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Hellenic Dancers of NJ to Celebrate 50th Anniversary with Sold-Out Gala

EDISON, NJ – The Hellenic Dancers of NJ (HDNJ) will celebrate its 50th Anniversary with a Gala dinner-dance on Saturday, February 3, at the Pines Manor in Edison, NJ. Beginning at 6:30 PM, the sold-out event will feature performances by over 75 current and alumni dancers, with live music by Endasi Greek Band and DJ Tommy Karas. All proceeds from the event will support HDNJ in preserving the folk-dance customs of Greece and perpetuating Greek heritage in America. Funding from the event will also support the troupe’s 2024-2025 touring schedule. HDNJ is funded in part by Monmouth Arts, a partner of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners.

The Gala performance will feature a snapshot of the 350+ dances that HDNJ has performed and preserved throughout its 50-year history.

“One aspect that unites all of the Hellenic Dancers of New Jersey is that we all care deeply about our culture and its preservation for future generations,” said HDNJ Artistic Director Nikos Vosinas. “Through research and exposure we aim to understand and present dances from different Hellenic regions and populations.”

The Hellenic Dancers of NJ in the late 1970s with His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory. (Photo: Courtesy of Hellenic Dancers of NJ)

“At the 50th Anniversary Gala, we will be performing dances from the Peloponnese, in honor of our founder, Presvytera Eleni Chakalos, as well as various villages in Macedonia while being accompanied by live music,” he noted.

Dances will include Enteka, a dance related to the Ottoman occupation of Kastoria, Macedonia, Pousenitsa a wedding dance from Kilkis, Goumenissa, Macedonia, and Diplos from Arkadia, Peloponnese, which is a double-dance switching between the Tsamikos and a Kalamatianos.

The Hellenic Dancers of NJ at Giants Stadium with Anna Vissi at an Olympics Kick-Off event in July of 2004. (Photo: Courtesy of Hellenic Dancers of NJ)

Founded in 1972 by Fr. Jim and Eleni Chakalos, HDNJ began as a small organization whose mission was to teach traditional Greek folk dances to the children of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Asbury Park, NJ. Beginning as a local dance group with 12 dancers, 2000+ dancers have learned and performed with HDNJ during its 50-year history.

“It is not only rare and remarkable for a non-profit organization to survive for 50 years, but actually, thrive and expand the joy that Greeks have for dancing,” said Edmund Haliotis, HDNJ Board President and alumnus.

As the first organization of its kind in New Jersey, HDNJ has evolved to assume a vital role in the community, inspiring the creation of Greek folk dance groups all over the USA and functioning as an integral component in maintaining the tradition of Greek folk dance in America.

The Hellenic Dancers of NJ in the 1980s with veteran TV news anchor Ernie Anastos. (Photo: Courtesy of Hellenic Dancers of NJ)

HDNJ’s dedication to Greek culture does not stop at simply memorizing steps and footwork, it strives to learn the stories, dialectical differences, cultural practices, traditional attire, and much more of each region’s population and repertoire. “This is the true embodiment of culture and what highlights the beauty of Hellenism throughout the world,” remarked Vosinas.

Throughout its 50-year existence, HDNJ has functioned as a kind of ‘living history’ organization, as the dancers perform and preserve the folk dance customs of Greece for future generations. Since its founding, HDNJ has amassed a repertoire of over 350 Greek folk dances from every corner of the Greek world including Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaly, Crete, the various island groups, the Republic of Cyprus, and Pontos, Ikonion, and Cappadocia (found in present-day Turkey). Combined with regional music and dress, as well as the enthusiasm of the dancers, an HDNJ performance is something not to be missed.

The Hellenic Dancers of NJ performing at the 40th Anniversary Gala at the Pines Manor in Edison, NJ, April 2012. (Photo: Courtesy of Hellenic Dancers of NJ)

HDNJ is nationally recognized for its presentation of Greek folk dance traditions and has performed at a number of local and national events including: Dukakis Presidential Rally, Inaugural Festivities for former President Ronald Reagan, Statue of Liberty Weekend Grand Finale, 20/20 ABC Television program, Queens College Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies Benefit, O. Elytis Chair of Modern Greek Studies at Rutgers University Benefit, the NJ State Ethnic and Diversity Festival, for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew upon his first official visit to New Jersey, and Greek Heritage Day with the Metrostars. Members of the troupe participated in the Closing Ceremonies of the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, and at the 2006 Centennial Epiphany celebrations in Tarpon Springs, FL. HDNJ is also a founding member organization of the Hellenic Federation of New Jersey.

The Hellenic Dancers of NJ alumni posed for a commemorative photo, December 2023. (Photo: Courtesy of Hellenic Dancers of NJ)

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