Authenticity is key for local Greek dance troupe
By Marie Titcomb
Photos courtesy Sam Geolas
The highly anticipated festival offers the public a glimpse into Greek culture, as well as the Orthodox faith. People from around the metro area come for the homemade Greek cuisine and Greek music. But the most intriguing attraction at the festival is the dancing, incorporating local Greek dance troupes of all ages.
Among the dancers is a group of adults known as The Olympians. The troupe is comprised of dancers who dedicate their time outside of their full-time jobs to represent, preserve, and cherish their Greek heritage.
Director Sam Geolas organized the group 30 years ago. The Olympians are now the oldest Greek folk dance troupe in Kansas City.
Geolas says that he was immersed in the Greek culture from a very young age. Like many in the Greek community, he experienced his heritage through faith, dance, and music.
Maintaining the old traditions meant a lot to Geolas. “My education came from attending seminars and workshops in Greece, the US, and Canada that were hosted by the most respected organizations that oversee the preservation of Greek folk dance,” he says. One of the reasons Geolas formed the dance troupe is because of the lack of authenticity he
began to see in dance. “It was a Las Vegas style of entertainment, rather than true Greek dancing,” he says. In fact, Geolas refuses to change a dance to fit a dancer’s lack of ability. If a move requires a high leap in the air, the dancer must possess that ability or be given a lesser role. After 30 years, Geolas confesses this high standard of his has displaced him from a few strenuous roles.
The troupe also does not scrimp on authentic dance wear. Geolas purchases the dazzling outfits from a Greek costume specialist in Athens. The boots that the men wear, for example, are hand crafted on the Isle of Crete. Because of cost and rarity, some dancers’ costumes are replicated by a seamstress of the Orthodox community. Currently that person is Abbie Pappas. As dancer and aspiring costume seamstress, Pappas oversees the duties of copying the costumes for the troupe, a job which Geolas’ mother did for 20 years.
“It is very much a family affair when it comes to being Greek” says Geolas. “I have had mother, son, and daughter as members [of the troupe] at the same time. I have had members in the group that are husband and wife or brothers, sisters, and cousins.”
He hopes the Olympians can bring back the true nature and dignity of Greek folk dance. “For me it is more of a love and passion to help preserve the traditions and authenticity of the dance and pass it on unchanged and unaltered.” says Geolas.
The Greek Festival at Annunciation is proud to present The Olympians to the world, in hopes that they will be able to spread the beauty of their traditional culture. For those interested and inspired, The Olympians periodically offer Greek Dance lessons. They can be contacted through the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation at (816) 942-9100 or at their website at http://www.theolympiansgreekdancetroupe.com/