Traditional dances of Cyprus
Traditional dances of Cyprus
Dancing is an ancient tradition close to the heart and soul of the Cypriot people. Accompanied with traditional costumes and instruments traditional dances are performed to mark significant occasions, from weddings to important religious dates. Whilst there are many different types dances in Cyprus each with their own value and importance, we will summarise 5 of the most popular and traditional including: the Kalamatianos, Syrtos, Tatsia, Drepani and O Horos tis Kouzas.
KALAMATIANOS AND SYRTOS The Kalamatianos is a Greek folklore dance that is performed all throughout Cyprus and Greece. The Kalamatianos is native to the Peloponnese in Greece. This dance has common origins with the Syrtos, a dance also emerging from the Peloponnese. The Kalamatianos is danced in a circle or chain whereby the dancers hold hands and dance in a counter-clockwise rotation. It is a joyous and festive dance performed everywhere from festivals, traditional taverns and events like weddings. The dance consists of 10 steps counter-clockwise (forward) followed by 2 steps clockwise (backwards). Depending on the occasion and how well the dancers are able to perform, certain steps may be taken as “tricks” like jumps or squats. The lead dancer usually holds the second dancer by a handkerchief, allowing him or her to perform more elaborate steps and acrobatics. The steps of the Kalamatianos are the same as those of the Syrtos but the latter has a slower beat. The word Syrtos originates from the Greek word “σύρω” which means “to drag.” This is not only a dance but also a type of folk music which was acknowledged by experts as the oldest rhythm in Cyprus. Foundations of the Syrtos folk music has influenced many other folk dances in Cyprus. The Syrtos dance is also performed in Cyprus throughout festivals, traditional taverns and events.
TATSIA Our third dance the Tatsia, is only performed in Cyprus. It is a men’s only dance performed at traditional taverns and festivals. Tatsia is a dance of skill because the performer must balance a glass of wine in a sieve, and spin the sieve in a series of moves whilst dancing. Some performers are able to dance the Tatsia with more than one glass of wine and sometimes can perform with 3 or more glasses. This dance is very impressive to watch as the main aim of the performer is to not spill the wine on the stage or the audience.
DREPANI Similar to the Tatsia is the Drepani. The Drepani is also only performed in Cyprus, a dance of skill and performed by men. The aim of the performer is to dance with a large, hooked sword known as a sickle (scythe). The dancer performs a series of spins sometimes throwing the sickle in the air and catching it safely. Some of the moves with the sickle consist of sweeping motions which is meant to resemble movements of the harvest or the cutting of crops. Many dances in Cyprus portray characteristics of village life such as artisans at work. These moves are interwoven into the choreography both enriching the dance moves and telling a story about the history of past, daily life in Cyprus.
O HOROS TIS KOUZAS The final dance we will discuss is O Horos tis Kouzas or Kouza for short. The Kouza is a female only dance from Cyprus and is performed at festivals and events. The dance of the Kouza is a dance of courtship and is performed with a clay pot. The history of the dance stems from past village life. Cypriots did not have running water in their homes so the women would take a clay pot or jug to the local village fountain to fill with water. Many times, the young men of the village would go near the fountain to court the women. In the traditional Kouza dance, a young man accidently scares a woman that he loves and her jug smashes on the ground. The young woman gets mad so the man tries to apologise with a rose. After a while she forgives him and they dance together.