For those who know a few Greek dance steps and those having grown up with the usual syrto, tsamiko, hassapiko dances at weddings and other celebrations, it becomes routine. For Yvonne Hunt, dancing is a way of expressing the deeper meaning of the culture.
When one of Yvonne Hunt’s students greeted her after a dance session, the student asked, ”Why isn’t there a statue of you?” For those who have been under her tutelage Yvonne truly should be enshrined somewhere. She has made Greek dancing and Greek culture an academic priority in her life and the State of Washington, if not much of the world, is richer for it. She is developing an amazing legacy.
Yvonne began dancing at the age of seven and has never stopped. As an elementary school teacher, she enriched her students’ experiences with music and dance. She developed an interest in Balkan dancing in the 1970s and learned that there was Greek dancing at the Greek Village and Tops 24 restaurants (now closed) in Seattle. After visiting both, she was hooked. Seeing a number of Greek sailors from visiting ships performing very unusual dances not known by local Greek musicians and dancers, she knew there was much more to the art and culture. Her interest in the people and the various places from which the dances originated grew.
Her teaching skills combined with the love of dance made her the perfect instructor at the University of Washington Dance Department, University of Washington Experimental College, St. Demetrios and Assumption Churches in Seattle. Yvonne has conducted seminars in Greece,elsewhere throughout Europe, Canada, the United States and privately as well. She travelled to Greece in 1975 and again in 1978. Her third visit in 1979 turned into a 14-year stay. When she returned to the States in 1993, her teaching and research continued. Her book, “Traditional Dance in Greek Culture,” published in 1996, captures the influence of local customs on Greek dance and how it evolved and is still evolving. Since 2001 her interest has focused on the Serres region of eastern Macedonia. Seen here with Yvonne, the costumes from Anthi are vibrant and very unusual. Yvonne’s next book, “Serres is a Nest of Gold” is almost complete. She continues to make biannual trips to Greece to conduct seminars.
Yvonne’s body of work (books, DVDs, photographs, CDs, Videos and the like) will be donated to the Central Public Library of Serres and copies of her research will go to the University of Washington library.
Yvonne’s facility and knowledge in the Greek language, her possessions, her music, if not her entire being is Greek. Being in Yvonne’s home is like being in a Greek museum or a very traditional Greek home. Artifacts, books, textiles, ceramics all speak to the culture. And, even her mannerisms are Greek.By John and Joann Nicon, May 2011
1 Yvonne Hunt
2 Yvonne dancing in Greece
3 Yvonne in Anthi
4 At home
5 At home
Photos 4 and 5 by John Nicon; Photos 1, 2 and 3 from Hunt Collection SOURCES
Video interview by John and Joann Nicon; Northwest and Pacific Notes, Hellenic Journalhttp://hellenicjournal.org/hj/issues/HJ0511.pdf May 2011; Traditional Dance in Greek Culture by Yvonne Hunt, Music Folklore Archive, Center for Asia Minor Studies, Athens, 1996