Dancing Syrtos in Pairs
Posted by Christos on Saturday, January 07, 2006

Traditionally, the Syrtos in Lesvos was danced Smyrna-style, in pairs - normally two men or two women - and this is still a very popular way of dancing. When there are only two people dancing, they are much freer to choose their ways of dancing, some of which are difficult when dancing in a larger group.

Side-by-Side (Promenade Step)

The dancers, side-by-side with inner hands linked, dance forwards and backwards (usually four bars forward and four bars back, if there is room).


This looks a bit like a Karsilamas, but the music and the steps are Syrtos. The dancers are joined with a single handhold, with or without a handkerchief. They dance in place, stepping to the right and then to the left, often behind or in front of the other foot. The dancers may move round to the right, circling each other. One dancer may turn under the arm of the other.

Maypole Formation

Four dancers hold the corners of a handkerchief or other piece of cloth with their left hands, dancing round it to the right as if they were holding the ribbons of a maypole. They may change hands, and go round the other way, or backwards.

Syrtos or Ballos?
Posted by Christos on Thursday, January 05, 2006

Dance teachers and researchers like to classify and define dances, and give them names - Kalamatianos, Syrtos, Hassapiko, etc. But the concept of dance names is entirely foreign to ordinary villagers, including the best dancers in the village! They may know the name of the song, and even the words, but if you ask them what dance they are doing, they find it difficult to answer. They do not think of a dance in this way. When asked what dance it is, they may give an answer, usually the kind of answer they think the researcher wants, but it will not necessarily be the right answer! When they get up to dance they dont think what dance it is, or even what the steps are: they simply listen to the music and move their bodies. When they are dancing with other people, of course, they are influenced by the way the others are dancing.

Consequently there is little agreement, even among the experts, about what the dances should be called. For example, the Lesvos tune Pighi has been described as a Zeibekiko (Karas), an Aptalikos (Kofteros) and a Karsilamas (local musician). The dance that is called a Karsilamas in Mesotopos is called an Aptalikos in Kalloni.

Local dancers in Lesvos make little distinction between Syrtos and Ballos, switching easily from one to the other. The Syrtos, which in most parts of Greece is danced by a circle or chain of more than five people, is very often danced by only two dancers here. Dance teachers sometimes call it Syrtoballos, or Ballos-type Syrtos. (I am reluctant to refer to the Lesvos dance as a Ballos, because in other islands the Ballos is usually danced by a man and a woman, and has elements of courtship in it that are hardly appropriate when two men are dancing together!)

The music is 2/4 or 4/4 time, and the steps go SLOW-quick-quick. Usually the dancers start linked by one hand (or a handkerchief), and then drop their handhold and dance face-to-face when there is a slight change in rhythm or tempo, or the introduction of an amanes, a plaintive lament either sung or played on the violin or other instrument . In practice, they often switch from Syrtos to Ballos (which they call Amolatos), and perhaps back again, as the mood takes them.


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