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by Andrew G. Saffas

The sculptor reflects on the origins of his art and on the vitality of dance, and remembers his parents.

My parents' wedding was a traditional, large Greek wedding with lots of good food and Greek dancing. Through the years, we celebrated holidays, weddings, baptisms and picnics with family and friends, feasting and dancing. My father was a beautiful dancer, and he taught me to dance zeibekiko when I was a young boy.

When I was four years old, I, along with my parents, George and Anastasia, and my little sister, Mary, sailed to Patras, Greece on the oceanliner, The Lord Byron. We departed from New York in the spring of 1926 and returned in December.

I had a habit of wandering off by myself; I had disappeared twice since the start of our trip. Once I got off the train in Chicago to look at the engine, and the conductor had to stop the train to pick me up. Another time, during a fierce storm, I was found hiding under some protective cover on the deck of the ship.

One night, aboard ship, I was missing, and my parents were frantically looking for me. After a lengthy search, with the help of the crew, they located me on the upper deck of the ship, on the dance floor in first class. I wasn't watching the people dance ~ I was the main attraction. The band was playing American music and I was in the middle of the floor dancing a zeibekiko while they played.

A large circle of delighted passengers were applauding and tossing money to me as I executed all the moves and bends I had learned from my father. I snapped my fingers, slapped my leg, and went down on my knees into a backbend, touching the floor with my head, relishing the attention I was getting. My performance came to an abrupt end as I heard my dad exclaim, "There he is," while a crew member led me off the floor to the applause of the passengers.

My sister, Mary, was a beautiful dancer who taught me to jitterbug and increased my repertoire of Greek dances. I enjoyed dancing with her at Greek Balls, weddings and parties. I met my wife, Nikie Andronico, at a Greek Ball in San Francisco. In 1950 we had a large, traditional Greek wedding with feasting and dancing at the Alameda Hotel in Alameda.

Greek dancing has been an important part of our life. We continued to dance Greek at balls, weddings, baptisms, picnics, and at all of our parties. For some years I performed with the Greek Dance group Nikie co-founded, and which I later directed. It was a thrill to dress in the genuine native dress of various regions of Greece, and with Nikie, perform dances and songs from those regions.

Most of our lasting friendships have been based on an appreciation of art and dancing. A special memory is traveling in Greece with my son, George, and dancing Greek together. We still enjoy dancing Greek with our children and grandchildren.


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