Connecting People, Traditions & Generations

Festival: 8th Annual Greek Orthodox Folk Dance Festival
Theme: Praise the Lord in Tympani and Dance
Host: Annunciation Parish, Sacramento, CA
Hosting Priest: Fr. Demetrius T. Dogias
Executive Director: Steve Denas
Venue: Red Lion Inn
FDF President: James Papangellin
Attendance: 53 Dance Groups (1,250 dancers) from California, Arizona, New Jersey, and Washington. 


Bishop’s Column: “…Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise His name in the dance…”—Psalm 150:2-3

In this inaugural edition of Oli Mazi, His Grace, Bishop Anthony sets forth the vision of the FDF movement as a tool to encourage young people to put forth their best effort, attitude, and spirit so as to ensure themselves the joy and light which comes from God.

Sacramento Youth Host 1984 8th Annual and 1st National Greek Orthodox Youth Folk Dance Festival by Fr. Demetrius T. Dogias

This year’s FDF represents the first time registration has been open to participants outside the diocese. Also performing at the FDF this year is the Aman International Folk Ensemble.

FDF President’s Message by Steve Denas

A reminder that central to the beauty of FDF is that it brings together our heritage and religion in a mutuality that completes both, and in a country that was once foreign to our ancestors.

History of FDF by All Who Made it Happen

The FDF movement began in San Diego with a small group of Greek Orthodox young adults in 1976. Through their vision and diligence, they put together the 1st Greek Orthodox Folk Dance Festival in November of that same year. It was held at St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Parish Hall, with five dance groups competing, three from visiting parishes; Marin County, Fresno, and Las Vegas, NV.

The 2nd FDF was held on January 28, 1978. This time there were 9 participating dance groups, including some from Castro Valley, San Jose, and Tucson, AZ. Due to space limitations at St. Spyridon, the festival rented the larger hall at the Masonic Temple for the occasion.

The 3rd FDF (1979) was held at the Performing Arts Center, El Cajon. It was here that the FDF Council was formed to help formulate and establish policy so as to guide future festivals. It also became apparent that the program ought to come under the direct supervision of the Diocese of San Fransisco.

In February of 1980, the 4th Greek Orthodox Folk Dance Festival was held in San Jose, hosted by St. Nicholas Parish. The official flag of the FDF was first unfurled, crafted by two dancers; Jean Anton and Stella Paderakis. 16 dance groups from 11 parishes, including Detroit, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City participated.

The 5th FDF (1981) returned to San Diego and was hosted at Vacation Village Hotel on Mission Bay. 25 dance groups participated, mostly from California. Dance group flags were introduced for each team, and the dance teams performed as one ensemble for the public. The grand finale was a cast party, held at the Berkeley Ferry Boat.

Fresno was the host city for the 6th annual FDF (1982). Participants stayed at the Hilton Hotel and the competition performances were held at the Fresno Convention Center and the Del Webb Grand Ballroom. The highlight of the festival was the public performance entitled, “A Grecian Folk Dance Fantasy,” which drew together an audience of over 1,500 people (William Saroyan Theater).

Last year (1983), for its 7th year, the festival returned to San Diego’s Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel. 34 dance groups (800 dancers) were in attendance, and 1,200 registrants. Two new awards were introduced: the Music Award, and the Costume Award.

History of the Awards by Trish Demopoulos

This year, the Sweepstakes Award has been introduced to honor total excellence and achievement. This award places a special obligation on the winners to return to the following festival in an honor performance that will in some way bring something new and challenging to the entire festival.

In 1983 three new awards were created:

  • The Costume Award was created to recognize the effort and time taken to research and create authentic dance costumes.
  • The Music Award was created to acknowledge the team showing a special creative touch to their music.
  • The Special Achievement Award. This was first presented to Philenathes of Mesa, AZ for being “a group of truly brave and courageous dancers who came to the festival for the first time never having competed before, who proudly demonstrated their faith in God and their determination, and who brought their love, enthusiasm, and courage to the festival for all to share and observe.”

The Cynthia Anderson Memorial Plaque is presented annually by the Resurrection Parish of Castro Valley in memory of the dancer for whom it is named who was killed in an automobile-train accident in 1982.

