα.

Σε όλους εσάς παιδια και ζητώ συγνώμη που δεν μπορώ να σας αναφέρω τον καθένα σας προσωπικά.

Εγώ απλώς σας βοήθησα να ανακαλύψετε αυτον τον δρόμο. Και πιστέψτε με είναι από τα ωραιότερα πράγματα που έχω κάνει και αισθάνομαι πολυ περήφανος.

Γράφω αυτές τις γραμμές ανάμεσα σε δυο συναντήσεις για το φθινοπωρινό Πρόγραμμα της ERTWORLD.

Εδώ στην Ελλάδα είνα 12 το μεσημέρι .

Σας εύχομαι καλή Δύναμη. Και ελπίζω την επόμενη επέτειο να τη γιορτάσουμε μαζί. Ο Ορφέας ελπίζω να γιορτάζει στους αιώνες όπως και ο Ελληνισμός της Διασποράς στις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες διατηρώντας τις αξίες και τις παραδόσεις σαν Αγιο Φως για όλον τον κόσμο.

Νάστε όλοι καλά.

Με αγάπη και συγκίνηση

Νικος Κουρτης
Διευθντης ERT WORLD

Nikos Kourtis was the first instructor of Orpheus when the group was first established on May 1989.  He now resides in Athens, Greece.

Dear Yanni,

First of all, I would like to send you my warmest thanks for inviting me to this wonderful event. I’ve been eagerly waiting for such an invitation for quite some time now and I am truly sorry that I will not be able to make it. I would very much have liked to have seen you all, after twenty years, performing for Chicago’s Greek community, dancing with such exuberance and delighting the crowd.

In addition to the 20th anniversary celebration, I would like you to tell me more about your long journey thus far, this twenty year odyssey that is full of accomplishments and success, but also has had its share of challenges and obstacles, I imagine.

Stay true to that which you started twenty years ago, which you built upon day by day, and consequently, has become something huge. Respect people and traditions. Believe in hope.

I am truly quite touched, because when we first started out I could never have imagined the immense success that would be derived from this undertaking. Congratulations are in order for you Yanni. For Kosta. For Marianna and for the rest of the members of Orpheus, that, regrettably, I am not able to mention individually by name. My role was to simply help you discover this path. And believe me when I say, this is one of the most wonderful things I have done and I am truly proud.

I wish you much luck, and I hope we can celebrate your next anniversary together. I hope Orpheus can continue to celebrate anniversary after anniversary, throughout the ages, enduring the way Hellenism has endured in the diaspora of the United States, preserving the values and traditions, like the light of Christ’s Resurrection, for the entire world.

With love,

Nikos Kourtis
Director, ERT WORLD


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Orpheus Banners Debut in Greek Town
If you’ve passed through Greek Town lately, you might have noticed something new “hanging around” in the neighborhood. Light posts along Halsted street are draped with colorful banners inviting everyone to join the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society in celebrating its 20 year anniversary.

Orpheus Banners at Greek Town, 2009The banners were designed by Orpheus’ own Christina Kakavas, and sponsored by the SSA #16 with the help of Bessie Grosso. The displaying of the banners is significant for many reasons. For several years, OHFS has been a staple in Greek Town, participating in many events, including the Greek-American parade, the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center and the Taste of Greece Festival, as well as performing at different restaurants in the neighborhood.

Orpheus Youth members with Orpheus bannerFurthermore, the banners proudly mark a huge milestone for Orpheus, serving as yet another reminder that the Hellenic culture and traditions are definitely alive in Chicago. On April 25, Orpheus will celebrate 20 remarkable years of traditions, culture, Hellenism, song and dance. We invite each of you to join us at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie as we celebrate the past and look forward to an even more remarkable future.
Spotlight on Orpheus..!


Chicago, Illinois

Parents/Family From:

My parents are from Thessaloniki but most of the family members come from the Peloponnese

Time Dancing with Orpheus Group:

20 years.

Thoughts on Dancing:

It is a lot of fun and I owe my existence to it.

Favorite Dance:

All of them.

Most Vivid OHFS Memory:

Too many to list but some memorable moments were the formation of the group 20 years ago, the establishment of the youth and music groups, the trips to Greece, the concerts with visiting musicians,
the World Cup festivities in 1994, the launch of the website and the Lyra newsletter, meeting and getting to know other dance enthusiasts around the US and world.

Favorite Greek Dish:

Having melomakarona and diples during practices.

Favorite Place in Greece:

Athens, Thessaloniki, Kalamata.

Hobbies/Sports/Other Interests:

Traveling, music, theatre and multicultural performances.

Nobody knows I:

like Mario Frangoulis concerts.

Best Childhood Memory:

The first time a member of the group was able to distinguish Yanni and Kosta

Dream vacation/the perfect weekend:

Performing in Greece and then going to the beach.

Someone I'd like to meet:

All the papous and yiayias that kept the traditions alive all these years

Favorite building/spot in Chicago:

Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, Navy Pier, Soldier Field, Halsted St.

I'm currently looking for/forward to:

The 20th Anniversary event on April 25th. Needless to say it will be super!!

I stay home to watch:

Workshop DVDs and past performances.

Prized possession:

My Hellenic heritage and traditions

Where I heard about Orpheus Dance Troupe:

From Niko, Yanni and Kosta

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Last revised:
01/06/2013 01:06 PM