JOHN PEPPES, KYKLOS HELLENIC SOCIETY
We caught John Peppes, arguably among the best Greek Dancers in the country, during a break in the activity at the Third Annual Taste of Greece festival at the Nativity Greek Orthodox Church in Plymouth. Still wearing a glow from his bring-down-the-house performance with the Kyklos dancers, John shared a little of his Greek upbringing, and how important a role dancing plays in the festive spirit of the community.
Anyone who has seen ‘Zorba The Greek’ may have already guessed this!
Peppes describes dance as a form of storytelling. “Historically, durring the Ottoman occupation few Greeks had formal schooling,” he explains, and dance was a method of telling the history of the village.”
He goes on to point out that Greece is one of the few countries in the world where the folk dances are as alive today as they were in ancient times, expressing both human feelings and everyday life. The Greeks dance at religious festivals, ceremonies, to ensure fertility, and traditionally, to prepare for war and to celebrate victories “They dance at weddings, to overcome depression and to cure physical illness. Almost every dance has a story to tell.”
As a result, dance can be regarded as one of the highest forms of art. Plato agreed with his mentor Socrates that every educated man should know how to dance gracefully by which he meant the manly exercises that kept the body strong and supple and ready to do its duty on the battlefield. We’re sure that Anthony Quinn, as Zorba, would agree.
Peppes was born in Athens, Greece, and came to America at a young age. He was raised in Tarpon Springs, Florida – a community populated largely by individuals of Greek descent, allowing him to be exposed to the Greek culture all throughout his youth. At the age of six, he started dancing with the St. Nicholas church dance group.
Greek dance quickly became a passion for him. By the age of 17 he began teaching and leading efforts on out-of-town performances. In 1983 he traveled with the group to Athens, Greece to attend workshops and perform at the famous Dora Stratou Theater. To this day, he continues his relationship with that organization. He recently returned from performing in Athens and is currently working with that organization on a cultural program that will take KYKLOS Hellenic Society to Greece to perform and participate in workshops in the summer of 2008
It is important to him not only to learn the dances and songs of Greece, but also to know that history and the meaning behind the dances so that he could in turn share his knowledge with future generations.