Laografia Hellenic Cultural Conference Brings Kefi and Top Notch Workshops to Montreal
In Conversation with The Founders of Laografia Hellenic Cultural Conference
I’m a big proponent of Greek* dance as an art form and lens through which to study Greek culture but also a means of promoting health. As a communal, tactile, and embodied experience, I like to call it a recipe for joy. It’s also something much needed in these highly individualized, tech-heavy times. It’s a joy to bring people together in any capacity to enjoy Greek dance, and the founders of Laografia Hellenic Cultural Conference, a Hellenic dance conference in Montreal, do just that… and they do it well.
A weekend of incredible workshops, dances, and community, Laografia Hellenic Cultural Conference left our hearts full (and our legs sore). As a U.S. attendee, it was my first time meeting and dancing with any of our Hellenic friends in Canada. The level of Kefi (something DR strives for with our Yia Mas event series) and depth of knowledge from both the workshop instructors and dance performances exceeded expectations. What struck a friend and me most was the warm welcome we received despite being there without an official “group.” Unlike many of the Hellenic dance events in the U.S., Laografia is organized without a direct connection to the churches that unite many diaspora Greeks. Admittedly, this was refreshing (no shade to the church intended…). Delphi Reclaimed had the pleasure of attending Laografia’s 4 workshops and 2 glendis.
Tell us a bit about the greek dancing scene and community in Montreal. It seems incredibly vibrant!
Hellenism in Montreal is a very rich and diverse scene! Within our community, we are very fortunate to have many local associations that are thriving in addition to the local community and independent dance organizations such as our own. For many decades now, each of these cultural associations offers dance programs showcasing their local dance repertoires but also exposing the youth to various other parts of Greece. We are very fortunate as a result of all the organizations’ work because we are exposed to enormous amounts of talent from Greece through their annual dances and other events throughout the year.
…given that Greek dance was a social interaction in communities for centuries, it is only natural that individuals seek that in a lifestyle which has become much more individualistic in modern times.
How do you select each years’ teachers?
The selection of the regions and instructors to be presented each year is a complex down-selection. There are a few key factors that we do look at. One key philosophy we try to respect is to provide balance to the conference by presenting a 50/50 split between mainland Greece and the islands. We understand that many attendees are looking to take the material of the weekend back to their communities and work it with their groups, so having a diverse repertoire is extremely beneficial for that. In selecting specific regions, we try to see what regions are getting traction in Greece in terms of their popularity and making them accessible to dance enthusiasts, and also to try and bring accessibility to material with communities from those regions that live here in North America which may not be so well known (ex. this year having Lakonia and Patmos were an example of this).
One key philosophy we try to respect is to provide balance to the conference by presenting a 50/50 split between mainland Greece and the islands.
Do you think Greek dance is becoming more popular globally?
One would say that the popularity is constantly growing especially due to the rise in accessibility to resources as well as communication among enthusiasts throughout the world. We see people from Asia attending dance conferences in Greece, seminars being organized in various parts of Europe, North and South America, just as small examples of the subject’s reach. Also, given that Greek dance was a social interaction in communities for centuries, it is only natural that individuals seek that in a lifestyle which has become much more individualistic in modern times.
How do Laografia‘s organizers see the event growing in the future?
We can look at growth in two metrics: scale and scope. With regards to growing in size, since Laografia began in 2011, there has been consistent growth in attendance to both the workshops and evening events. Given the steady pace of growth, it has allowed us to continue to cater to the increasing needs of hosting and creating a pleasant experience for all those attending. In regards to scope, there have been various discussions regarding implementing more instrumentation seminars, as well as small group vocal trainings. The difficulty which participants have communicated to us though is that it would be difficult to commit to more days in order to offer this in addition to the format already in place. We will be celebrating 10 years in 2021, so there will definitely be some surprises to be announced after the week-end is over!
Tell us a bit about the inception of the event and how it came to be.
La Troupe Folklorique Grecque Syrtaki was among the first to host a dance conference in Canada beginning in 1992. There were five conferences which took place from 1992 to 2003 under the banner of “LTFGS North American Dance Conference”. For a period of time, the dance conference did not take place but after members of the group visited Greece in 2009 and having dance conference experiences different from those in North America, we sought to restart hosting a conference on a consistent weekend every two years. Amalgamating different models which a) met the needs of our communities here in North America and b) provided unique and enjoyable experiences from a social perspective like what was experienced in Greece, we derived Laografia with 4 dance workshops, 2 social dancing events and the focus on presenting various subject matters pertinent to the realm of our culture through various presentations (costumes, traditional song, teaching methodology, etc.).
If you enjoyed this piece, let us know! We hope to Greek dance with you sometime at our sister event, Yia Mas!