Syrtos

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Syrtos (Greek: Συρτός, also sirtos; plural syrtoi; sometimes called in English using the Greek accusative forms syrto and sirto; from the Greek: σύρω, syro, "drag [the dance]"), is the collective name of a group of Greek folk dances. Syrtos, along with its relative kalamatianos, are the most popular dances throughout Greece and are frequently danced by the Greek diaspora worldwide. They are very popular in social gatherings, weddings and religious festivals. Syrtos and kalamatianos use the same dance steps, but syrtos is in 4/4 time and the kalamatianos is in 7/8 time, organized in a slow (3 beat), quick (2 beat), quick (2 beat) rhythm.

Syrtos and kalamatianos are line dances and circle dances, done with the dancers in a curving line holding hands, facing right. The dancer at the right end of the line is the leader. He may also be a solo performer, improvising showy twisting skillful moves as the rest of the line does the basic step. While he does this, the next dancer in line stops dancing and holds him up with a twisted handkerchief linking their hands, so he can turn and not fall down, as in the Antikristos. In some parts of syrtos, pairs of dancers hold a handkerchief from its two sides.

History[edit]

Seven women dancing. Ancient Greek bronze, 8th century BCE, Archaeological Museum of Olympia.

Syrtos is mentioned as a Greek traditional dance already in ancient Greece,[1] and the word derives from the Greek verb "σύρω" (surō), "to draw, to drag".[2] A relevant ancient Greek dance may be the "Ormos", literally "a string".[3] Kalamatianos, syrto-kalamatianos, syrtos Kefalonias, syrtos Makedonias, geragotikos syrtos, Cretan syrtos, syrtos Ikarias, syrtos koftos, Azizies syrto, syrtos Rodou etc. are some of the most popular syrtos dances. Syrtos is one of the most liked folk dances and music in Cyprus, too. The word syrtos also, has been borrowed as sirto for some dances from the Pirin region in Bulgaria. It is easy to also observe the syrtos used in Turkish music, like syrtos Ikoniou,[citation needed] because Ottoman sultans enjoyed this Greek music form and composed songs in that form.[citation needed]

Regional variation[edit]

Old postcard from Greece depicting Greek Folk Dance Scene from Megara in Attika.

Each region, particularly the islands, have their own version of the dance.[4] The common denominator is a chain of dancers, facing sideways and holding hands, moving to the dancer's right. The dancer at the right end of the line is the leader, who may lead intricate patterns while using a simple basic step. Sometimes the leader is connected to the second in line via a scarf or handkerchief. In other variants all dancers are connected via handkerchiefs.

Rennell Rodd (1892)[5] suggests that the dance is an imitation of the action of drawing in the seine net. It is considered the most ancient form of dance. C. T. Dimaras [6] describes an inscription from the times of Caligula, which implied that already at these times Syrtos was considered an ancient Greek dance of local tradition.

Syrto-kalamatianos[edit]

Kalamatianos syrtos and syrto-kalamatianos are the most popular Greek folkdance syrtoi in Greece, Cyprus and internationally. The steps of the Kalamatianos are the same as those of the Syrtos, but the latter is slower and more stately, its beat being an even 4/4. Traditionally, it was danced by segregated lines of men and women. The lead dancer usually holds the second dancer by a handkerchief.

Nisiotikoi syrtoi - Syrtoi from the Greek islands[edit]

Syrtoi from the islands orelse nisiotikoi, with the relative local Greek culture of the islands.

Nisiotikoi syrtoi include: Kalamatianos, Sousta, Syrtos from Ikaria, Pentozali, Pidikhtos, Rhoditikos, Syrtos from Symi, Skyrianos syrtos, Maleviziotikos, Samiotikos syrtos, Syrtos from Andros, Syrtos Chiotikos, Skopelitikos syrtos, Syrtos from Paros, Syrtos Kithnou, Syrtos Naxou, Zakynthinos syrtos, Syrto Rodou, a dance very widespread in Greek islands and other.

Syrtos Koftos[edit]

Koftos is a Greek dance that is danced in the regions of Thessaly, Epirus and central Greece. The name of the dance comes from the cut in tune/music. It is a faster syrto sta dyo style fun dance. When the music stops the dancers yell "Hey". When the music stops you also can put your arms up, down, or clap. It can also be danced going backwards and forwards or with partners. "Koftos" in Greek means to cut and the music cuts periodically. This is how the name came about.

Cretan syrtos[edit]

Kritikos syrtos means "syrtos from Crete." There are many variations to the dance; every village does it slightly differently. The choreography we use for performances has been developed for a specific piece of Cretan music. The movements of the Cretan Syrtos are calm, sober, and gentle. They constitute the respite before the battle, the resting of the soul, and calming of thoughts. The Syrtos is danced in a manner reminiscent of a religious ceremony that expresses the mystical aspects of life and death, passion and grief of the Cretan spirit.

