NEW YORK – Marinos Tsappas, dancer and teacher, spoke with The National Herald about his efforts teaching for the Pancyprian Association Dance Division in Astoria. He told TNH that he began as an assistant for a few months before he took over as the teacher for the dance classes in September.
Tsappas noted that some people left the group, while other new people joined and he hopes more parents will sign up their children to learn the unique dances of Cyprus that are taught in the weekly classes held on Fridays at the Pancyprian Association rehearsal space in Astoria. Students range in age from 7-14, Tsappas told TNH and they are doing well as they prepare for upcoming performances.
The importance of preserving the distinct cultural heritage of Cyprus is always at the foremost in all aspects of the Pancyprian Association’s efforts and the Dance Division encourages the continuation and promotion of the special Cypriot dances, Tsappas pointed out.
His experience is an asset to the Dance Division which will perform at upcoming events, including its annual Gala in June and, of course, will appear as they do every year in the New York Greek Independence Parade on Sunday, March 29.
Tsappas said of the Dance Division’s participation in the parade, “We will be there in traditional costume to show our pride and march on 5th Avenue.”
Tsappas also noted that Dance Division President and Federation of Cypriot-American Organizations President Kyriacos Papastylianou encouraged him to visit the dance group at St. Nicholas-Holy Trinity Church on Staten Island which includes young Greeks and Cypriots performing together. Tsappas was impressed with the group, noting that they have a larger contingent of the older kids who have more experience performing, and he looks forward to expanding the Dance Division to include more such students.
Born and raised in Nicosia, Tsappas was dancing from the age of six when his parents sent him to learn the traditional dances of Cyprus. He always loved dance, and especially the traditional dances of Cyprus, and even at school and in whatever dance group he participated in, he was always at the front, leading the dance, he told TNH.
“I was always dancing,” Tsappas said.
At 13 or 14, he started as a student at dance school, and the teacher seeing how well he danced, Tsappas was placed in the advanced group early on and from then he has performed in productions throughout Cyprus at the various festivals held every year and traveled to Greece as well, four times to participate in festivals and performances in Peloponessos, Siatista, Epiros, Alexandroupoli, especially for events relating to sister-cities.
During his military service, apart from the usual training, he also continued dancing. In 1998, he came to the United States to continue his education, studying at Queens College. During that time, he also danced with the Pancyprian Dance Division for about two years. After completing his studies and receiving his degree, he returned to Cyprus and worked at various jobs, because as he told TNH, it is difficult to make a living through dance alone. For about 15 years, he joined the youth group of his village, Kyperounta, which has a dance division for the youth, and he taught along with another teacher, presenting performances in Cyprus with the village youth center as the base for the group.
Then, the opportunity came about, Tsappas said, as Pancyprian was looking to expand its Dance Division, for him with his highly specialized skills, to join as a teacher and director of the group. Now, with hard work, Tsappas noted, he hopes to continue the Dance Division mission and promoting the traditional dances of Cyprus for the younger generations.