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The Lesvos Syrtos
Posted by Christos on Saturday, December 03, 2005


Looking through all my videos of people dancing Syrtos in Lesvos over the last ten years, I find it difficult to describe the dance in writing. It is done in so many different ways! What do these different ways have in common?

The Music and the Rhythm

Songs for Syrtos are requested and played time after time at panegyria and dancing events in Lesvos. Some of them are old traditional tunes, many of which have come from Smyrna. But there are also more modern tunes, which have come to the island recently, many of them the island music (Nisiotika) that Parios and Konitopoulos made popular throughout Greece.

The rhythm (2/4) is the same in all of them, with each bar divided into one heavy step and two lighter half-beat steps. But much depends on the way in which the music is are played, in particular the tempo, and the emphasis given to the beats. The first beat is usually heavily emphasised, and this has an effect on the way the dance is done.

The Basic Step

The first step (one full beat) is a heavy step with the right foot, stepping firmly on the whole foot, with the knee slightly bent, and then straightening up so that the body rises. The two half-beat steps are smaller, and sometimes reduced to a single closing step. The left foot closes to the right foot, the toe pressing down for a moment to take the weight of the body, and then letting the weight come back on to the right foot. This pressing movement causes the body to rise again. This up-and-down movement from the knees is a characteristic of dancing from Lesvos.

This pattern of three steps (SLOW-quick-quick) is then repeated with the other foot.

This pattern can be done in many different ways, either as a running step to the right, or as a pausing step on the spot. This may be a cross-over step, with the lighter steps may crossing in front or behind the first strong step. Sometimes the pattern is done forwards and backwards.

All this sounds complicated when described in writing, but it is really a very easy step to do!

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