In 2013, families from the Cretan Brotherhood found themselves in Chania for the World Cretan Convention.
We sat with Stelios Theodorakis to reminisce about the Convention’s workshops, performances, and the last-minute preparations.
“So the first thing that comes to mind was practicing for performances in the middle of the street. At that stage we hadn’t practiced full on yet because we had just rocked up to Crete.” Stelio recounts.
“I remember it got so hot that at one stage we had to move to a garage area that was in the shade. [We would have been rehearsing for] at least two hours. It was a scorcher of a day.”
Stelio explains though that even in hot conditions dancing in Crete was a very unique experience.
“It was surreal being in Crete to perform with a group of people that I’d been dancing together with for so long.”
The Convention schedule offered more than just dinner dances and performances though, Stelio explains that Cretan Brotherhood Members also participated in cultural workshops.
“We had a musician Antonis Martsakis there, and he explained [the roles of] musical instruments to us. The Lyra holds the melody, the lute holds the beat and certain things like that.” Says Stelio.
“We also had a guest speaker who was a famous cultural dress maker and they were there describing the costumes and why we wear them. I think it was one of the first times we learnt the ‘why’ behind dancing and everything that surrounds it.”
Following the lectures participants joined in for an impromptus performance that was also captured on film for Greek TV.
“We had a mini-performance with Antonis Martsakis, local Cretans, the Pancretans and I’m pretty sure a select few of the Cretans from America as well – as not all of them were in Crete yet. That was fun to actually be with Martsakis at the time and had a bit of a fanboy moment back then.” Stelio says with a laugh.
The Cretan Brotherhood’s first performance for the Convention took place on a beautiful Cretan night in front of an overly excited crowd of dignitaries.
“The first performance was outdoors with the Mayor of Chania. I remember at one stage he was so excited he got up and started dancing at the front of the line.” Stelio recalls.
The audience participation wasn’t the only challenge in the performance though Stelio explains.
“One of the parents did my belt and I remember laughing and telling her it was so tight I couldn’t breath. At the time I played it off saying I’d get over it… but then during the actual performance, I went out to do a solo and had to hold my breath because I just felt so still everywhere. The next thing you know I couldn’t breathe and was feeling very nauseous.
“I had to play it very cool, as soon as we stopped you can see me in one of the videos walk off to the side just for a breather.”
Other dancers who performed on the night confirm the tightness of the belts. Fortunately the costumes were better prepared for the club’s second performance on a night that featured dance groups from around the world.
“I remember [seeing the other performances] and being just like ‘wow’, they were all much older dancers then us at the time.”
“I remember Denise having a talk to all the dancers before our performance, telling us to give it our all and to go out there and just have fun with it because for the time we were in Chania performing as Australians, as Greek Australians, doing what we love. It was a really good speech.”
The performance was warmly received by the Cretan locals and fondly remembered by Stelio.
“I was very proud to be a part of something like that. Because it’s something that you go back to your roots to do, and for people that are in Crete and they were amazed with our performance.
The Cretan Brotherhood didn’t let Convention stop at the official events though using the opportunity to meet Cretans from across the globe.
“Yes, yes, that was actually fun! I remember I was staying near Agia Marina out near with Zoumi at one of the hotels. So one night we went clubbing with our group and the Americans.”
“The Americans had a booth at Villa Mercedes and they were hospitable enough to welcome us in the booth. We were chatting just getting to know them. They were fun, they were really cool people to meet.”
“We ended up partying with them until 6am, me and James Zoumis ended up walking back to the hotel and at sunrise and we were just laughing in disbelief – like what the hell just happened? We were just with Cretan Americans in Crete!”
The Convention provided some unforgettable memories but some of Stelio’s best experiences were with old friends and the Cretan Brotherhood community.
“It was really cool to explore Chania all together as a group. I remember one activity we did as a club which was a boat cruise that left from the old Chania pier.”
“The boat stopped off at different locations and let people jump off for a swim. Everyone was there, the parents, the kids, that was a really great moment, it made it feel like a big community. Just enjoying Crete together.”
With the Oceania conventions hosted annually and the World Convention hosted every three years Stelio emphasises the importance of making the most of these opportunities.
“I think it would be really good to capitalise on something like that again and get Cretan Clubs around the world to get together again especially in the coming years. It would be good to have something like that that kicks everyone into gear!”
This article is part of a series recounting the stories of Cretan Brotherhood Members.
If you would like to contribute please contact Emmanuel Heretakis on 0433 058 097 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Stelio Theodorakis and Emmanuel Heretakis