The Lykeion ton Hellenidon (Lyceum Club of Greek Women) was founded in 1911 by Callirrhoe Siganou-Parren, a pioneer of the feminist movement in Greece and the country's first woman journalist. It is a volunteer organization, which, in the 100 years of its existence, has played an active and important role in the preservation and presentation of Greek cultural traditions and folk customs. Not less important has been the Club's social contribution, especially in the domain of adult education for women and the defence of women's rights.
Today it maintains its dynamic presence in Greek society thanks to the voluntary service of its many dedicated members in Athens, in its 50 Branches all over Greece and in its 16 Bureaus abroad. The latter are particularly appreciated by the Greeks of the Diaspora, who see in the Lykeion a living link with the land of their origin and a "treasurer" of their ethnic traditions and cultural heritage.
The Lyceum's spacious and pleasant premises in the centre of Athens and in the suburbs welcome, each year, more than 2,500 children and young people between the ages of 6 and 18, who are given the opportunity to become acquainted with and participate in the national dance tradition as it is preserved in the Greek countryside.
Although it is best known for its activities in the field of Greek folk dancing, the Lykeion also offers other courses combining learning and recreation, such as choral singing, eurhythmics and instruction in the playing of traditional Greek folk instruments.
Ιn its endeavour to preserve and disseminate Greek traditional music, the Lyceum has produced several long-playing records, cassettes and compact disks, which, besides constituting valuable documentary material, have proved to be a very useful aid in the teaching of Greek folk dances. Ιn 1991, the Lyceum Club of Greek Women initiated a series of seminars for teachers of Greek folk dancing, as well as a programme of courses in the conservation of traditional costumes, funded by the Ε.U.; while, in 2003, the Ministry of Education entrusted it with the task of carrying out a pilot project entitled "Greek Folk Dancing in Schools".
Ιn the past decade, a serious effort has been made by the Lykeion to reorganize its Historical Archive and to systematically classify and file the precious documents and other valuable material of which the Archive is composed. The Wardrobe, too, has been systematically reorganized and its rich collection of authentic regional costumes, today comprising more than 2,500 complete ensembles, is housed in its Museum of the History of the Greek Costume inaugurated in 1988.
In August 2004, these precious costumes “dressed” the Olympic Games. On that memorable occasion, the knowledgeable volunteers of the Lykeion helped attire the hundreds of young men and women who had volunteered their services and who were called upon to lend colour to the various events and to award the prizes to the winners.
The material in the Lyceum Club's possession - priceless costumes, folk music, dances, etc - is not intended merely for educational purposes, for use by scholars and specialists or for display in the Museum, but are brought to life in the performances of the Lykeion ton Hellenidon's Folk Dance Group, which, since the early days of the Lykeion's life, has presented programmes οn Greek traditional themes to audiences at home and abroad.
Among the prestigious events in which the Folk Dance Group has taken part are the English Bach Festival (London, Royal Albert Hall, 1972 and Royal Festival Hall, 1979), the festivals of Flanders (1977), Verona (1980) and Susa, Italy (1970, First Prize), the Festival of Gorizia (1972, First Prize), Palma de Mallorca (1989, First International Prize) and Agrigento. Ιn 1992 it gave performances in Cyprus, Madrid and Seville, in 1993 in Βοnn and Sardinia and in 1994 it performed in Odessa and in Sicily as part of the cultural events of Syracuse. Ιn 1996 it danced in the very heart of Europe, in Strasbourg, οn the occasion of the celebration of the 15th anniversary of Greece's joining the European Union. Ιn that same year, the Group travelled to Bulgaria to take part in the annual Meeting of the Sarakatsans, which took place under the auspices of the Greek Embassy in Sofia. In Αpril 1997, the Folk Dance Group participated in the events of the "Greek Cultural Month in Russia" and in October of the same year it gave a performance at the Cairo Opera. Α busy year for the Folk Dance Group was that of 1998, when, in June, it travelled to Georgia to take part in the events organized by the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad, in July to Lisbon to participate in the celebration of Greek Day at the ΕΧΡΟ ‘98 International Fair, and in September to Lyon for the city's prestigious Biennale de la Dance. Α year later, in September 1999 the Group appeared at the Damascus Festival. Ιn 2001 it was invited to Tunisia, to take part in the cultural events organized οn the occasion of the Mediterranean Games, in 2002 it travelled to Istanbul to take part in the events organized by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and in July 2003 it presented a programme of Greek folk dances οn the occasion of Greek Day at the IGA 2003 exposition in Rostock, Germany. In 2004, in the context of the Greek Cultural Olympiad and in collaboration with the Greek Embassy in Japan, the Folk Dance Group gave two performances - one in Tokyo and one in Osaka - that delighted a very appreciative Japanese public and next year it performed in Milano, Italy. In 2006 the Folk Dance Group participated in the “Mawazine-Rythmes du Monde” festival (Rabat, Morocco), in the Beijing International Tourism Expo, BITE 2006 (Beijing, China)-where Greece represented by the Minister of Tourism, was the honoured country- and in the in the International Tourism Exhibition in Egypt. In 2007 the Folk Dance Group performed in the China Shanghai International Arts Festival and to the Greek Cultural Week organized by the Greek Tourism Organization in Makao. In 2008 the “Traditonal Greek Wedding” was presented in the Opera of Hanoi on the occasion of the Greek Republic President’s formal visit in Vietnam. The same year the Folk Dance Group participated in Beijing Chaoyang International Cultural Tourism Festival (China 2008), in the “Festival of EuroMed Nights-Heritage and Arts-An Invitation for Dialogue” in Egypt and it performed in the Ostia ancient theatre in Rome, when Irene Papa had been awarded by the Premio Roma Association. Finally, in 2010, the Folk Dance Group performed in the famous “Cavalcata Sarda” parade in Sassari, Sardinia. Since 1964 it has οn several occasions performed at the Herodes Atticus Theatre as part of the Athens Festival with themes inspired from the greek tradition.
The Lyceum Club of Greek Women has been awarded twice by the Greek Academy and in 2012 it has been certified as a consultative organization of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Administrative Board