Icaria, also spelled Ikaria, is an island in the Aegean sea. It is named after Icarus, the mythological son of Daedalus who built the labyrinth. In an effort to escape King Minos, Icarus’s father made him wings out of feathers and wax in order for Icarus to fly away from Crete. Icarus’s father warned him not to fly too low so that the wings would not get wet from the ocean. He warned him not to fly too high so the sun’s heat wouldn’t melt the wings. Icarus ignored his father’s instructions and advice and he flew too close to the sun, hence, the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea. He failed because of hubris. Legend states that Icaria is the spot where Icarus plunged to his death by drowning in the sea. Now, this beautiful island has a reputation for so much more than it’s mythological roots! My enigmatic and uber cool sister visited Icaria to attend a Greek dance seminar. Her training in this craft contributes to her dedication to a Greek dance program she created for our church’s cultural community. I interviewed her about her experience in Icaria.
Why did you choose to visit Icaria?
— I had never been to Icaria and there was a dance seminar that I was interested in attending. I knew nothing about the island except that it is part of the “blue zone”–the 3-4 places in the world where people live the longest. (Okinawa, Sardinia, Icaria–and now Nicoya, Costa Rica has been added to this list).
How would you describe Icaria’s physical features?
–rugged, mountainous, extremely green. I was used to the Cyclades islands so this was very different. It’s rough around the edges but then you suddenly turn a corner and see breathtaking vistas. You see dilapidated things, torn signs, abandoned junk on the side of the road. The villages are different—houses are isolated from each other and not clustered like other villages. Everyone wants to be on the road. Homes are in lots in the middle of trees instead of close together. The island is located near Turkey, southwest of Samos.
Did you find out why the people are so healthy there? why the longevity? What were the meals like?
–not really but I read about it. It’s called the “blue zone”. The best meals were heavy on vegetables and legumes. At the panigiria (festivals), they served goat; boiled goat, roasted goat, or grilled goat.
Describe the panigiria.
–a panigiri (paneeyeree) is a festival. This one started late but didn’t get going until the wee hours and lasted until 6 or 8 a.m. the next morning. It took so long to get to it because of the mountainous road conditions. It took 35 minutes to travel 5 km. People hitchhiked up there; it’s very safe. People drove motorcycles up to it, too. It was attended by young and old. Even 90 years olds were walking up to the panigiri.
Describe the dances at the panigiri.
–There was a dance where all the people were dancing in the road and when a vehicle came through, the dancers decided when to let the cars through. People lined up on each side of the street because they’ve gone outside of the taverna to dance in the courtyard. The taverna could not accommodate them all. They clapped to the music to see the car through. Then they rejoined hands and formed a circle. The cars honked, waved and some drivers jumped out and danced with us! Most drivers were entertained and joined in on the merriment but a few were disgruntled. (video will be added soon).
Describe the Icariotiko dance. The traditional dance of the island. –
-The Icarioti love their own dance. Children as young as 3 years old know this dance. This one dance can last for 20 minutes according to how long the band wants to play it. The band gages the people to determine the length. There was a real intercommunication between the band and the people.
Describe the people. –Icaria draws poets, writers, artists, musicians and dancers. There were many academians there, a few PhDs in my dance seminar. You don’t travel fast in Icaria; there is no speeding. This might contribute to their “zen” and slow pace of life. (A day in the dance seminar will be featured on a separate post.)