At the second FDF (1977), the Spirit Award was introduced. This award is unique in that the receiving team is chosen by their peers to honor their overall excellence in character and attitude both on and off the dance floor. At present this is the longest running award.

The Judges Award was created in response to a group from San Jose who sang as they danced. It was the first time a participating group did not use recorded music. Overwhelmed by the performance and wishing to acknowledge its uniqueness, the judges created this award.

At the first FDF, the Distance Award was introduced to honor the group that had traveled the farthest to get to the festival. At that time, the dance group from Marin County won it. The festival has since outgrown this award.

The Executive Director’s Award given to the hosting parish’s director in acknowledgment of their effort in organizing that year’s FDF.

The Past President’s Award is given to the festival council president who served the previous year.

Honor Role of Hosting Parishes

  • 1976—St. Spyridon, San Diego
  • 1978—St. Spyridon, San Diego
  • 1979—St. Spyridon, San Diego
  • 1980—St. Nicholas, San Jos
  • 1981—St. Spyridon, San Diego
  • 1982—St. George, Fresno
  • 1983—St. Spyridon, San Diego

Olympic Ceremonies

The Folk Dance Festival Council has been invited by the Greek Cultural Attaché of Los Angeles to select 150 FDF dancers to participate—in full costume—in the 1984 Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies.

Oli Mazi Tour to Greece

Over 75 dancers and their chaperons are getting ready to represent the FDF Movement of the San Francisco Diocese in Greece through a number of dance performances. The team leaves the US on July 6, and will return on August 3.

Computer-Age Comes to FDF.

This year the Festival Council in Conjunction with the computer programing staff of Litsa Preovolos and Alpha and Omega Financial Management Consultants, Inc. has written and introduced a scoring program to aid in the processing and calculating of the results submitted by each judge.

Something Special from Sacramento by Steve Denas

The Executive Director reports the process that went into the decision for the theme of the FDF (Psalm 150:2-3), presented to the council in the hope that is may serve as the permanent banner for the FDF, hoisted alongside the FDF Flag from year-to-year at each festival site.

1985 Festival Plans Underway by Stephanie Angeles

The 1985 Greek Orthodox Youth Folk Dance Festival will be hosted by Saint Katherine Parish, Redondo Beach, CA.

St. Nicholas Foundation Board Honors Diocesan FDF Council “With a Challenge”

The St. Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center has grown into a multimillion-dollar complex through the support of every major organization making up the Diocesan Family of Ministries. The Folk Dance Festival Movement has been offered a challenge, which its Executive Council has accepted.

The Foundation Board will make available 10 acres of land for the construction of an amphitheater, a cultural center, and a library for the promotion and perpetuation of all forms of Greek art, including, but not limited to, music, song, dance, drama, and Byzantine Iconography.

Judges Column by Don and Ellie Hiatt

Commenting on what it takes to win the Judges Award, a quote from the judges concerning their decision to issue the award the previous year, “We wish to emphasize excellence in research and faithful presentation of material as actually found in Greece. Cute-clever choreography will never match the majesty of the simplest dance done with ethos.”

And a reassurance that no matter how subjective the process of judging is, the fact is that given the degree of excellence attained by all performers at the festival, and the effort they have placed over the year to get to this place, everyone is a winner from the start. The real competition is in the perseverance in preparation.

1984 Judges | Louise Bilman, Vicki Maheu, John Sofias, Nikos Varvitsiotis, Vilma Matchette, Dickie Shields, Ted Sofias, Steve Reynolds

Also within this edition

  • The Greek Orthodox Youth Folk Dance Festival Constitution and By Laws of the San Francisco Diocese as Amended and Restated March 17, 1983
  • Award Recipients from Past Festivals
  • Memories of Fresno (1982) by Gina Nicalaou
  • Special Tribute to the Unsung Heroes of the Annual FDF
  • Meet Your FDF Council and Advisory Board
  • Agenda: Folk Dance Festival Council Meeting—Thursday, February 23, 1984 (Sacramento Hellenic Center)
  • 1985 Festival Plans Underway
  • Folk Dance Festival 1986

1984 Read the 1984 Oli Mazi