|Boston's Greek Independence Day parade ended punctually at 4 PM, but that wasn't the end of this year's celebrations. Following the parade, Greek-Americans gathered at the Taxiarchae church in Watertown, MA for a concert benefitting the Sons and Daughters of Alexander the Great, a dance group affiliated with the Pan-Macedonian Association. The concert raised funds to send the young dancers to the organization's international convention, which will be held at a sacred site at the foot of Mt. Olympus.
The convention takes place every four years. Pan-Macedonian chapters from all over the world meet at an ancient site that is designated a year prior to the convention. This year, the convention is meeting at ancient Dion, located near the modern town of Ekaterini. Abandoned in the fifth century A.D. due to earthquakes and other dangers, Dion -- named for the father of the gods, Zeus -- was excavated in 1928. Its impressive ruins include public baths and an amphitheater.
The March 25th concert, which capped a week's worth of commemorative activities, featured the Hellenic and Near Eastern Musical Society Ensemble, a 24-piece orchestra dedicated to the performance of traditional music and classic Greek songs. The orchestra, led by Christos Papoutsy, presented a concert program that included "Bournovalia," "Zinguala","Rezenda," "Ferte Mou Ena Mandolino," and many other favorites. Following the orchestra concert, members of the Sons and Daughters troupe thrilled the audience with a medley of Macedonian dances.
George Papadopoulos, founder and director of the dance group, spoke to Hellenic Communication Service after the event. "I have a passion for dance," he said. "It's our history, it's our culture, and I want everybody to do it right. That's why I've dedicated myself to dance." The group has had over 1100 members in its 26 year history, and has performed in major American cities as well as in Greece. Members range in age from 18 to 35, and include undergraduates, graduate students, and young professionals from the Boston area.
"They come and go," Papadopoulos said. "Usually they stay with the group a few years, until they meet someone and get married. Then they go away, but I'm always here, keeping it alive."
Papadopoulos "has a heart of gold," according to dancer Jennie Giannakopoulos, who joined the group after leaving her native Athens. "It's a way for me to keep dancing," Giannakopoulos said. "We're a tight, family-like group. There are no fights, no backstabbing, no politics going on behind the scenes, nothing but love for what we do."
The Pan-Macedonian convention combines business with cultural events, including music and dancing. Groups from the different parts of the world that have Pan-Macedonian organizations come to the convention to celebrate their shared heritage. Often consisting of younger Greek-Americans, such groups demonstrate how succeeding generations are keeping alive the traditions given to them by their parents and grandparents.