Karsilamás, karşılaması (L*) – Greece & Turkiye Update**

*a Living dance is a 1st Generation dance that is still performed in the country of origin (or immigrant communities) as part of a social event like a wedding where others can participate (not for an audience) by people who learned the dance informally (from friends and relatives by observation and imitation, not in a classroom situation). For more information, click here and here.

**See the caption under the Armenia?, Santa Barbara Greek Festival YouTube.

Karsilamás, καρσιλαμάς – Greece

Dancing starts about 0:45. 2013, Thessaloniki? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-tsl2Z9i_E

The word karsilamás (accent on the last syllable) has many meanings, including a dance for two (above) and Greek and Turkish music with a 9/8 rhythm. Greek dance authority Ted Petrides, in his ©1976 book Greek Dances (and How to Do Them) says it “is a dance for couples or two women or even two men facing each other. Karsilamás means face-to-face, and as with most Greek couple dances the pair stand facing each other about three feet apart. There is no handhold. Hands are held loosely about shoulder level. Both begin on the right foot so that one’s movement is always counter-balanced by the other’s. The dancers move side-to-side using the la conga step, and forward and back using the schottische step.”

Here’s a clear demonstration of the basic step. Dancing starts at 0:56. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUzRqHLs7fg&t=9s

The dance is in a 9/8 meter somewhat faster than the zeybekiko. The rhythm is divided 2, 2, 2, 3 or quick, quick, quick, slow. [Domna Samiou‘s website states “The karsilamás is danced face to face. Since it is a traditional, primarily wedding dance, wide-ranging variations may be found in many parts of Greece, the rhythm is always 9/8, which is divided into 3+2+2+2 for slow, “solid” performances, and 2+2+2+3 for a quicker, lighter feel. The slow karsilamás has close affinities with the zeibékiko and recent years have seen both dances in an urban environment adapted to the instruments, songs and audience of rebétika and the Greek popular music.”]

The karsilamás can be quite an energetic and exhilarating dance especially when the music is played quickly, which has given rise to the Greek expression Tha se kano na khorepsis karsilamás, meaning “I’ll make you dance karsilamás” The expression is used in two situations with appropriate differences of implication: “Before you get anything out of me you’ll have to dance to my tune first!” or, “I’ll beat you so hard you’ll dance!” And in slang the word karsilamas is used to designate the pickpocket’s method of knocking against someone and stealing his wallet.”

From the TV show “Musical Journey”, tribute to Thrace, 1976. The clip was filmed in Metaxades. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b18H2–jNYg
From the TV series “The Salt of the Earth”, 2016. At 1:03 notice the woman using spoons as clappers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOBgJ5UNhPU&t=0s
Here are a very detailed instructions for the dance, including, from 1:30-5:40, how to use worry beads, shot glasses, zills, and spoons as clappers. Dance demonstration starts at 11:47.
Another “Salt of the Earth” episode. This time the music speeds up! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AE9N22nnvl0
2010 re-enactment of pre-WW2 karsilamás. Kavala, Greek Macedonia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH5otMm3fWg
2018 re-enactment of 19th century karsilamás by karamanlides in Cappadocia (Anatolia) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eivds_xP0UU
Although some Greek has labeled this YouTube Karsilamas, the rhythm isn’t 9/8 and the footwork isn’t the basic karsilamas step. In this case, karsilamas appears to refer simply to the face-to-face formation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKoMPPaRMTA&t=8s
Karsilamás given the rebetiko sound. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qisi22OdR-E
From Notes on Karsilamás (ANTIKRISTOS MAKEDONIKOS) copyright 2018 by Dick Oakes. The dance varies in execution of style and tempo which often identifies the locale. Within the last half of the past century, the Greek urban communities became more aware of their traditional music than tributes paid to western popular music. Just after World War II, Greek musicians and composers resorted to Greek traditional forms and rhythms and the 9/8 rhythm was evidenced in new and popular sings. Thus the
Karsilamás, which was a village traditional dance, became the rage among urban communities as well, but to new tunes based on the ancient rhythm. Originally the dance in the northern provinces was referred to as “Antikristos,” but because much of the “rebetika” music popular in Smyrna (currently İzmir), the name Karsilamás, from the turkish word “karsilamak” (meaning face to face) remained. The dance now is called both Karsilamás and Antikristos Makedonikos.



