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  GREEK TRADITIONAL DANCES-DANCE OCCASIONS AND FOLK FESTIVALS IN GREECE  
     
 
 
     
 
 

GREEK TRADITIONAL DANCES-DANCE OCCASIONS AND FOLK FESTIVALS IN GREECE - TENTZERAKIS CHRISTOS & MICA PAPPA-SEVOU

Tenzerakis Christos President of  Greek Dance Archives,

 President - IOV Hellas

&

Mica Pappa-Sevou General Secretary - IOV Hellas

 

 Koprivshtica National Folk Festival August 2005

 

 

Dear Director of the Academy of Sofia, Dear Professor Kaufman, Dear Professor Mrs Santova, Dear General Secretary of Ministry of Culture and Tourism Mrs Gimina, Dear Professors of the Academy, Dear Congress Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We would like to emphasize once again, that we are very glad to be with you all those days in Koprivshtica, here in Bulgaria, as quests of this magnificent folklore festival.  We would also like to thank Her Excellency, the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Boulgaria, Mrs Nina Chilova, the Director of the Institute of Folklore of Academia of Sofia, Professor Mrs. Mila Santova and the General Secretary of Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Mrs Gimina, for their kind invitation and the warm hospitality they have offered to us.

Through the protection, promotion and preservation of the folk culture the organisers of this important Festival contribute significantly to the maintenance of the traditional values and the mutual understanding among people

The popular culture is the distillation of the wisdom of previous soci­eties that influences the present and establishes the future. The traditional dance has always been a reflection of the society and a suitable means for the community of initiating its members into its values. The study of dance provides us with information about society itself and its moral, cultural and aesthetic values, which are embodied into the dance experience.

Greek dances - the transition from the rural to urban environment

As Greek dances we consider the dances we meet in Modern Greek State and are connected with the social and cultural traditions of the Greek nation.

In Greece, historical, social, geographical and climatic reasons contributed to the crea­tion of a rich tradition of folk music and dance, as well as to the great diver­sity of dancing expression, yet of homogenous structure and function. The presence of so many different dancing traditions of Vlachs, of Sarakatsani, of Ionian islands and Aegean seas, of refugees from North Thrace, Asia Minor –Constantinople, Smyrna, Pontus, Kappadokia- enriches the Greek musical and dancing tradition.

In the traditional rural society, which was characterized by common ideol­ogy, narrow family relationships, strict customary law and social control, the content of the dance was directly related to its function,  which determined the ritual form of dances and songs that must be presented in every important moment of the community. (Feasts, Easter celebrations, Carnivals, important family moments, as marriage, and other remarkable events in rural and bucolic life).

Dance, as an embodied memory has gained distinction in the traditional environment, as a composite medium for “imprinting” society’s customs and habits and simultaneously as a source for memory and consequently for history. It embodies the social and cultural knowledge of the community and with the repetitiveness of the dancing exhibitions it re-enacts and transmits it to the newer generations, assuring by this method its cultural continuity.

From the end of the Second World War the immigration inside and outside Greece leads to the abandonment of the villages in the countryside, but in Greece a lot of villages continued to keep their traditional customs alive till the decades 1960-70. 

The customary dancing events and rituals were gradually abolished since the reason for their creation does not exist any more. The decline in the collective memory – a consequence of the urbanization and the subsequent social re-organisation - undermines the symbolical systems of communication (Dance, Music, Song, etc)

The reasons that maintained them in the rural environment tend to disappear, because the ideology and the moral values which characterized the rural environment has changed under the influence of the urban way of living.

The need not to cut people completely from their roots and the need for expression and entertainment through the music, the song and the dancing movement is the most important reason that maintains the dance in the cities during the period of the immigration.  The direct result of these needs through the rapid changes in the new environmental and social conditions is the foundation of cultural associations, where the internal and external immigrants are coiled, in order to avoid the isolation and to strengthen their cultural identity.

