This Sunday, the Fotia Hellenic Society brings a taste of Greece — literally and figuratively — to the National Museum of Dance for Greek Day.
Maria Panayotou of Cohoes, Evan Euripidou of Rotterdam and Chris Philip of Averill Park grew up dancing in their churches. What they found as adults, though, was that there was no adult-age performance dance group in which they could continue to participate. To remedy that, they founded the Fotia Hellenic Society.
Since November 2005, Fotia, which ranges from 12 to 18 dancers, has been sharing Greek dancing throughout New York as well as in Canada and Florida, teaching and performing at festivals, conferences, weddings and schools.
The group’s purpose, though, goes beyond fulfilling the members’ own desire to continue dancing.
WHERE: National Museum of Dance, 99 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $5
MORE INFO: 584-2225, www.dancemuseum.org
“The most important aspect of Fotia for us is not just preserving the culture for ourselves, but sharing it with others so that the importance of the culture and history can be shared and remembered the way it was intended to be,” Euripidou said.
Greek Day at the National Museum of Dance provides a perfect opportunity for that and is in alignment with the museum’s mission.
Part of culture
Dance is an integral part of Greek culture. “Greek dance is a language of emotions and celebrations,” Euripidou said. The Greeks had dances for just about everything. They danced to prepare for battles and to celebrate victories. They danced at weddings, at baptisms and for fertility. They danced to cure physical illness and depression. Each dance told a story, many about Greece’s history.
While there are different dances for different events, they also vary by region. Fotia performs and teaches dances from every region of Greece. Panayotou points out that American Greeks know many more dances than the Greeks themselves, as those in Greece only know the ones from their own villages or regions.
Euripidou will be highlighting dances from various regions, choosing from Fotia’s repertoire of about 250 dances. “Each region tells their story a little different than others,” he said.
Attendees at the event on Sunday will not only learn the meaning behind the dances, but they’ll also learn the dances. Euripidou will be giving lessons in 20-minute segments throughout the afternoon. Besides performing, teaching is about 40 percent of what Fotia does. The group holds monthly dance lessons at Bloom Studio in Saratoga Springs.
Euripidou said that people might be surprised to learn that Greek dancing is always done in a group. “I think one of the most intriguing details about it is that it is a community dance — it is never focused on the individual, but the whole coming together as one,” he said.
In addition to taking a dance lesson, younger participants will be able to try on some Greek costumes. “Nowadays we call them costumes, but 50 to 60 years ago, those were ordinary wardrobes,” Euripidou said. Some costumes are historic, while others have been replicated by the dance group.
Like the dances, the costumes tell stories. Certain ones are only worn by single women, or by married women, or by pregnant women. If a person is single but engaged they would roll up a certain sleeve or pin up a certain part of their jacket.
The costumes also have a lot of jewelry on them. Today, it’s costume jewelry, but originally, this is where the family wore its wealth.
For all ages
Fotia plans to engage all ages during Greek Day. For children, besides taking part in the dance lessons, there will be an area for coloring pictures of Greek dancing.
“I think we’re just hoping that people have the opportunity to see and experience the depth and the amount of detail that there is in the Greek culture and the Greek dancing and how important a part that plays in the life of both modern day and historic Greece,” Euripidou said.
Panayotou said that she hopes people who attend Greek Day will enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of Greek dance. “We just want people to realize why we do what we do and why we have so much fun doing it,” she said.
Visitors will also be treated to authentic Greek cuisine. Chef Chris Euripidou, Evan’s brother, is catering the event, providing samplings of traditional Greek food as well as dishes that show how food has changed through the years to what Greeks are eating today.