Four years have passed already since the unforgettable “homecoming” of the Olympic Games to Athens in 2004.
This month, China is hosting the Games of the XXIX Olympiad from August 8 to August 24, to be followed by the 2008 Summer Paralympics from September 6-17, with the participation of 10,500 athletes competing in 302 events in 28 sports. The official logo of the games, titled “Dancing Beijing,” features a stylized calligraphic character which means “capital” in reference to the host city. The official 2008 Olympics website states that this emblem “is filled with Beijing’s hospitality and hopes, and carries the city’s commitment to the world.” Calling upon the world to unite in the Olympic spirit, the motto chosen for the Beijing Games is “One World One Dream”.
Greece, represented by Paros, was one of ten countries from all over the world whose folkdance groups were chosen by the CIOFF (International Council of Organizations
of Folklore Festivals and Folk Art) to participate in the pre-Olympic events which took place between 26 April and 6 May in the town Changshu in China, just 2 hours away from Shanghai, one of the Olympic venues. The Parians who represented Greece belong to the Music Dance Group of Naoussa – 32 members of the group travelled all the way to China in the spring, promoting Greek and Parian culture and symbolically passing on the Olympic Flame to the Chinese.
During their 10 day visit the Naoussa dancers experienced a unique introduction into the rich culture of this country as the Chinese sought to showcase their prosperity, history and culture through these festivals and to prove that they are ready to offer spectacular Summer Games to the world. The members of the dance group saw Chinese opera, traditional choreographies and video footage of some of China’s most important sites. They had the opportunity to visit a few of those sites and the chance to perform in some of the most enormous and beautiful parks in the country.
“The most important moment in the 23 years of existence of the Music Dance Group of Naoussa was representing Greece in the pre-Olympic celebrations”, Lefteris and Ypapandi Roussos, who manage the group, tell us. “The opening ceremony of the Festival of Shangai in the Olympic Stadium was incredible. Hundreds of volunteers, dancers, musicians and actors presented a three-hour long show based on the traditions of China and the other countries that participated. The first appearance of the Greek team was impressive and was received with enthusiasm. The most touching moment of the trip was during the closure of the festival. The Music Dance Group of Naoussa was invited to revive the Olympic flame ritual of ancient Olympia and so Panagiotis Menegos, as the Greek torch bearer, handed the torch over to China.”
The myth depicts a priestess praying before Apollo’s altar and asking for
the Olympic flame to light. This was choreographed with the ancient dance of Paros, the Ageranos, accompanied by the poetry of Panagiotis Skiadas which was chanted by the priestess and the other performers. The theme of the Ageranos refers to the dance Theseus performed around the altar of Apollo in Delos with the youths and virgins he had saved from the Minotaur. The dance revives the myth of the labyrinth and is unique to Paros.
The group’s performances were received so enthusiastically that they were presented with a formal invitation to attend the actual Summer Games. The impressions they left behind are described by their interpreter, Carol, who accompanied them throughout their stay: “Just like the gentle wind and soft sunshine from the sea, the people in this music-dance group have brought us a feeling of complete natural relaxation. When they are dancing on the stage and smiling at you, you can truly see the blue sky, the white clouds and the waves of the sea in their eyes.”
For further information on the Music Dance Group of Naoussa, contact tel 22840-52284, fax: 22840-52246, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or see http://users.otenet.gr/~parofolk/naussagr.htm
For further information on the Beijing Olympics, see the official website of the Games: http://en.beijing2008.cn