Saint Anthony Greek Dancers
Kirsti Settas, dance coordinator for the Saint Anthony Greek Dancers, was talking about the full performance schedule her 11-dancer troupe is going to tackle this weekend. Their work is one of the established highlights of the Reno Greek Festival, and she got out her schedule to see how many times they’ll be dancing.
“There are 11 total,” Settas said of the performances, which caused one of her fellow dancers, Nick Schaffer, nearby to wince a little bit, much to the laughter of his fellow dancers. It'll be Schaffer's first time dancing with the group.
“I never counted how many there were before now,” he said.
Still, Schaffer and the other dancers feel confident about their busy weekend showcasing Greek dance to hundreds of festival-goers.
“We start practicing in June,” said Bebis. “When it's down to the last two weeks, the stress and the anxiety can kick in, but we always manage to work together to get the timing right and everything.”
The Saint Anthony Greek Dancers have been together for 20 years, while the festival itself has been around for 32 years. The festival features Greek food and drink, live music and tours of its host church, Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Church.
The seven women and four men in troupe range in age from teens to 30s. There are also three middle-school-age dancers who will join the larger group for several dances during the event.
Bebis has been doing Greek dance for five years, while Settas and Rocha have been dancing for four years each. Bebis and Settas are from Greek heritage and attend the church, while Rocha and Schaffer do not. The latter two were drawn into the dance troupe via friends.
“Last year, I went to the Greek festival in Tahoe [at Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort], and I did one of the dances where everyone joins in, and that was a lot of fun,” Schaffer said. “And then, one of my friends is part of the group here, and he kind of convinced me.”
As it happens, it didn't take much prodding. “I've always wanted to learn some sort of dancing,” Schaffer said. “I'm not very good at it, but this is a chance that I can actually try to learn it. I think I'm getting better.”
The rest of the dancers confirmed Schaffer's progress, including Rocha. She is a Catholic and said she's grown to love being involved with Greek Orthodox tradition.
“Even though it's a different religion, it seems relatable,” Rocha said. “The dancing part of the traditions here are super fun. They don't care if you are Greek or not. You are welcome to dance.”
“Other people learn how to dance one-on-one, but I like how everyone can join in Greek dancing,” Bebis said. “The steps are really simple, and you can learn just by watching them for 15 minutes, and you can get the hang of it as you go along. Greek dancing is so welcoming.”
While Bebis often visits Greece to see her family, Settas said she'd like to go there someday. “I don't really speak Greek, so this is my way being touch with part of my heritage,” she said.
Settas said the group performs two styles of dance—traditional and modern Greek dances like you would see in Greece today. The dancers are also hoping to compete next year in a Greek dance competition in California.