Main Organiser (Agrinio): Mr. Babis Tsiamis
Organiser (Elassona): Mr. Ioanis Samostas
Organiser (Thessaloniki): Julie Theodoselli
LOCATION AND DATES:
In between in Agrinio and Thessaloniki, we were rushed to nearby towns for impromptu performance because word had got out of our performances and everyone loved it and was so excited to watch us which made me so happy, I was used to these sort of spontaneous adventures. It was very me as I loved the excitement. In one incident we were performing at 2 places on the same night, the car was almost flying off the street to make it to the next town in time to dance. It was a total whirlwind of success and you can’t even stop to think, we just hopped out of the car and was ready to perform again. The Mayor of each city met us too. It was a complete honour and privilege and I am forever grateful.
Special Host and Caretaker of each city (I remember faces better then I do names, so please forgive me that I left out names but not faces in my memory)
: Helen and her sister and their friends (Agrinio), Marianna and her friend (Elassona), Apostolos and his wife, Julie & Vasiliki and her family (Thessaloniki) and we felt like family with you and thank you so much for your care and treats while we were in Greece. Thank you! Thank you to Mr. Babis Tsiamis for being extremely hospitable in the economic circumstances of Greece, organising and connecting the festival tours and coordinating everything for an incredible huge festival and tour, hosting the Malaysian team and Julie Theodoselli was incredibly gracious, generous and born for the TV!
Malaysian Team: Chia Kai Xian (Kedah), Melanie Thien (Sabah), JiangYiang (Kedah), Windy (Kedah), Michelle Jueney (Kuala Lumpur)
Each city was so incredibly beautiful but my favourite had to be Elassona where we lived up in the mountains, stone floors, warm cabins, beautiful cool weather, soft flowing streams and quaint lanes and cafes in the city center. The lush green hills and rocky landscape, Elassona was really perfect for me. Everything was my kind of life. Agrinio is a city with many shops and Thessaloniki is the biggest with grand walkways by the sea decorated with cafes and apartments all along the walkway.
The landscape and design in European cities, allows very conducive beautiful settings to perform in central squares on stone floors with beautiful old buildings or cathedrals as the backdrop, Italy is one of them and Greece. The Greeks love to eat and drink including some of the performers as they come from Bulgaria, Germany and many more, as folk performances are very much more community like and people like to gather and sometimes at the end of the festival, everyone joins in the circle to do Greek folk dances.
I love performing outdoors in central squares and amphi-theatres which plays into my spontaneous personality to think of my artistic direction on the spot how I want to frame my performance with the architecture and environment given.
The last stop at Thessaloniki, again I was rushed to perform in another city, which I will never regret because it was a dream setting; an amphi-theatre circular like a miniature coliseum which most people would think it was an insane decision as I could have missed my flight and again immediately after my performance, I was whisked into the car and quickly got out of my costume, the car flew off the road (literally felt like the wheels were flying, Apostolos’s wife my caretaker was so kind she escorted me for this performance, we could not feel the road beneath us in the car) to get me to the bus stop in time for the airport but I was so happy, it was my element. FANTASTIC MEMORIES!
Greece, is actually my second experience of a folklore festival and it was completely entirely different from the first with Alexandria Borisova in Yakutia, Siberia which was entirely unique as well from ice-filled landscapes to a very sunny summery one also because I invited my lovely talented friend Chia Kai Xian from Kedah to collaborate with me and he brought his dancers as a Malaysian group to a Greece Dance Tour that I was trying to organise to bring over. And the Malaysian team did so well.
Many big groups of participants and folk costumes, musicians and singing but mostly focused on dance. And what really opened my eyes was the footwork. Once you try to do it in the circle, and obviously as we are dancers, they would make it harder and definitely more complicated rather then just the famous ‘Zorba the Greek’ dance, which is easier to follow. The footwork is complicated. It is sometime off beat and on beat when you need to put your foot down for the next step or hold your foot up when you normally instinctively would put your weight down on that foot but you don’t and you feel like noodle pasta legs sometimes and constantly on your toes not to mention the concentration level and to understand the style and musicality of Greek music. Highly difficult but extremely fun and addictive and with the Malaysian team of equally fun and sporting talents, we joined in the huge celebration with food and drink.
We went from city to city and visited beaches at Thessaloniki as we danced and danced and danced. Greek food is mainly salads and grilled vegetables and cheese which I love and grilled meats however it is not for everyone as the Malaysian team definitely missed home food but really did Malaysia proud with the direction I gave to explore creative dance pieces from Baba Nyonya to padi rice fields which I felt represented multi-racial and multi-cultural Malaysia.
People overseas in the European nations and Northern Asian regions are incredibly hospitable and meeting the Mayors of each City for me is quite something. The grand reception with media and their graciousness to meet dancers makes you feel very special and what we do, very celebrated and admired. I thoroughly enjoyed the rawness and collective efforts of this entire tour which was not easy for the organisers to pull off but the unity and collaborative efforts were evident and it was a new joyous experience for me.
Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart! Please forgive me, as I forget the names of all the locations as we keep moving from one place to another and faces are etched in my memory as I scroll through my Instagram with those connected to remember the Greek names and spellings.
I hope that you will visit this beautiful country of cheese, olives (almost everyone has an olive garden in their backyard which they harvest for their own household), quaint towns, idyllic mountains, incredibly islands, beaches, historical locations (like in the movies), Greek Gods, Goddesses, statues and mythology! Oh and leather sandals! And the people are truly kind and cheerful and very hospitable.
Love, Michelle Jueney