The dance today in the urban environment, expresses the conflict between new ideologies and the traditional principles. The old and the new collide and the results of this conflict convert the dancing reality. People create new relations with the dancing action in another environment and another place, as an effort of continuation of dancing creation in the foreign environment. The dances have lost their old function, not being able to serve the modern social needs.

Through the operation of associations and dance performances the newer generations "mnemonically" come into contact with the tradition. By this method, the cultural clubs/ associations also become conducts and sources with new dancers, the various dance performances and the festivals in the provinces, where the new generation of the "urban dancers" also participates «through experience».

The performances that are organised by the cultural vehicles for their members have often replaced the meeting on the traditional dance floor. They have a lot of sentimental value for the participants; they preserve many of the elements of the local cultures and contribute to the preservation of social cohesion for the members – expatriates and their communication with their special place of origin.

In many villages today in the countryside, fests and active dancing, many of the elements of traditional society continue to survive by maintaining within their ritual framework. However they remain in the social limelight for another use and other functions that are related to sociability, local identity, exposure, the role of the sexes, competition, entertainment, but mainly through a renewal of the relation between the expatriate townspeople and their birth place. Researches on young peo­ple, who, although living in urban environment and being more prone to be under the influence of the western model of dancing culture, show the high percentage of participation in the events of Greek dance.

 

In the urban environment we meet dance performances on the stage and dances that have been taught by a dance teacher.

This teacher has to work with his dancers on the dance expression, on the local style of every region he performs, on the music, the songs and the costumes of the region, in order to prepare a good performance for his dancing group.

 

It is clear that our cultural roots and our cultural characteristics should not be affected irreparably. The revival of traditional customs and dances should be done in the most faithful way. The aesthetic expression  is important but the homogenisation must be avoided.

The dance instructors who teach  the dances to the new generations, must be well educated and  know the songs, the music, the dances and the traditional social environment of the regions with an interest . The interest of the dancing instructor-we never had choreographers in Greek dance troupes-must not concentrate only on the aesthetic expression of the dance but also on its social dimension and its real characteristics.

The transition of the Greek dances from the rural to the urban environment has changed the proceeding of diffusion, the dancing occasions?? performances/ circumstances, the dancing places, the position of the dancers on the circle etc In addition, the use of modern technology contribute to the fact that local culture particularities pass beyond the borders of the past easily.

Dancing occasions today are: Feasts (panigyri), family bean-feasts, revival of customs, performances and festivities of associations and other cultural clubs/ associations, congresses, symposiums, seminars and dance festivals

 

 Greek Dance Festivals

Dance, as a living common heritage of many nations, can contribute to the understanding and peace through common events, where the collective spirit of collaboration is developed and facilitate the comprehension of diversity.

In Greece -mainly after 1980- an intense turn to the traditional dances has appeared. In each village, as well as in the cities too, cultural associations are founded in order to maintain their particular cultural heritage of their region.

Those associations, which are about 8.000, keep dancing groups and organize cultural and dancing events every year, usually during summertime. Dancing groups from the same region and often from abroad are also invited in those events to present their particular dances music and costumes of their region.

Moreover, in the summer period, the majority of the municipalities of the country, organize relevant dancing festivals for students and dancing associations and they often invite foreigner-dancing associations, too.

Pan-Hellenic school artistic games

The Greek Ministry of Education, organizes every year the Pan-Hellenic school of  artistic games and of traditional dance as well.

The participants of those games are more than 20.000 dancers of secondary schools from all the country also from Greek schools students from abroad. The jury committee regionally, elects the best of each region for the final competition, were the first three are awarded. Criterion of the rewards is the authenticity of musical and dancing styles of the region that they represent.

Other Schools Festivals of Traditional Dance take place in the municipality of Thessalonica. From 1997, in collaboration with the association of the Graduates of TEFAA (Universities Departments of Physical Education) and specialist of Traditional dances. The Festival is organized every May with the attendance of 100-120 schools from the Prefecture.

