A scene during the performance ‘Rising Higher’ presented by students of the Greek-American Institute. Photo: TNH - Despina Afentouli
BRONX, NY – Despite the rainy weather, the audience stayed until the end to watch the music and dance and poetry performance ‘Rising Higher’ organized by the Greek-American Institute (GAI) on May 13 in the courtyard of the Zoodochos Pigi community in the Bronx. Last year, a similar performance called ‘Rise’ was held.
The welcoming ceremony was conducted by GAI Director John Attanas and the GAI After School Chorus, under the direction of Ioanna Tsakalakos, performed the national anthems of Greece and the United States, as well as the songs ‘Της δικαιοσύνης ήλιε νοητέ’ (Intelligible Sun of Justice), ‘Οδός Ονείρων (Street of the Dreams), ‘We Dont’ Talk About Bruno,’ and ‘Siyahamba’.
Prayers were offered by the Presiding Priest of the Parish, Rev. Economos Vasilios Louros.
The students’ program was delightful. The 4th grade, directed by Katerina Renti, presented the interpretive dance ‘Rise Up! Life is Beautiful!.’ The kindergarten students sang and danced to the song ‘Απόψε στις ακρογιαλές’ (Tonight at the Beaches), which was prepared by the GAI Head of the Greek Department and Greek teacher Giota Papagrigoriou.
More dances and songs were performed by the GAI students under the direction of GAI dance teacher Joanne Kyriacou. More specifically, many pontian dances were presented: ‘Serada Apple” by the 1st and 2nd grade, ‘Tamsara’ by the 3rd grade, ‘Trygona’ by the 4th grade, and Kotsari’ by the 3rd and 4th grade, ‘Attaris’ by the 6th grade and the Smyrnaic ‘Dimitroula’ by the 5th grade.
The dances ‘Arambas passes’ (Constantinople), ‘Aptalikos’ (Smyrni) and the ‘Dance of the Spoons’ (Cappadocia) were presented by the 7th and 8th grades. The 8th grade presented the dance ‘Higher Love’, while the song ‘Epoyatien Kokkinon to Choma Aso Aiman’ was performed by the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.
Under the direction of John Attanas, poems were presented by the students of the school, including: John Kolitsopoulos (Rising Higher), Theodora Pavlounis (The Ascent of Life), Ostap Urban (Rising to Success), Rachel Angelopoulos (Ever Rising), Sophia Angelopoulos (Above All), Spiros Catechis (The Summit), Rozeta Mano (We Will Rise), Rocco Luongo (The Price of Rising), Sofia Barbagiannis (The Moon), Adam Tomches (Higher) and Eleni Karounos (Fly).
The students of the 6th grade, under the direction of the Greek teacher, Artemis Chalkiopoulou, performed the song ‘Μήνυμα ζωής’ (Message of Life) in Greek sign language.
During the closing ceremony, presided over by Mr. Attanas and Sophie Zarvos, GAI School Committee Chairperson, flowers were gifted to Joanna Kyriakou. The New York City Councilor from The Bronx Marjorie Velázque gave a short speech and a raffle followed.
Speaking to The National Herald, Ioanna Kyriakou, under whose direction the music and poetry performances as well as the dance part of the event took place, spoke about how the idea of the performance came about: “Last year with COVID-19…many schools closed or had no art classes… So last year, we had this project outdoors, in the parking lot, and we called it ‘Rise’. And this year, we thought we should go even higher (therefore this year’s event is called ‘Rising Higher’). Because it’s a hundred years since the Smyrna disaster, we said this year we’re going to dance all the Asia Minor dances. We are trying to maintain our artistic program…”
Speaking to TNH the presiding priest of the community Rev. Economos Vasilios Louros of the community of Zoodohos Peghe referred to the multiple messages of the show: “It was an amazing performance really, because the children give their all to pass on a message… that we are free again [from the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic], we are back in our reality. The second [message is] to show our roots – that we are really Greeks – and the other is that this year’s dances were from Smyrna and Cappadocia because of the 100 Years since the destruction of Smyrna. So we passed this nice message that we don’t forget and that we really have Greek blood flowing in our veins.”
GAI Director John Attanas expressed to TNH his enthusiasm for the artistic performance of the children, despite their young age: “I’m very impressed because some of these kids are very young – kindergarten, first, second grade – and they put in a lot of effort. I don’t know how they do it, but they do it. I also know that their teachers, particularly Joanna Kyriakou, and all the teaching staff involved, didn’t have a lot of time on their hands. Therefore, it is a fact that the effortwas great and you can see the result. It is very positive and I am very proud of them…”
The president of the parish council, Kostas (Dean) Karounos spoke to TNH about the feelings caused by the emotional performance Rising Higher: “Today [May 13, 2022] is a big day for these children. They’ve been waiting all year for this show to come to life… A lot of people here, they get teary-eyed, because they feel that the kids did something very beautiful, very nice, and we’re going to keep doing it every year… for everybody to see what the Greek American Institute is doing here in the Bronx.”
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He wasn’t the first one to think about it but a humor columnist for POLITICO suggested - ironically, of course - that if Greeks want back the stolen Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum that they should just steal them back, old boy.
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