“Over forty years ago an inspired group of young Greek Orthodox men and women, their love for dance, the vision and leadership of their Youth Director and the support of their Bishop gave rise to the Greek Orthodox Youth Folk Dance Festival of the Fourth Archdiocese.” Marilyn Kromydas Yeatts, a director, founder, and member of the original St. Spyridon Aegean Dancers, wrote these words in an updated history of the beginning of FDF. Marilyn wrote this “new” history as part of the 40th festival, which starts today in Anaheim, CA.
It all started in 1976, when a professional Greek folk dance group performed at St. Spyridon’s annual festival. The interest of a few young parishioners was piqued enough to form their own dance group, which became the Aegean Dancers. They researched folk dances, music, and traditional costumes.
“The Aegeans began performing at local events and were soon in search of a forum to meet, exchange ideas and dances, and perform with other young Greek folk dancers,” Yeatts recalls. Peter Preovolos, the new Youth and Junior Parish Council (JPC) Director, recognized their interest and, along with Bishop Meletios, helped them to create what became FDF. Yeatts describes the process of founding FDF: “Together the Director and the young Orthodox group formulated their vision for a gathering of Orthodox youth from throughout their diocese in the western U.S. to participate in a folk dance festival and competition.”
1976 saw the First Annual Diocesan Greek Orthodox Youth Folk Dance Festival, held at St. Spyridon in San Diego. Six dance groups representing parishes from San Diego, Fresno, Marin County, and Las Vegas danced. The festival combined dance competitions, religious ceremonies, and social activities to create what Yeatts calls “a deeply moving and inspirational experience for all involved.” It became clear that FDF was a great way to get people involved in the church and the Greek community. FDF has continued to inspire young Greeks for 40 years.