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Melbourne braces up for Momogeri invasion

The ancient Pontian dance-theatre tradition will revive at the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival and at other functions

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09 February 2018

One of the oldest folk theatre and dance traditions will revive in Melbourne, during the 31st Lonsdale Street Greek Festival. The Momogeri troupe of the Pontian club of Agios Dimitrios and Ryaki is flying from Kozani to Melbourne, invited by the Pontiaki Estia.

The small local club accepted the invitation and turned to the regional goverment of Western Macedonia, for funding. Although the district does not fund such activities, the regional Governor, Thodoris Karipidis intervened so that the group would get funding from the Foreign Ministry's Greek Diaspora Secretariat, which offered funding of 8,500 euros. The other costs of the trip are covered by the generous donations of prominent Greek-Australians and community organisations, not least among them the Agioi Anargiri Greek Language Centre, the Pontiaki Estia, the Bank of Sydney and the National Australia Bank. "We are able to send a team of 25-30 people to Melbourne, to present the Momogeri tradition, which is now part of UNESCO's 'Intangible Cultural Heritage' list", said Theodoros Kousalidis, head of the Pontian Club of Agios Dimitrios and Ryaki.

The Momogeri tradition hails back to the ancient cult of Momus, the god of irony (the word "geros" refers to the old connoisseurs of mystical ceremonies, the "priests" of the time). When adopted by the Pontians, the primarily satirical custom gradually lost its pagan references and became a christian tradition, usually performed during the pre Christmas period up until the middle of January and sometimes even till the month of February. Due to the geographical isolation of Pontian Greeks, the custom was a form of acknowledgment of their Greek origins, and also a way to forget the hardships they often endured whilst under Turkish rule. After the Asia Minor catastrophe of 1922 and the exchange of populations, the Greeks of Pontos, who had preserved the custom for centuries brought it to Greece, along with their language, dancing, folk music, and other customs. In its current form, the tradition is believed to be the most ancient custom revived in the Country. A blend of folk theatre and ritual dance, the Momogeri tradition includes a representation of the story of the stolen bride. Apart from the twelve dancers clad in traditional uniforms, the Momogeri troupe include other figures, such as the bear (which symbolises strength), the old woman (a symbol of the past), the bride for the future, the horse for the development, the doctor for health, the soldier for defense, the goat for food a Policeman and the Devil.

The Momogeri will give six performances at various times during the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival weekend. The main performance will be on Saturday 10 February at 8 p.m. and on Sunday 11 February at 2 p.m. (for the other scheduled performances and any information, those interested should head to the Pontiaki Estia stall). On Monday 12 February (8pm), a dance lesson is scheduled to take place at Pontiaki Estia where they will return on Saturday 17 February for a dance performance and on Sunday 18 February for a theatre performance. In between they will also make appearances at events organised by the Greek Community of Moreland and the Pancretan Association.

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