How did it all start?
The Minoan Dancers were created in 1986 by artistic directors Vasilis and Effie Fourakis at the Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Church in Marin County, California. It began as a passing request by a parishioner for us to teach a small group of high school students at the church. We met with the dancers and planned our rehearsals to prepare for our first performance as “The Minoan Dancers” at the 1986 Marin Grecian Festival. We also contacted many of our friends whom we had danced with in the Alkmini Kouri Bloom Greek Dance Ensemble to form the adult group. Costumes were made or borrowed, choreographies were developed, music was obtained from all available sources and many hours were spent rehearsing. Our first performances were well received and we began planning for the 1987 Greek Orthodox Folk Dance Festival.
The Minoan Dancers, 1986 Marin Grecian Festival
Why Greek dance?
The Minoan Dancers are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Greek culture and folk dancing in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. That is our official mission statement, and we really believe it. But we also exist because we all love to dance and we love our traditions. Through our activities and our performances we are able to pass our culture on to our children. In our group you see children and parents dancing together, sharing a common passion for Greek folk dancing.
The First FDF
We did not know what to expect at our first FDF. We were ten dancers, two directors and six parents wearing homemade team T-shirts, from an unknown city in California. In 2006, nineteen FDFs later, the Minoan Dancers are four dance groups, over 60 dancers from a very well known county in California. Winning the Special Achievement Award at our first FDF began an awards Hall of Fame for the Minoans, highlighted by two Division II Sweepstakes Awards, eleven gold medals, six silver medals, eight bronze medals, eleven fourth place awards, seven costume awards, one choral award, two choir awards, one Directors’ award, three Special Achievement awards and nine Division III participation awards.
My Big Fat Greek Dance Group?
Being a part of the Minoan community exposes the dancers, young and old, to all aspects of being Greek. One of the undeniable goals of the annual Greek Orthodox Folk Dance Festival that the Minoans and about 3,000 other Greek dancers attend, is for young Greek men to meet young Greek women, marry and have Greek babies (just like in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”!). It is through Greek folk dancing that we met and married and now our three children, Achilleas, Odysseas and Elektra, carry on the tradition by performing with the Minoans. Through the Minoans, several other couples have met and married. Some have continued to dance and all are committed to having their children learn Greek dancing and perform.
What does it mean to be a Minoan?
Being a Minoan means so much more than just being a dancer in a group. Being a Minoan means belonging to a community of dancers who dance, rehearse and travel together, who celebrate joyous events together and support each other during troubled times. When our daughter Elektra was born in 1997 with a life-threatening heart defect, the Minoans rallied their support through prayer. Not a dancer wanted to dance and the program stopped temporarily. When Elektra pulled through her first open-heart surgery at 3 months old, the community rejoiced and the group came back stronger and better than ever. Twice the Minoan community has responded to our call to raise money for the American Heart Association through two bike-a-thons we organized. Over $23,000 was raised by the Greek community of Marin County, but mostly by the Minoans!
The Minoan Dancers have performed throughout California at events such as Marin Greek Festival, other church festivals, the Marin County Fair, charity functions and retirement homes, and at celebrations of Greek national holidays. The Minoans have auditioned and been invited to perform at the prestigious San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival at the historic Palace of Fine Arts Theater. We have participated in the Festival eight times, presenting Cretan dances four times, Thracian dances three times and dances of Pontos one year.
All together over the past twenty years we have participated in 272 performance events, 30 fundraising events, 19 social events and have taught 184 dancers!
Return to Our Roots
The Minoans have traveled to Greece three times to perform, most recently in July of 2003. The Minoans gave two performances in the Peloponnese region and one in Crete. The dancers traveled throughout the country, and were able to experience first-hand the culture behind the dances that we have come to love.
In August 2001, 29 Minoans traveled to Greece and gave performances in Athens at the Dora Stratou Theater, at His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Blessed Memory’s village Avyeniki in Crete, at the village of Rodopou in Crete and at the Peace and Friendship Theater in Hania.
In 1994 ten Minoans traveled to Greece and performed. At Plateia Gerakas in Athens the Minoans presented eighteen dances from regions throughout Greece. In Crete the Minoans performed at the Firkas Theater in Hania and at the Rethymnon Wine Festival.
Minoan bull leaping fresco by Victoria Gerginis
In 1991, the Minoans produced a multi-media slide, music and dance presentation on the history of Greece, “Remembrance of Things Past,” which was presented at the Showcase Theater of the Marin Civic Center and at the Scottish Rite Theater in San Francisco.
In 2000, the Minoans produced a multi-media show on the history of dance in the island of Crete. The presentation chronicled 4000 years of Cretan dance, back to the times of the Minoan civilization in 2000 BC. The stage was set with beautiful recreations of the Minoan frescoes by artist Victoria Gerginis. The historic dance Horos tou Thesea was presented.
Since 1987 the Minoans have participated in the annual Greek Orthodox Folk Dance Festival and have repeatedly received awards both for their dance ability and authenticity and for their costumes. At the 1999 and 2001 Festivals the Minoans were awarded the coveted Division II Sweepstakes Award for achieving the highest score of all competing groups.
Dances from all over Greece
Our repertoire of dances has expanded over the years, with many thanks owed to the late Paul Ginis of the Greek American Folklore Society of New York, to Joe Kaloyianides Graziosi, and to Nikos Savvidis.
The Minoans are proficient in the styling and steps of dances from several areas of Greece including the islands of Crete, Karpathos, Chios, the Ionian and Cycladic Islands and the mainland regions of Megara, Macedonia, Pontos, Epiros, Thessaly, and Thrace.
Costumes from all over Greece
The Minoans’ costumes are extensively researched and are authentic replicas of costumes worn by Greek villagers. Many thanks go to Loula Fourakis for her expert seamstress and pattern-making skills and to Lilly Papas for the long, tireless hours spent sewing sequins, applying trim, and embroidering.