I had the opportunity yesterday to go to the Denver Greek Festival. This year, I went as a visitor rather than a dancer/worker. I danced at the festival from the time I was about 11 until my last year of high school so I was very much settled into my routine of dancing about three shows a day and working at one of the food booths (I usually did loukoumades) in between. While they have the college/adult dance group, I decided my organized Greek dancing career was over as of last year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. It was different to go to just watch the performances, hang out with friends and of course, sample the food!
What started out as a gloomy, stormy day warmed up to the typical hot summer day, perfect for the festival. The festival atmosphere is one that I have distinct memories of from year to year; I always associate it with walking up and down the booths, hearing the Greek music blasting from the stage. They are good memories, as I had some of the best times during festival.
Read this article about the festival in The Villager
Before the shows started, my sister and I did a little shopping, both at the vendors around the festival and in the community center. They sell all sorts of things such as the coin skirts (which were HUGE when I was in middle school), evil eye memorabilia, hand painted bowls, and lots of sterling silver and gold jewelry. In the past, I have gotten pieces of jewelry from the festival. Two of the sterling rings I usually wear (the Greek key and the unique swirled one) were both past festival purchases. This year, I didn’t find anything that interested me, but my sister bought a dainty evil eye pendant that she had wanted.
Onto the dancing. The first group I ended up watching was what was considered the “day show” for my past dance group, Fotia (“fire” in Greek). They did 3-4 dances from different regions of Greece, with their own significance. I watched, nostalgic, as I did some of those exact same dances in the past! The group was much smaller this year since all the graduating seniors (there were about 15 of us) left the group after last year.
Watch this story that aired this week on Fox 31 about the festival
In between shows, I ran into some of my friends that I have known for practically ever. We have danced and worked together and it was great to see them and spend time with them. It’s always fun to catch up and share stories from school and rehash inside jokes or old memories we shared.
The next show was the Kleftes (“mountain warriors”), the college/adult dance group. Their day show was rather traditional so the audience could get a taste of authentic Greek dancing. Their shows are always so clean and professional with pretty outstanding choreography (the guy who teaches them choreographed Fotia’s night show a few years back). It was nice to support my older college friends with their show, but eagerly anticipating their night show as I heard it was something worth watching.
After that, it was about dinner time and at the festival, it’s hard to choose exactly what to have because there are so many good options. How did I decide what to eat? I usually eliminate the things that we have regularly at home and go for something we usually don’t have. I settled on one of my personal favorites, the lamb sandwich, which is just a piece of pita bread topped with lamb, lettuce, tomato, onions and tzatziki sauce. Being Greek, I’m a huge fan of lamb and can never get enough of it so I very much enjoyed it. For dessert, my sister and I split a cup of rizogalo (rice pudding) and loukoumades. If you have not tried Greek rizogalo, you are missing out because it is fantastic when served chilled and topped with cinnamon. Loukoumades are something I have to partake in every year no matter what; they are deep-fried dough balls rolled in honey and topped with nuts. They are the ultimate sweet treat (though, the ones they have at the Boulder Greek Festival are better).
By this time, we are absolutely stuffed with Greek goodness. It was almost time for the night shows to start with the Kleftes going first. This show was hyped up for me by my friends in the group, so I was eager to see what they were going to do (I heard something about a mask, so I was super curious). Their show was super modern, from the soundtrack (which I desperately want) to their choreography. It was completely opposite from their day show. They took dances that we had done and revamped them so they were interesting to watched and paired it with modern Greek music, music really upbeat with a techno base. They did little tricks as compared to what we would do in Fotia, but what they did were clean and entertaining. This so-called mask gimick was one of them – one of the dancers (who happens to be one of my friends) painted this mask with the Greek flag and wore it while on top of the shoulders of another dancer. The probably best part was when he did his cross and fell backwards (he was caught, don’t worry). One of my other friends thought it was super weird, but I really liked it. That show was probably my favorite one I watched.
I had some time to kill before Fotia’s taverna show. This one I was the most curious about just because I wanted to see what changed from when I danced it last year. Initially, I planned on watching the Cretean’s night show (which is also always really good) but I ran into some friends from Boulder and college and ended up talking through the entire show! I also got to meet a couple new people who is always really fun. I found out one of them went to IV ten years ago which was pretty cool! The best part about college kids are they are so much easier to get along with than high school kids, mostly because most of the time, you haven’t known each other for practically your entire life.
By this time, it was the taverna show. It was a good show, but super different from when I danced it. We had a lot more zeimbeiko solos and it didn’t seem as rushed. As long as it was each night, I felt like it was at the appropriate pace. We also did a lot more tricks at ours. I always heard complaints about the amount of tricks we did, but it was something the audience always really loved seeing and the dancers loved doing.
The last part of my night was doing some Greek dancing of my own on stage, something I was never able to do in years before. It gave the community a chance to let loose, have fun and just dance. I missed dancing while in college, not having done any since I went to Greece last summer. I got my fulfillment of dancing, so I am good for another year (let’s hope it’s not that long before I dance again!).
It was an amazing time to just go and hang out! It was something I wanted to do this summer and I’m glad I was able to go. If you are reading this and haven’t gone yet, today is the last day! It’s open until 6 tonight, so go “eat, drink and dance like a Greek!”