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Minoan Dancers at the 2024 Greek Orthodox Folk Dance & Choral Festival

ANAHEIM, CA  – The Minoan Dancers of Marin County, California, participated in the 47th Annual Greek Orthodox Folk Dance & Choral Festival (FDF), held February 15-18 in Anaheim, CA. Now in their 38th dance season, the Minoans presented five performing groups with over 50 performers, five directors, and six musicians from Greece.

‘Strosimo tou krevatiou’ performed by the Minoan Dancers at the 47th Annual Greek Orthodox Folk Dance & Choral Festival in Anaheim, CA. Photo: Effie Fourakis

The weekend kicked off on Thursday with a service project organized by the Metropolis of San Francisco Philoptochos to build bikes for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Young Minoans worked hard to build their bikes and won an award for their ‘Kefi’. The Opening Ceremonies and Agiasmos blessing were led by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco and other clergy that evening.

Lousakianos Syrtos with musicians Manolis Bobolakis and Vaggelis Bagourakis and dancers Vasilis Fourakis and his sons Achilleas and Odysseas. Photo: Effie Fourakis

Dance and choral performances were held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Three competing Minoans’ dance groups presented dance sets from Crete and Thrace, while the choral group, the Minoan Singers, also competed. Accompanying the dancers for the Cretan sets were Manolis Bobolakis, from Chania, on violin, and Vaggelis Bagourakis, from Rethymno, on laouto. The custom of the ‘Strosimo tou Krevatiou’ (the decoration of the wedding bed) was presented, with dances from Kisamos, Western Crete. The bride and her unmarried friends make up the wedding bed with new, white bedding. The groom playfully unmakes the bed and the women remake the bed, three times. Once the groom is satisfied, guests throw money, rice, candied almonds, rose petals and a young child on the bed, symbolizing their wishes for the couple’s future happiness, prosperity, and fertility, the ‘Kaloriziko.’

The Minoan Dancers perform the dance around the camel and the ‘Divitzis’. Photo: Effie Fourakis

New Year’s Day celebration traditions from Neo Monastiri were presented with musicians from the Mikro Monastiri area: Stefanos Stefoudis on gaida, Diomidis Stefoudis on daouli, Petros Vouvaloudis on kaval, and Nikos Giannakidis on accordion and vocals. These traditions are festive and symbolic. The custom of the camel and camel drivers (the ‘Divitzides’; ‘dive’ means camel in Arabic), symbolize a new beginning for the new year with wishes for ‘Kali Xronia,’ good health, fertility, and an awakening of nature from the winter months. The ‘Divitzis’ is dressed in sheepskin with a colorful hat/mask and he holds the ‘topuzi,’ a wooden club. The camel is a wooden structure covered with a coarse fabric and bells which ring to ward off evil spirits. Camels were used in Thrace up until the 1960s, carrying heavy loads through inaccessible parts of the Rhodope Mountains. New Year’s Day festivities begin after church services with food, drink, music and dancing at the village square, leading up to a ‘battle’ between the ‘Divitzides’ and the camel.

The ‘Divitzis’ during the Minoan Dancers’ performance at the FDF in Anaheim, CA. Photo: Effie Fourakis

During the FDF weekend, over 100 groups performed traditional Greek folk dances and songs with over 4,200 participants. Regions from all over Greece were represented including Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, Pontos, and all the islands. Dance groups congregated from all across the United States, from California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, New York, and Utah.

Vasilis and Effie Fourakis with the musicians from Greece who accompanied the Minoan Dancers from Marin County, CA, left to right: Vasilis Fourakis, Petros Vouvaloudis (kaval), Diomidis Stefoudis (daouli), Stefanos Stefoudis (gaida), Manolis Bobolakis (violín), Effie Fourakis, Vaggelis Bagourakis (laouto), and Nikos Giannakidis (accordion). Photo: Courtesy of Effie Fourakis

Awards were presented on Sunday evening. The Minoan Dancers, directed by Vasilis, Effie and Achilleas Fourakis, and assisted by Konstantine Avdalas of San Francisco and Danny Staveris of Oakland, were awarded the highest FDF honor, the Division I Sweepstakes Award.

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