Pan-Hellenic Meetings

(Of Sarakatsanis, Vlachs,  Kapaddokes, refugees from Asia Minor and  Pontus and other communities)

Furthermore, certain Federations called «ANTAMOMATA» annually organize very big dancing meetings. The habitants of villages and members of associations of the same origin take part in those meetings.

Famous meetings are the 3-day-meetings of the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Vlachs  every July -in different places each year- and the annual meeting of the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Sarakatsani, which takes place in Pertouli. Also Sarakatsani from region of Epirus gather in Gyfto-campus on Pindos Mountains.

In those Pan-Hellenic organizations residents of villages and many guests meet each other, dance, sing, eat together and share the joy and the pleasant atmosphere of “ANTAMOMA” (Meeting).

Pontus inhabitants -refuges from Pontus region, Black Sea gather in the 15th of August

in Virgin Mary of  “SOUMELA”, Monastery in Vermio

Furthermore, in all over the country smaller local Meetings of communities attending only 5-10 associations and residents of villages take place yearly.

One of the greatest Greek meeting-festival takes place in Athens yearly. It is the Pan-Hellenic Pan-Epirotic Federation that gathers over 5.000 dancers from the region of Epirus who lives in different places in Greece and abroad.

 

International festival

The majority of the World dance festivals express the desire for the dancing expression. It shows the new functions of dance in our days, as dance sub serves the communication and the acquaintance with other cultures.

The pleasant feeling during dancing events, the exchange of opinions and sentiments and the not verbal communication of dancing expression, contribute to the better acquaintance and communication of people.  The lasting «living- together» of dancers in European Cultural events helps the comprehension that exists behind the cultural differences.

International festivals in Greece constitute a step to approach the culture of other countries and promote the collaboration for appointment and protection of cultural heritage, and the tourist promotion of the organizing cities.

IOV Greece supports Festival Organizers to communicate with foreign groups and helps groups to participate in other International Festivals abroad. The oldest and most famous international festivals that are organized in Greece yearly are:

The International Folklore Festival "Sun and Stone" in Karvali It has been organised for the 20th continuous year with about 100 national delegations from the entire planet.

 The Lefkada’s International Folklore Festival, with the participation of about 17 countries with 20 groups every year since 1962.

In Ioannina, in summertime, 17 international folklore festivals have been held till now.

A lot of other smaller international festivals are organised in many other cities such as Archanggelos, Souda-Crete island, Piraeus, Rhodes, Alexandria, Chania, Naousa, Aridea etc

 

Festival organized from the communities and Fellowships of Greeks citizens of foreign countries.

 

The most famous festival is “The Greek Orthodox Folk Dance and Choral Festival”(FDF) of the Metropolis of San Francisco. Every year more than 50 groups from America and Canada in eight classifications compete for awards.

 

Since 1990, the FDF has sponsored the FDF Symposium. The event is a folk dance weekend where dancers and directors can come together and share their common enthusiasm for their culture and learn new dance material from qualified dance teachers.

 

Congress – symposiums - Seminars on dance

An other modern form of dancing meetings is the participation in Dance Congresses and seminars-workshops organized in several places around Greece and abroad with the attendance of dance teachers, dancers and dance specialists

The participants have the occasion to learn dances from various regions of the country and to participate in feasts with residents of villages and share traditional foods.

 

The Cultural Society “GREEK DANCE ARCHIVES” in collaboration with IOV Hellas and with an attendance of more than 100 scientists and dance instructors, have organized 6 Symposiums by now, where more than 1400 participants had the occasion to attend scientific research on Greek dances. In those gatherings, dance teachers from Greece and abroad have the opportunity to invite associations for their dance festivals.

 

It is true that the number of cultural events, of feasts and other occasions that include dancing events in their programs, is impressively big in Greece.

We hope that by this short review we have presented a concise picture, capable to give you a general impression of the Greek dance and the Festivals in Greece.

 

We do thank you all for your time and your unforgettable hospitality.

 

CHRISTOS TENTZERAKIS & MICA PAPPA-SEVOU

IOV Hellas