VARI HASAPIKO or ARGO HASAPIKO or HASAPIKO (Hah-SAH-pee-koh) See also under Living Dances Hasapiko and Hasaposerviko, and under 2nd Generation Dances Syrtaki. They’re 3 different but related dances, – some Greeks call the same dance by different names. The main difference is speed, and what I call Vari Hasapiko is the slowest.
If I had to do one folk dance for the rest of my life, this would probably be it! It is still very much alive in Greece, though mostly as a performance dance, has a huge repertoire of great accompanying music, an interesting basic step that doesn’t get boring easily, has room for individual expression, millions of variations, and a legendary background story.
Vari Hasapiko is the dance of dispossessed Greeks who were shipped out of Turkey in the 1920’s, flooding Greece with largely unwanted refugees. They congregated in urban slums, creating their own subculture, playing musical instruments unfamiliar to Greeks – the Bouzouki & Baglama. Their songs were cynical, talked of sex and drugs. Their dances were for men only – solo, in pairs or trios, but largely improvised on the spot. Bouzouki music was disreputable to proper Greeks until, like Rock & Roll, it was discovered by disaffected youth and outsiders (tourists).
Considered by many to be the best Greek movie ever made, “Rembetiko” tells the story of this era, loosely based on the life of one of its most popular female singers, but beware its not a happy tale! Nobody sings the blues quite like the Greeks, and this movie captures the spirit of Vari Hasapiko like no other.
By the late 1950’s, Bouzouki music had become mainstream, and the dancing could be celebrated in movies like “Never on Sunday”.
As for the dance itself, here’s some examples.
Some contemporary pros. The basic step is a foundation that’s returned to occasionally – otherwise its all improvisation.
Another contemporary, this one by some regular guys. Notice how the guy on our right watches the guy on the left for clues for what’s coming next. The tune is Fragosyriani, one of the iconic hasapiko tunes, composed by Markos Vamvakaris in 1935 (see Hasapiko music, under MUSIC).
Now for some instruction. First step should be on the left to the front. Some people do a basic step of 12 beats (how I teach), some do 14 beats (like the guy below, he just adds 2 beats to the end) and some do 16 beats (add 4 beats to the end).
Here’s a video taken from an old TV show – lots of moves!
Here you get a clear look at lots of variations. Notice this guy’s basic step has 14 counts – a couple added to the end.
Some music: “Hasapiko Politiko” by Giannis Papaioannou, 1953, perhaps the most famous melody today.
For more music, see Hasapiko music under MUSIC