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Greek-American Folklore Society: an Institution Like No Other!
by Matina Karagiannis
The Greek-American Folklore Society (GAFS) was founded in 1983 by Apostolos “Paul” Ginis as a non-profit organization. Within a few years, GAFS became one of the most respected Greek Folklore organizations in North America. Ginis himself quickly became a recognized authority on Greek folklore and was often invited to teach, lecture and collaborate, not only within the US and Canada, but also in Greece, in such prestigious places as the Lykeion ton Hellenidon (Lyceum of Greek Women), the “Dora Stratou” Theater, the Society for the Dissemination of National Music etc. Perhaps one of his most notable achievements is that he inspired many of his pupils to become actively involved in preserving and teaching our folk arts.
Since his untimely passing in 1997 GAFS has been located in Astoria on Crescent Street and Ditmars Blvd. and directed by his sister Vayia Allagiannis who was a student and performer under her brother’s tutelage.
Ms. Allagiannis is lovingly referred to by all members, young and old as “GAFS Mom” because of her undying love for each student and her commitment to keep Paul’s vision alive through the continuation of GAFS. She has said many times, “as long as I’m breathing I will be dancing our traditional dances and singing our traditional songs”. Her contagious dedication is evident among the young adults that have learned these traditions and look forward to passing them along to the younger generations. On a cold parade day you can hear all GAFS members, young and old dancing on Fifth Avenue and reciting the mantra “what’s a little cold weather? Our ancestors gave their lives for our liberties”.
Generations have danced through the doors of GAFS, children have grown, met and married during practice and now their children are dancing, taking their place in the Paul Ginis legacy.
In addition to participation in Greek and multi-cultural festivals in the tri-state area, GAFS has represented Greek Heritage at the following venues: Ellis Island Medal of Honor Ceremony, Jacobs Javits Center, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Queens College, SUNY Buffalo and Binghamton, NY Public Library, United Nations, NYC Mayors Office, House of Representatives, DC International Friendship Day of the Borough of Brooklyn, Queens Museum, PS 1 and MOMA.
Classes are held on Saturday for children ages 2-16, Tuesday for adult beginners and Wednesday for advanced and performing group.
GAFS is dedicated to the study, preservation and instruction of the history and traditions of Hellenic folk culture. This work is shared with the public through stage re-enactments of traditional Greek customs, songs and dances, as well as through lectures, exhibits and workshops.
For GAFS to grow in the future, support is needed from the community. Your contribution will help this talented group grow and achieve their full potential.
Your tax-deductible donation to The Greek American Folklore Society will help in the following ways:
-support the monthly operation of our Group (rent, utilities, transportation)
-defray the costs of international & domestic performances
-provide access to the private costume collection of the late Paul Ginis
-maintenance and purchase of costumes
-establish and maintain a website
-updated sound system
We hope you will consider making GAFS a continued success with a generous and much appreciated donation. Your faithful support for The Greek American Folklore Society is greatly appreciated as it ensures the continued success of an organization that enriches the lives of its members in more ways than you will ever know. More importantly, these members hold on to and spread the Greek culture and heritage into future generations!
The next upcoming GAFS fundraiser event is a “Vasilopita” scheduled for Saturday, January 30th, 2016, 7:30 pm at the Stathakion Center in Astoria, NY. Come and Celebrate 2016, singing & dancing with GAFS!