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Mary Coros

American Cretans dance in Crete.

Coros, Mary: "American Cretans dance in Crete", 13th International Congress on Dance Research, Athens, p.241-244. 7-11/7,1999.

The following is a brief and general statement about a dancing event that will have happened by the time I give this report. This report is not a theoretical statement about dance science issues and methods. The observations given here are not scientifically derived. They are made by way of my own lived experiences as an American Cretan, and in my work as a scholar, teacher, choreographer of Cretan dance, and as Chair of the Education and Cultural Committee of the national organization of American Cretans.

My intention here is only to inform the international dance research community of a dance event in which dancers, the Cretan youth from America, dance all week long, all over of Crete, during a week-long convention of the National PanCretan Association of America. This dancing event serves as an example of commitment to Cretan culture that the American Cretan holds. This report serves as an introduction to a performance July 9th at this conference by some of these Cretan dancers from America.

1. The dancing event

The dancing event is the 36th National Convention of the PanCretan Association of America (PAA). This biannual convention is usually held in the United States. This year the convention is in Crete from June 26 to July 5, 1999. The last time a PanCretan Convention was held in Crete was in 1972.

2. History of the PAA

The Cretans of America organized on October 14, 1929, reportedly being the first immigrant Greek community to do so. It is one of the largest Greek regional organizations in the United States. Today, there are 5,000 members in the Association distributed into 64 local chapters (such as New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City etc.) and 7 regional districts that are in large part geographically based. Chapters are located in 21 states. Half of these states will be represented by dancing troupes in Crete.

3. The dancers

At this dancing event, 9 dance troupes from PAA chapters across the United States will dance and play and sing. The total number of dancers exceeds 100. The list of troupes and their chapters follows.

1. Apogoni tis Kritis Dancers, Modesto, California; 19 dancers from ages 13 to 23. Dance teacher: Stellios Katzakis.

2. Arcadi-Maleme Youth Dancers, Senior Troupe, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 7 dancers from ages 15 to19. Dance Teacher: Kapelonis, Nicholas.

3. Arcadi-Maleme Youth Dancers, Junior Troupe, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; 7 dancers from ages 9 to 13. Dance teacher: Mrs. Helene Semanderes.

4. Idomeneas Dancers, Denver, Colorado. Dance troupe members raised $3,000.00 from fund raisers.

5. Ta Kamaria Tis Kritis Dance Troupe, Cretan Voice Chapter, West Palm

Beach, Florida; 6 dancers from ages 13-29. Dance Teacher: Lee Esopakis.

6. Omonia Dance Troupe, New York City, New York; 13 dancers between

the ages of 16 and 18. Dance teacher: dancers co-operative.

7. Lefka Ori Dance Troupe, New Brunswick, New Jersey; 15 dancers from

ages 9 to 19. Dance teacher: Dimitrios Exarchakis.

8. Minotauros Dancers, Salt Lake City, Utah. Dance teacher: Haralambos Markakis.

10. Psiloritis Dance Troupe, Detroit, Michigan; 9 dancers between the ages

of 19 and 25.

11. The Kamari Dancers, St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church, Fresno, California; 9 dancers. Director: George Papangellin.

4. The dancers’ origins

Most of these dancers are second and third generation American Cretans. A handful were born in and left Crete in early childhood. Both parents of most of the dancers are Cretan. Some of these dancers have one parent who is not Cretan, although Greek. A few have one parent who is not Greek. Most dancers’ origins are from the western section of Crete.

5. Dance in the Cretan community of America

One of the most prominent of the various forms which comprise Cretan culture in the United States and in North America for that matter, is Cretan dancing and music. Others, for the sake of developing a context for the reader, are:

a) Cretan dialect spoken among American Cretans;

b) Cretan cuisine found in the home and at familial celebrations;

c) Cretan embroideries and textiles displayed in the home;

d) Greek Orthodox religion attended to religiously, so to speak.

Cretan music, in American Cretan life is constant. It is played in the home, in the car, and on portable players while walking, while studying, while riding bus and subway. Cretan dance in American Cretan life is assumed and taken for granted. It is the first activity, and often it is the only activity, that is offered by PAA chapters to their members. There are weekly dance classes and in chapters that have a large youth population, there are several classes based on age groupings. Also, chapters have at least one dance troupe that represents the Cretans at Greek events and at American civic celebrations by dancing Cretan dances.

These dance troupes dance also at Cretan social and cultural events the most predominant of which are the annual dinner dances. Some chapters have one dinner-dance yearly while others have as many as four. More often than not, musicians from Crete are brought to play for these dinner dances. Since most PAA chapters hold their dinner dances in the fall, winter, and spring, there are usually three to four sets of musicians from Crete on tour in the United States during these periods.

There are other Cretan social events, to be sure; for instance, the familial celebratory engagements, weddings, and baptisms. However, if a family has no familial celebratory events during a year, the one Cretan event they can count on and plan for is the Cretan dinner dance. And the other thing they can count on and look forward to is the dancing performance by the American Cretan youth. American Cretan youth dancing Cretan dances is the source of much pride and satisfaction on the part of the PAA Chapters and on the part of the parents as well.

Mary Coros, Ph.D.

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