Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society Newsletter
|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
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!
It 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 Chicago’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.
Since 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.
In 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.
OHFS’ 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.
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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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.
So 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.
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.
Even 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.
Dance instructor and researcher of Greek dance traditions,
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.
Let’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!
former OHFS member
It’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!
former OHFS member
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.
Με αφορμή την 20η επέτειο του χορευτικού συλλόγου σας, χαιρετώ την Ελληνική καρδία σας που κρατά τόσα χρόνια άσβηστη τη φλόγα του Ελληνισμού!
Το 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!
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.
Our thoughts are with you!
With brotherly regards,
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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
The 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.
Furthermore, 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..!|
My parents are from Thessaloniki but most of the family members come from the Peloponnese
|Time Dancing with Orpheus Group:|
|Thoughts on Dancing:|
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,
|Favorite Greek Dish:|
|Favorite Place in Greece:|
Athens, Thessaloniki, Kalamata.
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
|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,
|I'm currently looking for/forward to:|
|I stay home to watch:|
Workshop DVDs and past performances.
My Hellenic heritage and traditions
|Where I heard about Orpheus Dance Troupe:|
From Niko, Yanni and Kosta
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01/06/2013 01:06 PM