Spoon Dance In The Hippocampus
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While working on this project new questions emerged about the spoon dance in October 2004, concerning its origin, its socio-cultural embedding and the authenticity it is ascribed. I seemed to have reached the limits of the possibilities to research this topic via e-mail and Internet, so I decided to fly to Athens. I spent ten days both in February and in March 2005 in the Greek capital where I was on the look out for further traces.

First trip: Athens, February 2005

10 February 2005
  • Visited the Museum of National History in the former Parliament building in search of traditional costumes of Asia Minor
  • At the Center for Asia Minor Studies, by sheer coincidence, I ran into Markos Dragoumis, a musicologist who I had been writing to since the beginning of my project. Meeting him in person was really encouraging.
  • Dragoumis introduced me to Alkis Raftis, president of the Dora Stratou Theater that is one of the main places that maintains and cultivates traditional Greek dance.

11 February 2005
  • Dora Stratou Theater: spoke with Raftis again, afterwards research in the theater's archives. Raftis proposes that we collaborate on a publication on Karsilmades (pair dances that are mainly done casually standing opposite one another with a simple step pattern).

13 February 2005
  • Visited a friend, Leto Seferiades, a distant relative of Angeliki Hadjimichali (an internationally renowned folklorist, 1895-1965). Seferiades is also a friend with the famous singer Domna Samious. She also does field studies in the musicology of Asia Minor. Seferiades arranges for me to meet the singer at a concert where she is to perform songs of Asia Minor on March 8 and 9, 2005 at Musiki Megaron in Athens.

14 February 2005
  • Spoke with Markos Dragoumis at the Center for Asia Minor Studies about the musicologist Melpo Merlier, the founder of the Center.

15 February 2005
  • Visited the Museum of Greek Popular Instruments where I discover a showcase with spoons that were used as instruments.
  • At the Center of Popular Art and Tradition Municipality of Athens (Angeliki Hadjimichali's former house) I find a showcase with intricately carved Greek wooden spoons from diverse proveniences.
  • Visited the Greek Folk Art Museum
  • I speak with Alkis Raftis about publication plans and re-read travel journals and dissertations on dance.
  • I meet with dance historian Marigoula Kritsioti a dance researcher for the Dora Stratou Theater who also runs a lecture series at the UNESCO International Dance Council in Paris.

18 February 2005
  • Markos Dragumis gives me photocopies of the spoon dance that he received from Mr. Papadopoulos whose ancestors are from Asia Minor.
  • Interview with Mr. Mavropolous, artistic director of the dance company at the Dora Stratou Theater. He shows me a > video in which dancers (one elderly woman and two elderly men) of an organization that preserves Cappadocian traditions do a free interpretation of the Choros ton koutalion (spoon dance).
  • Spoke with Alkis Raftis, who wanted me to meet an orthodox priest from Asia Minor who had taught Dora Stratou Cappadocian dances in the 1950s. However, the priest had passed away some days prior to our conversation.
  • Invitation to meet art collector Yannis Christoforakos and his wife Angeliki. She suggests I meet with Frenzesca Langenfass, the director of the Gymnasium , the German school in Athens. Her ancestors are from Asia Minor, which is why she is active in an organization that deals with the history of her city district, which was founded by refugees.

Second trip: Athens, March 2005

8 March 2005
  • Took pictures of (and bought) diverse wooden spoons in the Plaka, the old city center of Athens. Surprisingly, Domna Samious' concert was more of a show than a concert. Each piece was performed on stage by different people; the dance groups, choruses, diverse singers and solo musicians constantly changed. The performance was in front of a backdrop as large as the stage with a video projection of historical and contemporary film scenes of Asia Minor. Spoons came up repeatedly as instrumental accompaniment to dance, song and instrumental pieces. One particular group was exceptionally inspiring; they performed dances of Asia Minor and the spoon dance in everyday clothing without any particular choreography unlike the performances at the Dora Stratou Theater. > video

9 March 2005
  • At the Center for Asia Minor Studies I photograph historical spoons in their collection of instruments. In the hallway there are photos of Asia Minor and I am particularly interested in one from the 1950s/1960s depicting two men in an embrace, bidding farewell, their facial expressions are moving but still very disciplined. One of the men is Turkish and the other is Greek, they had been friends in school in Cappadocia and saw each other when the Greek man was on a visit to his former home.
  • Visited the Lykion ton Ellinídon (Lyceum Club of Greek Women) and had an intriguing conversation with folklorist Evangelia Antzaka. I really have the feeling I am getting somewhere and have reached a new level of understanding.
  • I go to Domna Samiou's concert a second time and go backstage after the show. Domna invites me to join her and the singers at a tavern. There they sing tatty carnival songs almost the whole time.

10 March 2005
  • At the Museum of the History of the Greek Costume at the Lykion ton Ellinídon , I find slippers from Asia Minor that women wear for dancing.
  • Benaki-Museum: the museum shop sells remakes of a Byzantine bowl with a depiction of a dancer with a spoon-like rhythmic instrument on it.

11 March 2005
  • At the Lykion ton Ellinídon I meet with Lefteris Drandaki, the director of the Lykion 's dance group, and Evangelia Antzaka for an informative talk. Drandaki has copies of a television documentary series from the 1970s/1980s about the dances of refugees from Asia Minor. Once again the authenticity of these dances is problematized. > video
  • Markos Dragoumis shows me ethnographic archive material of singers from Asia Minor.
  • Center of Popular Art and Tradition Municipality of Athens: I inquire about the director of the museum, Stella Konitsioti, in order to find out more about Angeliki Hadjimichali. It is remarkable women have been the ones to strive to preserve the Greek folklore traditions and have founded institutions to do so. Examples include: folklorist Hadjimichali, musicologist Melpo Merlier (who, in the 1930s, recorded songs of refugees from Asia Minor, that provided the basis for the Center for Asia Minor Studies), Dora Stratou (who, in the 1950s, founded a living museum as a theater for Greek folk dance), and the Lykion ton Ellinídon (a school that paid special attention to Greek folk art and also had feminist objectives at the time) was founded by a woman, and Domna Samiou.

13 March 2005
  • Invitation to Marigoula Krisioti's; Naira Kilichian, a dance scholar from Erivan, Armenia, is also invited. It is fascinating to hear about the Armenian version of the spoon dance.
  • It is the last day of carnival in Athens and there are children and adults dressed up in costumes all over the place. The celebrations are excessive and Dionysiac.

15 March 2005
  • Center of Popular Art and Tradition Municipality of Athens: because the director is out, the ladies in the secretariat advise me to see the librarian who copies an entire book about Angeliki Hadjimichaeli for me.
  • Travel to Nea Ionia, formerly a refugee quarter in Athens, where Franzesca Langenfass meets me at the metro station and shows me around her area. She tells a story about almost every building and points out the architecture of the refugee's homes that are mostly one-storey houses where several people live together in a very small space. These houses are frequently torn down and the land is sold at exorbitant rates and high-rises are put in their place. The history of refugees and problems of emigration repeats itself: emigrants, for example from Pakistan, live in those old condemned buildings.

16 March 2005
  • I speak with Alkis Raftis about further details of the publication project and take pictures of the costume workshop at the Dora Stratou Theater.
  • I visit the War Museum to do some research on the war in the Balkans, but the offices are closed.
  • I visit the Historical and Folklore Museum of the Greeks of the Black Sea, which is located in Nea Smirni, outside the center of the city and was built by people who live in what is called Izmir today.

17 March 2005
  • Return to Vienna

Bettina Henkel, Secession 2004

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