Some of Melbourne’s younger Greek dancers and musicians are excited ahead of the inaugural #folkGRooves, a festival on the last Sunday of this month at St John’s Greek Orthodox College in Preston.

The Cultural Centre of Florinians, also known as Aristotelis, brings together community dance groups of dancers aged 5-17, including one non-Greek, for a day showcasing folk culture ambassadors.

“We have 25 kids in our club alone, and another eight groups are also taking part,” George Kiriakidis of Aristotelis told Neos Kosmos.

The groups participating in this carnival of folk dance include: Periklis Dance Group, Pontiaki Estia, Cypriot Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Hellenic School of Dance Culture, St. Johns College, Pancretan Association of Melbourne and Bendjo Academy of Serbian Dance and Culture.

#folkGRooves is supported by the Victorian Government’s Youthfest Program in September aimed at the young.

Organisers wanted an event shining the spotlight entirely on younger performers.

Keeping our littlies involved and excited about their culture and displays of folk dancing is the main concept behind #folkGRooves. Photo: Florina Aristotelis Dance Group/Supplied

In most events and festivals, see the senior dancer taking centre stage, while the younger members either aren’t given the same opportunity or are asked to perform at less popular times or smaller side-stages,” Kiriakidis said.

“This event is about shining the spotlight directly on these younger dancers, to give them a buzz, and who knows, it might kindle a stronger passion, and that child, or young person, may want to become more actively involved in Greek folk dance.

“In a video that promotes the event, children of all ages share their thoughts on what unites them through Greek dancing, Hellenic culture, and their personal drivers for joining #folkGRooves.”Why are you excited about the festival?” participants are asked.

“Because it celebrates our people” is a young girl’s response. At the same time, a teenage boy says he is looking forward to it because “all different types of dance groups are going to come together and show the different styles from regions of Greece.”

Behind the idea for the youth-based folk dance festival is something deeper, like intergroup learning.

Photo: Florina Aristotelis Dance Group/Supplied

“To create a new air of comradery not only within each group” but across all community associations, Kiriakidis said.

“Unfortunately, in the past, we have seen some division amongst clubs, and although this is mainly due to older members not visiting eye-to-eye, it sadly filters through to the younger club members.

“We are trying to create a better, more unified environment amongst all the clubs.

Creating a sense of belonging and team spirit is critical for motivating young Greek Australians to fully embrace their Hellenic culture. Photo: Florina Aristotelis Dance Group/Supplied

The Festival organisers are also inviting the wider community to enjoy live music and dancing by the younger generation of performers.

“We would love for the young in the audience, to see how much the performers love what they do, and be inspired to sign up and maybe join the clubs performing on the day.

“Kiriakidis said St. Johns Greek Orthodox College and Modern Greek teacher Kristian Raspa “are moving mountains for us in making this event possible.”

Tsakoniko, leventiko, hasaposerviko, zaramo, are some of the answers heard in the video from kids as little as five when asked about their favourite Greek dance. Photo: Florina Aristotelis Dance Group/Supplied

“They truly deserve a huge praise. We hope to make this an annual event.”Weather permitting, #folkGRooves will run as an open-air event, with plans to transfer it to the school’s gymnasium if needed.

The dance festival starts at midday and will feature folk dancing and live music, some of which are also played by the young members.

There will be stalls with information for the various groups involved.

Food and drinks will be available for purchase, and activities for the day include face painting, arts and crafts, competitions, a games corner and raffles.

Entry is free, and all are welcome.

The festival runs on Sunday, 24 September, at St. John’s College in Preston.

For more information head to the Facebook page titled ‘#folkGRooves Festival 2023‘.

The “paniyiri” type festival was created to put young dancers to the forefront. Photo: Florina Aristotelis Dance Group/Supplied