Athan and Chris
By Christina Tasulis
October 23, 2010
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Good evening, everyone. My name is Christina Tasulis and on behalf of my mother, Helen, and the Tasulis family, I'd like to thank Jeanne and the Karras family for allowing me to share my simple story with you today -- the story of how Athan came to live in Los Angeles.
In 1960, my parents were newlyweds. They decided to take a long road trip to Louis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where they had heard a young and talented dancer from Greece was leading a folk dance workshop. As the founder and director of The Hellenic Dancers, the first professional Greek folk dance group in the United States, my father, Chris, was eager to meet with Athan in hopes of expanding his knowledge and repertoire of Greek folk dancing. Little did he know that this initial meeting with Athan in Portland would lead to a lifelong 'brotherly bond' and revolutionize folk dancing in Southern California forevermore.
Mom and Dad made it to Lewis and Clark College in Portland and attended the workshops led by Athan in the school gym. At some point during a break in the schedule, my father approached Athan for a one-on-one conversation. They spoke about the dances, the music, dance steps and variations, and their involvement with dancing in general. Well, one thing led to another and as my mother says, "At one point, they both began leaping and jumping in the air, slap-kicking their feet, with heads held high, comparing their well-executed moves. They looked like two gorgeous peacocks strutting around, showing off their feathers -- the one in competition with the other." For those of you here today who happen to remember my father and the "show-off" that he was, watching him and Athan (no shrinking violet, himself) flutter around the room, must have been an incredible sight to behold!
It was at this point that both Athan and my father realized that they had finally found someone similar to themselves. Not only did they both share an insatiable love and passion for Greek dancing, but both were true showmen who danced with impeccable fervor, flair, style, and grace.
My father knew that his many professional and personal obligations were preventing his ability to devote the attention necessary to direct The Hellenic Dancers. He knew that he needed someone exactly like Athan to step in, co-direct, and eventually take over the directorship of the group. But Athan was set to return to New York after these Portland workshops. Would my Dad be able to convince Athan of someday moving to Los Angeles?
Well, my father came up with a plan . . .
Mom and Dad offered to drive Athan to the Portland airport for his return flight back to New York. They were on the road for quite a while, when all of a sudden, Athan said, "Chris, we should have already been to the airport by now -- I think we're going in the wrong direction!" With a smirk across his face, my Dad said, "We're not going to the airport and you're not going back to New York just yet. You're coming to Los Angeles with Helen and me!"
Athan lived with my parents for several months, getting to know Los Angeles and the Greek community while training with and eventually taking over directorship of The Hellenic Dancers. Throughout that first year, he travelled back and forth between Los Angeles and New York, only to finally settle here, in Los Angeles. The rest, as they say, is history!
Part of this history that followed was not only Dad and Athan's involvement with The Hellenic Dancers, but also a joint collaboration in co-producing the album "Panhellenion." Mom has told me that in preparing the album, the two of them would listen to the songs over and over again and with volume turned up so loudly that she would have to yell at them to turn it down so she "could feed the baby" . . . that was me!
Dad and Athan were driven by the same instincts they both shared: artistic excellence and a sense of perfectionism. The dictionary's meaning of perfectionism is "a personal standard, an attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection and rejects anything less." This sums up who they were -- the ultimate and perfect showmen of Greek folk dance.
Fast forward to recent years. Whenever I would see Athan at any given event, he always enjoyed telling me the story of how my Dad had 'kidnapped' him and brought him to Los Angeles. He always used the word 'kidnapped' with such exuberance and with a smile on his face! Every time he would tell this story, it was like he was reliving that exciting time of his life all over again.
Like I said before, Dad and Athan shared a 'deep and brotherly bond'. At no other time was this friendship more obvious or apparent than 17 years ago when Athan would come to our home to be with my father during the last days of his life. For those last several weeks and on a daily basis, Athan would either call for updates or come to sit by my father's side, fluff his pillow, wipe his forehead, and hold his hand. With this simple story of how we are connected to Athan, it is my utmost desire to "return the favor" as it were and express our gratitude to the friend who sat by my father's side.
Now, Athan and Chris are together once again. I'm sure they've already run into another Hellenic dancer, Nick Varvitsiotis. Can't you just imagine this eternal 'yiorti' -- the most joyous dance celebration the heavens have ever seen!
Eonia I mnimni tous . . . May their memories be eternal!
Used with permission of the author.