Greek tourism is at its peak, however if one is looking for quality cultural oriented tourism there are few opportunities out there, even if Greece is so rich in tradition and heritage. IkariaDance is a group of friends and volunteers from Etepo association (www.etepo.gr) and other cultural associations who aim to connect dance friends from all around the world with the Ikarian values of dance and feast culture. GreekTV interviewed Christiana Katsarou, teacher – folklorist and one of the organisers of the project, in order to find out more about this project that gathers people from around the world to dance together!
What is IkariaDance?
IkariaDance is a Project aiming to promote cultural tourism in the island of Ikaria emphasizing on Greek folk culture (Greek traditional dances, traditional songs and music). Moreover, the workshops of the Project aim to familiarize participants with the everyday life of Greeks, their language and their traditional culture still alive in many aspects, like their feasts, their food culture etc. And above all, Ikaria Dance is a group of friends and volunteers who wish to share their passion for Greek culture with people from all around the world…
IkariaDance is a group of friends and volunteers who wish to share their passion for Greek culture with people from all around the world
Who can participate?
All foreign adults who love Greece, its language and culture can participate in the workshops of the Project. Adults who want to learn Greek dances, Greek songs or the Greek language in an experiential way and want to interact with Greeks, understanding their ideas, attitudes and contemporary reflection on their cultural values. Adults who wish to focus on a deeper experience of the Greek culture and its origins and not a superficial touristic experience.
Why did you choose Ikaria to host IkariaDance?
Ikaria is an island of a unique cultural identity, with a natural unpretentious beauty and a rich historical background. The most important about Ikaria is its people who enjoy and share their local culture in a most generous way, through community activities (like the panigiria, the local feasts) that embrace all generations and all types of people in their society. Ikaria’s people do not organize their life, so to offer a “directed authenticity” to visitors, so that they consume it like in other Greek touristic islands. The Ikarians live their life as they always did and they are kind and hospitable, so to let other people experience their way of life, which focuses on simple things: nice local food and wine, very rich dance and music culture, human contact and respect for simplicity and sincerity.
Ikaria’s people enjoy and share their local culture in a most generous way.
What aspects of Greek culture do you introduce to the participants?
We introduce Greek dances, songs and music to our friends who are lovers of Greek traditional culture and arts. We also offer workshops in Greek language for beginners and advanced learners in collaboration with experienced teachers of the Ikaria Greek Language project (www.ikariagreeklanguage.gr) . Moreover, we host parallel sessions of conversation classes discussing issues of history, anthropology and sociology in our Greek language Kafenio, with Greeks who are experts in their fields. Visiting local people in their place of work and creation (musicians, cooks, producers of local products, artists etc.), we try to get in contact with their life’s reality, their ideas, their values and their hopes.
What is the idea behind IkariaDance?
The idea is the real contact with elements about the contemporary folk Greek culture and the way Greeks think and act in their everyday life, elements that are usually not easy to explain to foreigners, as most foreigners have a rather stereotypical knowledge about Greek culture. (syrtaki, souvlaki etc.) This real contact and deeper understanding can only take place through real emotions, real relationships and common life experience, in both an emotive and cognitive approach. So, truly speaking, the idea behind was to share our truth with other people from around the world that are interested to get in touch with that truth. The idea also was to promote more the understanding on Greek islands’ culture and the Greek heritage of Asia Minor music and dances, since when we started the Project in 2004, these fields were not presented in the way we felt they should be presented.
It was a surprise for us that so many different people from so many different cultural backgrounds become one “parea”, one “big family”
What are your future goals?
Our future practical goals are to enrich the variety of our workshops, offering more specialized workshops for Greek dance, Greek traditional songs and musical instruments. With Christos Theologos, president of Etepo association and folklore researcher, we plan to participate in university research projects so as to reflect on practices and ideas of our interest in the field of folklore studies and cultural anthropology. We would also be very interested to offer scholarships for youth of the Greek diaspora and teachers of Greek dance and culture worldwide and we are searching for funds to do so.
How do you see IkariaDance in the future?
Trying to share our culture, we learnt a lot ourselves through all these years, about us, our history, our folk life and art, and above all, our need to preserve our identity with creativity and an open minded spirit. After all these years we have developed an intercultural experience and understanding, realizing the common ground for many of our traditions or practices around the Mediterranean Sea. It was a surprise for us that so many different people from so many different cultural backgrounds become one “parea” (group of friends), one “big family” during the Project. We met many wonderful people from many countries, with whom we have become friends and we care deeply for each other. So, we care to continue sharing our passion for life, music, dance, Greek language and our common ideas about the worlds’ local cultures that we need to experience and learn from.
Our future goals are just to continue this journey together with our friends. And make more friends who can understand our vision of actually experiencing our Greek culture and identity today. We have a long way to go, and the only way to do it well is to do it together!