The History of the Cyprus Cultural Folkloric Society “Vasilitzia”

The society was founded in Famagusta in 1967 and as one of the best local groups has been successfully active since then. It participated in various festivals abroad such as in Bulgaria in 1968 and in Germany in 1972, where it was distinguished and won a prize. After the coup and the Turkish invasion, “Vasilitzia” ceased its operations for a short period of time and re-operated in 1977 in Larnaca with other local artists

The society’s aim was and still is to offer a healthy pastime to our youth and to pass on and preserve our cultural inheritance based on tradition. The work carried out by all members and contributors is voluntary. The outcome of the society’s work mirrors its unique and pioneering character for the Cypriot standards. Experts on the issues that the society deals with have praised the quality of the group’s work.

The most important events are the conversion of the group in 1990 to a society and the acquisition of its premises in 1996, a dream that was finally realised and obviously contributed towards its effective operation. The building, which is between Sitika Hanoum and Hamit Bey was renovated; thousands of pounds were spent for this purpose. It is now something special to the members and friends of “Vasilitzia.”

Nowadays, the cultural folkloric society, “Vasilitzia” is widely considered to be among the best groups of cultural dancing and music in Cyprus. The society’s two basic functions are Dancing and Music.

The Music Department consists of the violin, the lute and the tampoutsia. Sometimes the accordion and the toumberlekki are also played; singers also participate. The department presents a complete Cypriot musical repertoire together with creative work based on the Cypriot tradition. New songs and dances have been performed such as the sowing, mowing, gleaning, expatriation as well as songs about war, love, our occupied land and many more.

In 1991, “Vasilitzia’s” first record was launched with the title Vasilitzia mou Perkalli. The music was composed by Adamos Katsantonis and the lyrics were written by Kostas, Antony and Adamos Katsantonis. The record had great success and received favourable criticism. In 1998, a new cd circulated titled Vasilitzia ton Fkioron i Vasilissa. The composer was Adamos Katsantonis and the lyrics were written by Pavlos Liasides, Kyriakos Karneras, Kostas Katsantonis, Antonis N. Katsantonis, and Dimitris Ttakas.

In 2005, a third cd circulated with the title Eimai tziai egio mita sou. The composer was Koullis Theothorou and the lyrics were written by the poets, Pavlos Liasides, Antonis N. Katsantonis, Antonis G. Papa, and Christos Alekou.

There is also a children’s music department, which operates as a source of refinement for new musicians who wish to work on Cypriot music. Many youngsters between the ages of 12-17 play various instruments.

The Department of Dancing consists of around 50 dancers and performs all Cypriot traditional dances as well as its own new creations and versions of folkloric dances, which are always based on tradition like the sowing, gleaning, syrtous and many others. Since its foundation the society has given hundreds of performances in Cyprus and abroad. Some of the performances are: To strafein stes rizes mas, Omorfo mou Varosi, To thitzimin, Oi saratzinoi sto gamo, Aretousa, etc. The society has excelled in its professionalism and has honoured Cyprus with its high quality performances.

“Vasilitzia” participated locally in important events and festivals, in the celebrations of Kataklysmos and in many other festivities earning admiration and encouraging comments. In the celebration of 2004, when Cyprus entered the European Union, “Vasilitzia” celebrated the moments that changed our history with Anna Vissi in Eletherias square, in Nicosia. Many times, it appeared on Cypriot TV channels and on the radio; its work and functions were also mentioned or described in newspapers and magazines. In 1994, the society was rewarded by the municipality of Larnaca for its successful performances both in music and in dancing, and in 1997, received the “Kyriakos Kakoudis” prize, which was initially established by the Tsakilero MARATHON.

Since 1986 the society has visited other countries for European and world festivals where it has received several prizes. Specifically, in 1987, in the Ceget festival in Hungary, “Vasilitzia” was offered the prize “Of Best Performance of Traditional Program” and in 1998 in Nice, France, it received an “Honourable Distinction”. In 1993, in the world festival in P. R. Korea, “Vasilitzia” was also given an “Honourable Distinction” and in 1994, in the festival BRAY – DUNES in France, it was considered to be the “1st group in the Festival”. In 2005, in Lithuania, it received the 2nd prize in solo singing with Maria Lazarou and the 3rd prize for its traditional orchestra.

The group performed four times in France and Rumania and two times in Hungary and  Korea. It also visited countries such as Russia, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Sweden, Belarus, the Ukraine, Greece, Finland, Malta, Bulgaria, Slovakia, England, Mexico, England Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, Italia, Syria, Canada,  etc.

“Vasilitzia” has also children’s dancing groups for the ages of 7-12, and 12-16, which have performed in festivals in Hungary, Rumania, Estonia, France and other countries since the year 2000. In 2001, the children’s group won the “Golden Fish” thus earning the 1st prize among 14 countries and in 2002 won the prize of “Best Quality”.

The society is a member of an international organization C.I.O.F.F.  of UNESCO (International Union of Festival and Traditional Arts) and is a founder member of the same organization in Cyprus. It is also a member of I.O.V. (International Organization of Folkloric Arts), which co-operates with UNESCO as a non-governmental organization (NGO).

Other Activities
School of Dancing
“Vasilitzia” has a dancing school that aims to infuse the love for dancing and tradition in both children and adults by offering low tuition fees in order to please people of all social statuses. The outcome of the school’s years of operation is quite impressive. Let us not forget that today more than 300 people have joined. Nowadays, there is also a branch in Pseudas.

The organization of an International Festival
Since 2002, the society has been organizing the international Folkloric Festival “Vasilitzia” in Cyprus with the participation of groups from abroad. The festival takes place every two years.

Re-approach
“Vasilitzia” has been a pioneer in issues of re-approach with its participation in many bi-communal events in Pergamos, Pyla, Ledra Pallas, Larnaca, Tziaos, Trahona, and etc. It also led the way as the founder of the bi-communal group “Steps for the Peace”.  Hence in 2004, “Vasilitzia” founded the bi-communal group “CYPRUS”, which consists of the group “VASSILITZIA” and the Turkish Cypriot group “TUFAT”; together they have organized many events and activities with a motto, “ONE COUNTRY – ONE CULTURE”

The publication of a magazine
From 2001 to the present day, “Vasilitzia” issues “CULTURAL STEP”; a magazine that circulates every four months. It includes educational and general information and it presents and promotes social and cultural issues of our traditional past and our creative present as well as achievements of our country.

Educational – Entertainment sector
“Vasilitzia” organizes lectures, seminars and debates with various issues of general interest, relating to our culture, society, health, etc. In addition, various entertaining activities (i.e. excursions) are organized for its members. The society’s library is quite significant; it has a variety of books for both reading and research. Moreover, young people are given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with traditional farming tools that the society keeps as part of the Cypriot inheritance. Events are often organized to honour traditional poets and artists. Cultural events are always on the society’s agenda.

The future goals are the continuous creativity based on tradition, the recording of ethics and customs and their presentation on stage, and in general, the promotion of quality performances in Cyprus and abroad with traditional music and dancing.

The Cooperative Credit Society Kato Varosion has been the society’s sponsor for the 15th consecutive year.

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