Unlike the small American town from the movie Footloose, in ancient Greece, dancing was thought to be created by the gods. It was a skill held sacred and a key part of most religious ceremonies. Today, Greek folk dance is an important element in social activities among this tightly knit cultural community.
Aris Mikelatos, whose parents own the Greek at the Harbor restaurant in Ventura, grew up surrounded by traditional Greek dance, and it eventually rubbed off. A couple of years ago he decided to attempt table dancing, beginning with a child’s highchair and progressing to actual dining tables.
Although somewhat lighter than a regular table, still weighing in at more than 35 pounds some muscle is required to hold it steady between one’s teeth, let alone swing it around.
Mikelatos is not a stranger to neck injury and was once put out of commission for six weeks by the dance. “You’ve got to have a pit bull grip,” he says. “You’re grip gets tighter and tighter,” and the neck stronger over time.
The history of the table dance, is a bit of a mystery, but Mikelatos, who was taught by restaurateur George Alexiades, said his dad explained it to him as something that sort of evolved from party tricks such as stacking drinking glasses on one’s head. As more wine was spilled and the one-upmanship escalated, the table dance was born — an extreme sports prototype of sorts. “I thought it was crazy at first,” says Mikelatos. “I still think it’s a little crazy,” he laughs.
Mikelatos will perform the table dance at the annual Greek Festival, sponsored by the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, along with other men and women who will perform various traditional and regional Greek folk dances. Mommy and Me Greek dance lessons will also be available both days of the event.
In addition to live entertainment and shopping at the Greek Festival, there is the food, which could come close to outshining everything else. Souvlakia, spanakopita, dolmades and baklava are but a few of the delicious dishes in the vast Greek repertoire where the olive is star and feta cheese plays a big supporting role.
Ventura County Greek Festival, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 25-27, 400 Skyway Drive, Camarillo. Admission is $2, free for children younger than 12. For more information, visit www.vcgreekfestival.org.