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East County dancer takes steps to embrace heritage

Braden River Middle School student will display her talent at the Glendi Greek Festival.

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  • | 6:30 a.m. February 3, 2016
  • East County
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For Morgan Kirlangitis, learning about her heritage was a moving experience.

It moved her to dance.

The Braden River Middle School student is the granddaughter of The Rev. Frank Kirlangitis, who was the first full-time priest and founder of the annual Glendi Greek Festival at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church in Sarasota.

As the church prepares for the 32nd annual festival, Morgan is practicing her dance steps.

She is a traditional Greek dancer for her church and has been perfecting her style since she was in kindergarten.

“You grow so connected to it,” she said. “You get connected to the church and being Greek.”

Along with 18 other students from the congregation who were taught by instructor Samira Choueiri, she will perform traditional dances at this year’s festival, held Thursday, Feb. 4 through Sunday, Feb. 7.

The Rev. Kirlangitis, who is now retired, has watched the festival grow from a small church gathering to one that attracts thousands of people who come to experience Greek food, culture and tradition. He’s also watched his granddaughter grow to love her heritage.

“She’s part of this so much,” he said. “We’re proud of her continuation.”

Morgan said that most Greek parents strongly encourage their children to stay involved with activities, such as traditional dance, but after sticking with it she realized she loved it.

“I get a lot of joy showing that to people,” she said.

Her interest in dance began when she watched her older sister, Mattea, begin lessons. Morgan always has looked up to her older sister. Once Mattea started dancing, Morgan followed.

Her sister didn’t dance for long, but the passion stuck with Morgan.

“A lot of young people don’t have that love of Greek dancing, but she fell in love with it,” her grandfather said.

There are more than 4,000 versions of traditional Greek dances, with moves and garments varying by region. St. Barbara’s dancers buy their costumes from Greek tailors and have them shipped to the United States.

The festival will highlight Greek foods, drinks, music and crafts.


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