Inspire a new generation with tradition

“He absolutely looks like Crete. He seems to have come down from Mount Ida, but there is no hard edge. He is really sweet. Journalist companion Katerina Dascalaki, of the board of the Greek Women’s Lyceum Club. The loyal clerk tells me that he describes Lefteris Drandakis. She transforms the 111-year-old institution, Riseum, into the largest and most comprehensive Greek folk dance association in the world. The person who insisted on meeting the alleged 90-year-old art director.

His enlightening and bold choreography filled the houses of the Herode Atticus Theater and Athens Concert Hall in Greece, and traveled to England and Italy, as well as Mexico, Canada and Asia. Of course, this would not be possible without an indelible passion for his work, which he saw scrutinizing the size of Greece to ensure that fragments of his dance heritage were not lost. It would have been.

I meet him for lunch at a restaurant near his downtown Athens home and are greeted with a bag full of gifts such as books, CDs, programs and pamphlets. With white hair, a mustache that emphasizes frequent smiles, and cheerful eyes, he returns to the early days of his hometown of Rethymno with a melodious voice on Crete and tells me everything about his life. I will start talking.

“I grew up in one of a family listening to a variety of music. Several cousins ​​from the countryside are excellent singers and church chanters, who teach me to love Mantinard. He said. “There was another cousin studying in the Reismno greenhouse to become a pianist. Their class ended at night and I was afraid to go home alone, so I waited at school while doing my homework. I was told to come back, and that’s how I was familiar with the classic repertoire as a smuggler. I knew inside and outside Beethoven by the age of 12. That’s why people were Levetico. It was also a time when I loved, so I had to discover it too, “he says.

Drandakis left Crete as soon as he grew older in 1950 and began economics. He dropped out of the Athens University of Economics and Commerce for just a year and got a job at the State Social Security Fund. “I decided to join Lyceum in my free time with the young men and women I was spending time with. I didn’t know anything about dance. As Crete, I’m obviously another I was watching people, but I didn’t know one step. I was a little bored in the first year, but in the second year I had this enlightened new teacher, Costas Rambrow. An instructor at the Athens Sports Academy and a former dancer at the Lyceum and Drastrato Dance Theater, he made us crazy about dancing with his technique and his way of speaking, “says Drandakis.

His group was later invited to a tea party in traditional costumes. Shortly thereafter, he performed at a group of diplomats at the luxurious Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens. “That was it!” Says Drandakis. “There was a Rethimno kid in a luxurious ballroom. And before getting used to the excitement, did Manolis Mantzavelakis, the head of the men’s wardrobe department, know how to dance the Cretan Sousta? I was asked. I didn’t know, but I said “yes”. “Great,” he said. “Next week, I’m going to Holland with Lyceum to dance for a group of pro-Greek.” I became Sousta’s ace in 10 days. And that’s how I jumped into the deepest part of the dance. And the fact that I loved the team spirit, “explains Drandakis, who was in charge of the folk dance division at the closing ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

“They learn about teamwork by using their senses, instead of swiping the phone, to hold the hand of the person next to them.”

The 1960s were a turbulent era for Lyceum, with some changes to management and staff. “At that time, I came up with the idea of ​​taking over the artistic director. My knees were shaking, but I said so. It was 1966 and I’m still loyal to Lyceum. It’s unbelievable. It was a life-changing experience, and I was free to design what I wanted, for example, to structure the entire performance around a single theme, “he says.

His innovative approach brought Lyceum to life and turned Lyceum into the country’s most popular folk dance and music company when folk art became less popular nationwide. Recognizing that times have changed and modern times are obscuring traditions and customs, Drandakis has launched an album series that includes recordings of traditional folk songs from different parts of Greece. His efforts and the efforts of others like him helped ensure that Greek cultural heritage was not treated as if it were left trapped, but that it remained alive.

“I think my love for many genres of music and art has inspired me to focus on themes such as the sea, weddings, and seasons. As you know, for old people, baby songs. From the mourning of ceremonies and mourning, to the songs sung during the sowing season, the songs of the harvest party, the songs about immigrants, love. Everything comes with songs, “says Drandakis.

I hear him talk about how the discovery of folk dance changed his life and have to ask why young people today should be members of Lyceum.

“It’s great,” he replies immediately. “The seasons through their songs as they come to understand the passage of the year. Instead of swiping the phone, they use their senses and use their hands to hold the hand of the person next to them. Learn about teamwork, because they will be connected to an ancient chain of humanity who knows how to work in sync and put the whole above themselves. If these aren’t great lessons, why not? I don’t know if there is one. “

Drandakis praises the work done by Lyceum’s chapters and other associations nationwide to maintain and revive public interest in folk music and dance.

“Heritage is the umbilical cord that we think will be cut when we move to the city, but it is not. The music, food and experience of our ancestors is whether we know it. Regardless, we define us. Lyceum provides young people with inspiration to go further and explore more about their past and their heritage. “

“Of course, there are places like Crete, Epirus and the Dodecanese Islands where people are modern yet archaic. These give me a lot of information and ideas about how to live that has almost disappeared elsewhere. It’s a great place to serve us, “adds Drandakis.

But he adds: Had this connection been weak, it would have been broken long ago. In an era of rapid change brought about by technology, young people will understand how valuable these bonds are. “ Inspire a new generation with tradition

Back to top button