Syrtos Chaniotikos[edit]

The popular Syrtos Chaniotikos dance is danced to this song from the island of Crete. "The black clothes (of mourning) are as heavy as iron..."A religious dance where the dancer expresses himself with figures mostly on the ground rather than on the air. The region of Kissamos in Chania is considered by musicians and dancers as the source of the dance. We observe at the field researches that syrtos (as well as all Cretan dances) presents many variations from province to province and of course from prefecture to prefecture in Crete, a fact that brings out the richness of the music and dance tradition of Crete, but also the intense local expression of Cretans in all the aspects of their lives. We have recorded this dance at Kastelli of Kissamos in Chania.

Chortarakia (Syrtos Botaitikos)[edit]

A syrtos from Arcadia, it has become a pan-Hellenic dance. The older, two-part syrtos botaitikos from Palaiopyrgos (formerly Bodias) can also be done to this music. This older form of the dance features men and women in two separate lines, the men behind the women. They merge into one line of mixed men and women and then back to the two lines, using the ancient chain hold that can be seen on ancient Greek vase paintings. The song tells of a young man meeting an old man and asking, "Where are the greens of the meadow, the water from the well?"

Politiko syrto[edit]

Politiko syrto is from the area of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in Asia Minor. Constantinople was referred as "the city" (or "poli") because of its importance as a seat of culture and trade in the civilized world. Syrto (from the Greek word "syro" meaning to pull or, more accurately, to lead) is characterized by its slow-quick-quick rhythm within its 4/4 meter. There is also a similar dance, the Silivrianos Syrtos.

Syrto Kefallonias[edit]

This dance is from the island of Kefallonia in the Ionian Sea. Although most of the Greek islands originally were under the control of the Ottoman Turks, Kefallonia was ruled by the Venetians for several centuries. Thus this dance has a springy, almost Italian quality.

Syrtos Dance From Bornova (Bournovalios Syrtos)[edit]

This is danced to a song entitled Ti Tha Yino, Ego Me Sena ("What Shall I Become, I with You?"), the story of an erstwhile courtship:

What am I to do with you Panayiotis? You’ve stolen my heart and youth. For three years now you’ve enslaved me and you’vetormented me, but I’ve got your game now, you liar, and know that you’ve no feelings for me. You come to my neighborhood to chat with me, and you come and go in my house and laugh behind everyone’s back. But you must know that my mother will not be ashamed to tell you that you’re a liar and a scoundrel. You better leave before she sees you, and face it, she’ll kick you out, Panayiotis. Then she’ll marry me off to someone else, and I’ll be freed from you, Panayiotis.

Syrtos Sinkathistos[edit]

Circle pidikhtos dance, with the steps of simple "syrtos" and the squat-steps of "sygkathistos", a syrtos dance widespread in Thessaly and Thrace.

Syrtos Makedonias[edit]

Syrtos of Makedonia, is another one form of syrtos, danced in the region of Makedonia.

Syrtos Pyleas[edit]

This dance is from a village in Macedonia called Pyleas. We call one of the variations "arm aloft," as dancers raise their arms rhythmically over their heads and back down again. The Dance is mainly done by women.[7]

Syrto Bafra[edit]

Also known as Omali, in the Kerasounta/Giresun region, this dance is called syrto, karshilidiko omal, lakhana (after the name of the song, which means cabbage), kerasountaiko or kotsikton kmal, widespread in Asia minor. It is a 9/8 rhythm and bears no resemblance to what we usually call syrto, which is usually either a 7/8 kalamatianos or 8/8 rhythm. In this case, the name most likely refers to the style, what we call dragging dances.

Pomasko Syrtos/Kalamatianos[edit]

This is a dance of the Muslim Pomaks of the Balkans. The first part is identical to the Greek Kalamatianos. Time 7/8, slow quick quick (SQQ), 3 + 2 + 2.

Other Syrtoi[edit]

Syrtos Tsirighetikos: This dance originated in the city of Chania in western Crete and is thus known on Crete as Chaniotikos.

Other Cretan syrtoi include the dances of Kolympari, Selino, Mesogea, Pervolia, Rethymniotikos, Anogeia, Syrto Rodinou, Sytros Thrakis, Prevezianikos Syrtos and Syrtos Mesogitikos.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ συρτός Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  2. ^ σύρω, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  3. ^ ὅρμος, A.3.
  4. ^ Rickey Holden, Mary Vouras (1965) "Greek Folk Dances", p. 84
  5. ^ Rennell Rodd (1892) "The Customs and Lore of Modern Greece", p.88
  6. ^ C. T. Dimaras (1972) "History of Modern Greek Literature", ISBN 0-87395-071-2, p. 7
  7. ^ ALIGIANNIS Vas Greek Folk Dance Handbook 2012 Greek Folk Dancers of NSW 2012 p12

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