Koinonia Seminars: Creating Community & Camaraderie

Community. Togetherness. Fellowship. Dance. Koinonia. All these words yield the visual of a group of people joining in dedication and celebration of time together. This is what Koinonia Seminars intend to promote. Koinonia was founded in 2015, by thirteen individuals from Southern California. The seminars were built upon the “idea of bringing together dancers and directors from parishes across the San Francisco Metropolis to build relationships that bridge beyond our individual churches. Our goal is to develop camaraderie as one united Greek Dance community through instruction, workshops, and fellowship” (as quoted on Koinonia’s official website).

Georgia Garefis and Spiros Vovos teaching Pontian to 90+ dancers, directors, and parents at the Koinonia Seminar in Northridge on May 15, 2016 (Photo Credit: Nick Manolelis).

Koinonia Seminars is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Their thirteen founding members include Tatum Angeles, Sarah Ballas, Nicole Dimtsios, Georgia Giannoulias, Elleni Ioannou, Louis Kades, Vicki Kades, Eleni Manolelis, Nick Manolelis, Kristin Thomas Lee, Joanna Travlos, Maro Tsigarida, and Nikole Zoumberakis. In speaking with Board Member Nick Manolelis, he excitedly, and thoroughly, shared the story of Koinonia, and their vision of keeping the themes of community and dance alive throughout the year.

The inspiration for Koinonia arrived in 2015. A conversation between some of Koinonia’s prospective founding members occurred that led to its inception. As printed in FDF’s 2016 publication of Oli Mazi, they were “Sitting in reflection,” and “…asked themselves, ‘How can we extend the benefits of FDF after we have all returned to our individual parishes? How can we continue to connect the youth and strengthen the community throughout the year?’ Their answer…Koinonia Seminars.”

Members of the Koinonia Leadership Team. (L-R) Nick Manolelis, Elizabeth Goulis, Alexandra Demetriou, Julian Lianos, Chrisoula Georgopoulos, Andreas Papoutsis, Eleni Manolelis (Photo Credit: Nick Manolelis).

Koinonia Seminars have been hosted at various parishes, where attendees are encouraged to attend the Divine Liturgy together. After church, lunch is served, and then begins the workshop. Workshops typically last between two to two and a half hours to recordings of live music. Seminars have been held in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Downey, Pasadena, and Northridge. “In general, the purpose of the symposiums is to give dancers and directors exposure to new regions, new dances, new teaching styles, and new resources,” Nick said.

Group photo from the first ever Koinonia Seminar taught by Bessie Stavropoulos and Vasili Contos in Pasadena on May 3, 2015 (Photo Credit: Nick Manolelis).

Each director instructs on a particular region of Greece. “We have hosted at least 10 workshops since the spring of 2015, tapping into the pool of local directors to teach those seminars,” Nick stated. He continued, “There’s so many great resources with years of experience and knowledge, so many talented directors spread throughout our communities.” To name just a few: Bessie Stavropoulos of Las Vegas, Vasili Contos of Long Beach, Dr. Cassie Nickols of Northridge, Stelios and Stacie Zoumberakis of Long Beach, Danny Staveris of Oakland, and Anna Mavrou of Greece. Attendees have traveled from up and down California (the San Francisco Bay Area, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, San Luis Obispo, Southern California) as well as Las Vegas, NV. Thus, bringing dancers and directors together, as Nick describes, to collectively utilize and share each other’s resources. In turn, providing a special type of camaraderie in these relationships. The organization has found further support in the Greek American community at large by many people coming together to contribute towards the production of the events. They have also implemented a youth leadership committee that helps in assembling their events.

Mr. Koulos (Left) serenaded by the clarino played by Peter Bakalis (Right) as he dances tsamiko, with Christos Vagenas (Center) at the Koinonia Spring Glendi on April 28, 2018 (Photo Credit: Nick Manolelis).

When asked about a favorite memory that has been created so far in conducting the Koinonia events, Nick reflectively paused, before providing his response. He started, “Each glendi and workshop has been unique, but the best part about hosting these events is that every time we have a great turnout, it reinforces that there is a desire and a demand. It is inspiring to see that our youth really love to dance.” Nick describes, “Whether that is a Sunday workshop, a Koinonia forum on how to become a better director, or an all ages night event with live music; where dancers can come with their friends and families, and even hold up papoudes during a tsamiko. They have a smile on their face the entire time.”

In closing, Nick said, “having the opportunity to groom and mentor the next generation of leaders in our communities, who are eager to help coordinate and organize our events is a real honor.” Koinonia hopes that with their community engagement, exciting educational opportunities, and being a place for developing relationships, that they can continue to serve as a great resource during the year. Koinonia’s next Glendi featuring Diesi# is May 4, 2019 in Los Angeles, CA and they will be releasing a schedule of spring workshops.


For more information on Koinonia Seminars, visit their official website www.koinoniaseminars.com To follow on Instagram: @koinoniaseminars Facebook: Koinonia Seminar or Koinonia Seminars Live for live video streaming. To contact: letsdance@koinoniaseminars.com


Email the author: Giuliana

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