An ancient tradition that happens annually in a village of the Peloponnese was recreated thousands of miles away in Chicago by descendants of that village that hope to maintain traditions from one generation to the next.
The dance of Ai Giorgi (St. George) takes place every year on the saint’s feast day in the village of Nestani (aka Tsipiana) outside of Tripoli in Arkadia.
Pilgrims begin early in the morning by hiking up to the peak of a rock formation called Goulas that overshadows the village. While atop the peak they gather spring flowers and use them to decorate the top of wooden poles.
Wearing traditional costume and carrying the poles, the pilgrims descend down the mountain, stopping at the Panagia Monastery to pay their respects.
The villagers’ journey finishes in the central square of Nestani, where men and women join arms to form mixed teams and move around in circular fashion. Each team consists of consecutive series of six men occupying the first rows with the women following thereafter.
As the teams move, they sing traditional songs of the day without the accompaniment of musical instruments. Typically a participant with more experience is responsible for coordinating the two groups according to the order in which the songs must be performed.
The songs alternate without a strict sequence and are an important element of the festival.
This tradition — complete with song, dance and traditional costumes — was recreated in Chicago on Saturday, May 4 at the Concorde Banquet Hall.
The venue isn’t exactly an idyllic Greek mountain village, but it facilitated an important effort by the Central Society of Tsipianiton — men’s and women’s chapters — which were established in Chicago in 1925.
See the video below
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