Sunday, August 20, 2006

The boys are all in the air for Tsamiko
I suddenly find myself with a little free time as the summer winds down, largely thanks to the conclusion of Folkfest. We had been practicing pretty much every night for it, plus of course the event itself took three nights. But that makes it sound bad when in reality it was actually a lot of fun and a great time. This year, we danced something Dimitri dubbed 'Tsigaida' since we mixed the steps from some other dances with Gaida. We also did Partalo, an old classic (except I hyperextended my leg doing a stomp), Zonorathiko (one I pretty much got back on the setlist), and of course my long time favourite, Tsamiko (flips and kicks, woohoo!). There were a few added to my repetoire that have been done before but not by me, like Pentozali (tricky!), Zorba (also classic), and, I believe, Zaiko. And then some that we debuted this year like Fesothervenagas (aka the ferry dance). I'll be happy to never dance that one again. But enough talk about the dances, here's my rundown of the Greek pavilion this year and thoughts on the matter:

Guys and girls dance the kalamatiano
The dancing was good this year, in fact I heard from many people that it was better than it had been for years, but I would simply stick to good but not great. I actually felt that we'd done better in previous years and that the show has gone together better before. I think part of this is actually because we didn't really do enough with the crowd either as dancers or with our MC. I do not blame her, she wasn't the original intended MC but filled in with no warning right away. And she certainly did well with no notice, but it could've been better with some preparation and more effort spent getting people visiting into the show. I think that next year we need to have something going on between sets to teach people how to do some of the basic steps like Kalamatiano and Trio-trio.

Gaida seems to be a fun one to watch, and we mixed it up a bit this year by combining is with another step
And as for the dances, there are a few like the ferry dance that I'd cut out and some old-school ones with skits that should come back - anybody else remember how the senior boys used to light a table on fire with 151 or ouzo or something and dance on it? The intermediate dancers should've finished earlier as well, they had plenty of dances up 'til the last set and when we were younger it was always the seniors closing out the night. I actually heard this from a few people that they felt they couldn't get into it as much with younger kids on the stage that late into the night. This is all the critical stuff I guess, but there were good things worth pointing out, too. The zembekiko this year was one of - no - THE best I'd ever seen. Mostly thanks to a lot of broken plates and Dimitri doing an amazing flip, landing on his knees in front of the ouzo glass, drinking it, throwing the glass away and kicking it from behind his back... all on time and as though it were perfectly choreographed. Amazing. Dress the Greek was alright, but went a little on the long side with the Amazing Race people coming through.

Sure it's not Greek food, but we Greeks are happy so long as there's something
Without a doubt one of the main reasons that people visit us at the Greek pavilion is the food. How could they not? Unfortunately, this was probably the biggest disappointment this year. On the positive side, the pork souvlaki was very nice, and so were the meatballs. I didn't try the chicken souvlaki but heard mixed reviews. And the baklava was very nice, if I may say. But, woefully absent were my personal favourites, and much more rare but traditional Greek dishes like Pastichio and Gemista (stuffed peppers). This in itself was a problem. But aside from the meatballs, which were tasty but rather unoriginal and not especially Greek (they were done sweet and sour, not like Aunt Marina's much more delicious/famous spiced ones), they didn't replace these dishes with anything. On top of this gaping hole in the food lineup were some really poorly done dishes like the Spanakopita (spinach pies) which were try and lacking flavour. I felt embarassed to even be associated with the Greek pavilion when we were charging for these things - didn't we taste test a few before we bought them? And the dolmathes were served cold which is an option but in my opinion not the best way to eat them.

You don't get seats like this at the Ukranian pavilion
I personally love the venue - we host it at the Army and Navy hall on 1st Avenue and have done so for years. The venue is small, cozy, and intimate, and reminds me of a Greek tavern. Yes, it's hot. The AC is no match for all of us in the basement, though sometimes I think that the people we rent from turn it off when they rent to us to save money. But the only thing more annoying than a hot venue is people complaining to me that they're never coming back because it was too warm. Give me a bloody break. Try dancing up on stage under the lights and see how warm it is, but we're here every night dancing for you anyway. Try visiting a tavern in Greece and see how high the AC is. Are we so spoiled?? I'm not saying that AC that could keep up wouldn't be welcome, but come on!

The show must go on
That said, plans have been in the works for a new church, though thanks to some surprisingly childish (and really, that word is far too nice for the reprehensible behaviour coming from some of the so-called community leaders) attitudes, I won't hold my breath. Still, I do hope that we can somehow all agree that steps need to be taken to promote a bigger and better Greek community here in the city. And if the church were to go through, one of its features would be a large basement which we could use to host Folkfest with better capacity and of course it would facilitate other uses besides just Folkfest and hopefully would promote more Greek nights.

Our work here is done
In spite of the critical look I've taken here, I don't want to come off as negative about the event as a whole. There was room for improvement, there were mistakes, but in the end, I, at least, enjoyed the heck out of it this year. I had a blast dancing, I enjoyed bartending and helping out where I could, and most of all, it was nice to just see all the people out, Greeks and otherwise. There were a lot of Calgarians and others in town for it and it was great to see them all. A highlight of 2006? Quite possibly. So, in that respect, I would like to thank the organizers, the volunteers, and the other dancers, especially those who helped get the show running in the first place.

Next year will go one of two ways. Either it will not happen, and it will be the first time the Greeks haven't had a Folkfest pavilion since Folkfest started, or we will take our mistakes from this year and go all-out to produce what could very well be the best pavilion we've hosted in Folkfest history. That choice will come from the volunteers, the people who put the blood and sweat into making it a reality every year. Yes, recent divisions have created a sect of people who would love to see it fail, but anyone who is truly proud of being Greek, anyone who really hates to have something Greek be anything less than excellent, will get on board with everything they've got to make next year better. Already, 'retired' women talk of coming back to help make the food next year. Already, dancers talk of getting some new and really excellent dances lined up. And already, the seeds are sewn for a successful year in 2007. So here's to a well deserved vacation, a really fun three-day party, and the beginning of a new and better Folkfest next year.

<Folkfest 2006 Photos>


1 comment:

the_dutch said...

I love Pastichio