When you experience the world of FDF (Greek Orthodox Folk Dance and Choral Festival), you will see the many moving parts that keep the event going. To name just a few: singers in the choral division, dancers in the dance groups, musicians, and of course – the directors. Since 1990, Director Marty Kyrimis has attended all but two FDFs and has had some fantastic experiences. From a young age, Kyrimis started Greek dancing by way of participating in Greek language lessons at the Church of the Assumption in Seattle. After dancing through much of his youth, he began teaching dance at 15-years-old. The first group under Kyrimis’ direction was Asteria at Assumption in Seattle. Continuing to expand his directing resume, he then became involved with the dance program at St. Demetrios in Seattle, WA. “In 2001, I started teaching there. I’ve taught numerous groups…from the four-year-olds, when my oldest daughter had her first year, all the way up to the Advanced Senior category,” Kyrimis said.
Gathering his experience and dedicating time to his love of Greek dancing, Kyrimis named a few exciting memories. In 2009, he and a total of 87 people from the dance program at St. Demetrios went to Greece to perform and travel through the country. Families were able to attend, including his daughter who was just five at the time, was able to participate and dance on the trip as well. Another highlight of 2009? The group Kyrimis directed, Spartiates of Advanced Primary, won Sweepstakes at FDF for Division II! He currently directs Akrites at St. Demetrios, and at FDF in February 2017, they won the Founder’s Special Achievement Award “for their choral accompaniment in Sarakatsan and Epiros Suites” (YourFDF.org). One standout memory in particular for Kyrimis: “The very first-time dancing to live music, it was 1995, we had brought musicians from Greece to Seattle, and the very first time feeling and hearing that daouli drum – feeling it in my stomach as he was pounding it two feet away from me… it was a feeling I’ll never forget.”
When asked who has impacted him the most as a director, Kyrimis credits Yvonne Hunt (one of his directors), Niko Theodorou of Seattle, WA, and the Govetas Family (a family of well-known musicians in the folk-dance arena). When it comes to directing, inspiration comes in many forms. Kyrimis shared a beautiful story of inspiration behind Akrites’ 2015 suite which featured the Village of Geromeri in Epirus. He described: “It’s a very moving story. My mom’s godmother had passed away and I was listening to Epirotika music to and from the funeral. That night I had a dream of our dancers dancing in a cemetery setting. It was very odd and I didn’t know what to think of it…I just thought about it for a couple weeks before I shared it with my sister, and she said you should probably talk to somebody about it. I ended up calling Kostas Mitsis in Epiros and he let me know of a tradition in the village of Geromeri, and only in this one very specific village where this custom is done: where on the Monday after Easter they go into the cemetery with musicians and they play music from grave to grave, and it’s very moving…We built the suite around that and to the memory of those that have passed away.”
Kyrimis spends a lot of time researching the particular regions that he works on through video, previously used material/choreography, and he has even taken research trips to Greece. When it comes to the Advanced Seniors group, Kyrimis makes it a collaborative effort. He explains, “When it comes to choosing my suites, I do give my dancers a lot of say. For the younger groups, of course I decide what we are doing based on the ages and the ability, but when it comes to the older dancers, this is a college and young adult group, the Akrites, they have tons of experience, and we choose what we are doing together.” Kyrimis also makes resources available online for their college student dancers who are not in the Seattle area. “The group is a great one, it’s a strong one. We even have dancers who learn from far away. San Diego, Arizona, Eastern Washington, we use the internet and Facebook Live to stay connected. Our group was not all together until we were down in [San Diego for] FDF for the first time. It’s a pretty cool program that we offer to allow those that are in college to still participate,” Kyrimis stated.
Kyrimis is a true FDF alum and a great example of preserving Greek Folk Dancing. Surely his group will come out with a suite this coming FDF that is exciting and inspiring. From his careful thought and expertise, and the fellowship of his dancers, you’re sure to enjoy their performances. Akrites is in the Advanced Seniors category at FDF. Look for them in January at FDF in San Francisco. Visit yourfdf.org
Email the author: Giuliana Harris