If you want to see how a supposedly fixed folk dance adapts to changing social mores, look no further than Tsamikos. This Greek dance has been an icon of Greek masculinity. It remains one of the most popular “village” dances in Greece. In typical Greek fashion, the line leader demonstrates his skills, then he yields to another until all who are able (or who are held in esteem) have done their turn. Leader’s moves can be spectacularly acrobatic and/or tests of agility or endurance. Legend has it that the Klephts, (guerilla warriors who liberated the Greeks from Turkish oppression), danced Tsamikos to keep fit, establish pecking order, gear up for battle, let off steam afterwards, and honor the slain.
Here’s an example of the iconic Tsamikos, as performed by the Dora Stratou Dance Theatre, Greece’s national dance troupe.
But how does our average “villager”, middle-aged and not terribly fit, dance Tsamikos?
The Times They Are A’Changin’
Throughout its history, most Greeks lived in villages. Even as late as the 1960’s, the majority of Greeks lived in the country, in a very patriarchal society. The average dance was led by a man, or all the men, followed by all the women. Now only one fifth of Greece’s population live in the country. The men and the young of both sexes have gone to the city, or left Greece, to look for work.
The older women left behind have had to perform tasks formerly reserved for men. TV has shown them city life, where women are more liberated. How does a village of mostly women dance Tsamikos? First – they take the lead! Then what? Well, like the men, it depends on your age. Mature women dance with dignity and restraint.
If you’ve got some energy…
Young, restrained, with feeling
There are now many all-female performing groups who have feminine Tsamiko moves:
(2:50 minute mark)
This group breaks with tradition by having synchronized “lead” moves among all girls. Makes for a good show. I include it because they have interesting moves.
Notice that in all of these examples the basic Tsamiko pattern is 5 measures (10 steps). 5 is definitely the standard in Greece today.
If you have any comments, or would like an expanded list of You Tube examples, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.