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Interview

The Lyceum of Greek Women

Five years after its last appearance, the Lyceum Club of Greek Women returned to the Odeon of Herodes Atticus  on Sept 21, with a show combining music and theater. The show  included dances and songs based on the love and the relation between ordinary people and nature. The whole show been organized by the teacher and researcher of traditional dances Lefteris Drandakis. Animals-symbols played the main parts expressed through the Greek traditional folk song , thoughts and meanings that man could not or wasn’t allowed to say directly and were expressed through lyrics using nature’s beloved creatures. The show included dances and songs based on the love and the relation between ordinary people and nature. The whole show  organized by the teacher and researcher of traditional dances Lefteris Drandakis. Animals-symbols played the main parts expressing through the Greek traditional folk song, thoughts and meanings that man could not or wasn’t allowed to say directly and were  expressed through lyrics using nature’s beloved creatures.

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The Lyceum Club of Greek Women was founded in Athens by Callirhoe Parren in 1911 and at the time comprised only seven women. Since then and until today when it comprises almost 16000 members from Greece and abroad, the Lyceum Club of Greek Women has always been characterized by a spirit of volunteering and selflessness. The Lyceum Club of Greek Women through its dynamic role is making efforts towards the preservation of the Greek folk culture and tradition. The Lyceum Club is a nonprofit organization, based on voluntary work. It is considered as a core of culture, where scientific knowledge meets passion. Its main difference from other folklore clubs lies in the fact that the collected material is not only destined for use at museums and studying, but it takes flesh and bones during the shows of the Club’s dance group. “The Lyceum is its idea and spirit, which either you love or not. You will either want to stay or leave. However, if you stay, you will stay forever. Take me for example. My home was across the street of this building at Skoufa & Dimokritou St. and at that time there weren’t any blocks of flats; it was all quiet and I could hear the music and see the dancing at the lower hall of the Lyceum. One day I decided to enter the building out of curiosity, just to see what they were doing and since then, I never left.” Her words make it clear that the Lyceum is her passion and true love. I can see how she was fascinated by the Greek dances, the costumes, the necklaces and their sounds and the delicately embroidered fabrics. “The people involved with the Lyceum are bonded by their common mission: promoting Greek traditions and supporting women’s rights. Efforts are made on a volunteer basis, just as in 1911. Not in the same way, of course, that Callirhoe Parren battled for “Hellenism”, for the training and education of women and for the care of unwed mothers. The times have changed, yet the aims of the Lyceum have remained the same and its success is guaranteed by its versatility. Our Club has managed to meet the new needs. A perfect example is the Greek language and culture courses for immigrant women living in our country, a form of battle against illiteracy that the Lyceum has been fighting since its foundation.” The collection of folk costumes was one of the first activities of the Lyceum. In fact, Callirhoe Parren herself was the one who since 1910 begun to collect folk costumes. Later on, all these costumes were gathered at the Museum of the History of the Greek Costume. This activity was undertaken by the Cultural department of the Lyceum Club, responsible for the costumes at the first musical and dance event of the Lyceum Club, the “Flower Festival”, held in May 1911. “We are able to “dress” up to 150 dancers on a single stage. A great number of costumes and a great number of dancers. We have about 4500 museum pieces and our Workshop has the capacity to make excellent reproductions, which “dress” our performances at the Herodeon and at large theatres abroad”, adds the President. The Dance Group is the best-known department of the Lyceum Club, both in Greece and abroad. It has been performing since the 1960s, at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the Athens Concert Hall, Epidaurus and Lycabettus Theatre at other theatres around Athens. “We are famous throughout the world for our dancing group. People come to watch a Lyceum performance to see the amazing folk costumes, admire the skillful dancers and hear the music we all remember from our home villages and have danced to at festivals, even if we aren’t familiar with Greek tradition. This is why the Lyceum Club “fills” the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Our audience is very wide and their response to our performances is unique”, Eleni Tsaldari continues. What does the dance mean to her? “Dance is a form of expression. It is the physical expression of our identity and collective memory, but also the best exercise for the soul. Holding hands transmits a unique power and energy. Greek dance is also a very good exercise for the body, as was proven during a medical conference in Thessaloniki several years ago.” Eleni Tsaldari has experienced many emotions with the Lyceum Club. “I have travelled the world dancing and I can tell you that the emotions experienced when the audience is comprised of Greeks living in a foreign country are tremendous. In America we performed crying as we were seeing three generations of Greeks in the audience, who applauded our performance with tears running down their eyes. It is a life-time experience that cannot be easily put into words.” The centennial anniversary of the Lyceum Club coincided with the midst of recession. How does the decisive President of the Club see the future? “We live in hard times and we need patience and strength. This is not the first challenging time for the Lyceum Club, considering we have been dynamically “present” in every hard period during Greece’s history: the Balkan Wars, the Fall of Smyrna, the two World Wars and the Civil War. The Lyceum Club has evolved, thrived and sowed seeds for the future despite the hardships. This gives us the confidence and strength to continue our work. In any case, the current “crisis” unites us and empowers us with our greatest weapon: our cultural heritage.”

LYCEUM OF GREEK WOMEN

14, Dimokritou Str, 106 73 Athens,

Tel.: 210 361 1042

Email: info@lykeionellinidon.gr

Web: http://www.lykeionellinidon.gr

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