Girls and Boys
Posted by Christos on Monday, March 27, 2006

Men and women do not dance in exactly the same way. This is mainly the result of the physical differences between them, but they also approach their dancing in a slightly different way, and have different dance preferences.

In Lesvos, women prefer chain dances like the Syrtos and the Kalamatianos, while men prefer more independent dances, like the Zeibekikos and the Karsilamas, where there is no handhold between the dancers. The Zeibekikos was traditionally regarded as a dance for men, though nowadays it is often danced by women, even in public.

Even when men and women are dancing the same dance together, they do not dance in exactly the same way. Men tend to take the leading role (as they do in western dances like the waltz and tango), and introduce more individual variation and improvisation, while women dance more modestly.

Children playing and learning to dance

Before adolescence, children usually play in separate groups in the school playground, boys with boys, and girls with girls. Boys play boys games, like football and chasing games, while girls play girls games, like hopscotch and skipping. (In the picture, the two boys are dancing separately from the girls' groups.)

For girls especially, dancing is another game. When there are adults dancing at a panegyri or other dancing event in the village, groups of pre-adolescent girls, holding hands, often form their own little circles or chains on the fringes of the adults, dancing. They do not usually allow boys to join in, saying (probably rightly!) that the boys would spoil their dance.

Boys sometimes form their own groups, away from the girls, or play other games.

In this way, without a teacher, children begin to learn to dance. Boys and girls develop different ways of dancing, and have different dances. By observing the groups, one can see how this happens.

Girls learn dancing by repetition, forming habits of movement by dancing over and over again in their little groups. At first their movements are awkward and ungainly, but as they move as one to the rhythm of the music, holding hands, their body movements become more co-ordinated. Those girls who are more familiar with the dance move more confidently, and influence the others. Their feet have little consciousness of steps; they simply follow the movement of their bodies, as they move forwards and backwards, to the right and to the left.

Boys learn in a more experimental way, trying out moves and figures that they have seen adult dancers doing, working out their own ways of doing them.


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