Cyprus has a distinctive dance tradition, referred to as either karsilamás or antikristos. This website http://dancemuseum.eu/Gallery/Antikristos.html takes a looong time to load, due to the amazing 3D modelling embedded within it. For those interested in studying a complex dance in precise detail, it’s worth the wait. A brief excerpt is included here – “The name refers to a general dance category, where dancers are placed opposite (karşı in Turkish) to each other. Traditionally, such dances are called “karsilamas”. Men’s dances are powerful and joyful and are characterized by grandiosity and virtuosity. Most popular are antikrystoi or karsilamaes. Antikrystoi are dance suites and are one of the most distinctive dances of the Cypriot dance repertoire. Both male and female versions consist of five sections or movements which take their names as: first, second, third, fourth and balos (μπάλος). The male versions are powerful and allow dancers to demonstrate their skills both in dancing as well as singing. Commonly, they are danced by two men placed provocatively opposite each other, since the dance was a competition between the two in terms of valiance, gallantry, and skills. During the third part, to showcase their singing skills as well, the dancers sing themed couplet songs, known as “tsiattismata”.

Caption “Cypriot men’s Karsilamás”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14g-ZAf3eOw

Karsilamás, καρσιλαμάς or Antikristós, αντικρυστός χορός?

In her ©1996 book Traditional Dance in Greek Culture, Yvonne Hunt writes:

Karsilamás is another oft-used descriptive name for Greek dances. This, in fact is not even a Greek word, but Turkish. One wonders why it is so widely used instead of a Greek word -antikristós or antikrinós- which has precisely the same meaning: face-to-face. Further confusion is engendered when one encounters a karsilamás such as that danced in Flámbouro, Serres, which is a line dance but sometimes danced in couples (i.e. face-to-face). Why then is it known as karsilamás? It should be noted here that this same name is also used to describe the musical rhythm (9/8) in which many, but not all, of these face-to-face dances are performed. Perhaps since the dance in Flambouro uses this rhythm it is designated as karsilamás.

Caption: Ολμαζ Αντικρυστός χορός – Olmaz Antikristós chorós. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRY7Nzdd_FI
Song: From Your Sweet Eyes (Olmaz) sung by Yasemi Saragoúda 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mzeyfjg2_dw
Antikristós, Athens, 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIcOHhwc2xE


Caption: Santa Barbara Greek Festival, 2016 ~ Karsilamas danced Armenian Style!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqL2KEKEgLI Although several sources of information on Karsilamás or Antikristós mention the dance as being performed in Armenia or by Armenians, I could find no sources to confirm the assertion, other than this YouTube. Why do the dancers, who are likely not Armenians themselves, believe they are dancing “Armenian style”. Do they know Armenians who dance this way? Have they seen Armenian videos of this footwork? Was it told to them by Armenian relatives or friends of Armenians? Anyone want to fill me in?

Karşılaması, Turkiye

Karşılama regions within red

Turks consider Karsilamás to have distinct regional variations. I found the following description of Karsilamás in Turkey here – https://www.bazaarturkey.com/tours/folk_dance_lesson.html though it has since been deleted: “Karşılaması means “face-to-face greeting” in the respective languages. It is a couple dance that is still danced in every corner of the once great Ottoman empire, from Persia to Serbia, and in the Macedonia. Today it is a raucous, bordering on the erotic, couple dance between men and women where the dancers face one another. Hands are held in the upright position about eye level, fingers snapped to the beat of the music, hips swaying. The meter is 9/8, and the basic move is danced in four small steps with durations 2,2,2,3 respectively. The style and mood (bouncy, smooth, lively, etc.) vary depending on the region. Rumeli Karşılaması, Trakya Karşılaması, Merzifon Karşılaması, Edirne Karşılaması, Gümülcine Karşılaması, Taraklı Karşılaması, Bilecik Karşılaması, Mastika
Mastika is also the title of a Karşılama in Turkish Roma music; Popular in Turkey.”

I found YouTube examples of Trakya Karşılaması, Bilecik Karşılaması, and, especially Giresun Karşılaması.

Trakya (Thrace) Karşılaması

Caption: “How to dance karşılaması for girls” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wwy6htYLlTk

Bilecik Karşılaması


Giresun Karşılaması,

The Pontic coast of the Black Sea is hilly, fertile, and warm but moist – not your typical Turkish climate, and home of not your typical Turkish Karşılamas. Giresun Karşılaması is fast, vigorous, and very popular among young people. YouTubes are plentiful, including YouTubes by pop singers. Trivia from Wikipedia – “The English word cherry, French cerise, Spanish cereza, Persian گیلاس (gilas) and Turkish kiraz, among countless others, all come from Ancient Greek κερασός “cherry tree”. According to Pliny, the cherry was first exported from Cerasus to Europe in Roman times by Lucullus.[6]

Demonstration starts at 4:43 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXIVXTVLxos
Traditional Giresun Karşılaması, accompanied by the kemenche. 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mfje_FuZ0AU
Dancing starts at 5:20 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpgIjFsEi0s
In heels, no less! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aFgio8Qoc8

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