The Syrtos in Lesvos 2
Posted by Christos on Sunday, November 27, 2005

There are many ways of dancing Syrtos in Lesvos. Sometimes, indeed, they are treated as different dances, but the rhythm and basic step are the same, and often you will find different groups of dancers in the same place dancing in different ways to the same music. They choose the way they dance according to the music, the number of dancers in the group, and the space available, as well, of course, as personal preference.

The music is in 2/4 time, and one heavy step followed by two lighter half-steps (SLOW-quick-quick). The local style is characterised by an up-and-down movement from the knees.

The way the dance is done depends on the number of dancers in the group, and the way the music is played - the tempo, style and emphasis.

Three or more dancers dancing in a chain or circle: Simple running step

When many dancers are dancing in a chain or circle, there is not much opportunity for individual variation. Often they use a simple running step to the right (stepping SLOW-quick-quick). This is the step that tourists do at Greek Nights. This is also the step taught to children in beginners classes.

It can be varied by moving backwards to the right (turning the body to the left to do so) or by doing a pausing step where the left foot crosses over to the right on the half-steps, and then the right foot crosses over to the left. Sometimes the leader will lead the line into snake-like patterns, doubling back on itself, or lead the line through a gap under the arms of two other dancers in the line. Alternatively, the leader and the dancer next to him may form an arch with their arms, which the the rest of the line will thread through.

If there is room, and the line is not too long, the dancers may introduce a pausing forward and back pattern at high points in the music, sometimes raising their hands as they step forward.

Grapevine Pattern

Dancers in a shorter line or smaller circle will often use what folk dancers call a grapevine pattern. This is where the dancers move slowly to the right, with the left foot going first behind the right foot, and then in front of it.

The Karsilamas in Lesvos
Posted by Christos on Saturday, November 05, 2005

The name Karsilamas comes from the Turkish word for face-to-face, and the Karsilamades are face-to-face dances, usually danced by two people, without a handhold.

The music has nine beats in a bar (9/8), and the speed of the music determines the dance. In the faster (Aidinikos or Jumping) karsilamas, the beats are divided between four steps - quick-quick-quick-SLOW (2+2+2+3=9) - with the dancer giving a little jump on to the last step to emphasise the rhythm.

It is the slower tempo Karsilamas that is most characteristic of Lesvos. Tunes like San ta Marmara tis Polis and Dodekachronon Koritsi are particularly popular.

In the simplest form of the dance, the nine beats of the bar are divided into six steps - three quick one-beat steps, and three slower two-beat steps. This gives the pattern of 1+1+1+2+2+2=9 or 2+2+2+1+1+1=9, depending on the rhythm of the music. For example, To Pigki has a clear quick-quick-quick-SLOW-SLOW-SLOW rhythm, while San ta Marmara tis Polis has a SLOW-SLOW-SLOW-quick-quick-quick rhythm.

You can find a very thorough and detailed exposition of all this in the teaching modules on the University of the Aegean WEBDANCE site. (

But there is much variation in the way the steps themselves are done, and the way in which they are fitted to the music. Different villages have different ways of dancing. Mesotopos is not really very far from Parakila, which is not very far from Aghia Paraskevi, yet their ways of dancing are very different! It is the music, and the rhythm, that are common to all parts of Lesvos, and it is the music and the rhythm that are the key to the dancing.


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