Alright, I admit it, I was supposed to blog last Thursday, but it’s next Tuesday, and this post is just being written. I’m going to chalk that up to being a fickle thespian and living in the moment and always moving forward never looking back, etc. You buy that, right?
Anyway, forgive me pretty quick because I’m about to recount to you one of more wondrous, if not the most wondrous, theatrical performances we have witnessed yet in Greece: classical Greek folk dancing!
Lo, doth I hear a snigger? Perhaps it was the echo of mine own snigger when I found out we were going to a folk dancing concert, but either way, the snigger was and is unfounded, because the folk dancing was pretty impressive and solid entertainment for a Thursday evening.
The male dancers entered first in a long line, with high-stepping knees and raucous whoops. The ladies entered next to the accompaniment of wild cheering from the men, perfectly poised in their classic folk dresses and headgear, with such synchronization in their simple and controlled swaying walk that they looked like reflections in a long line of mirrors. The fringe on the bottom of their skirts even flounced in the same way!
They performed many different kind of dances for us, with really interesting costume changes and chances for individual dancers to shine during spectacular solos. One solo in particular stands out to most of us who enjoyed their performance: that of one man with a gloriously waxed and combed mustache, twisted into two ginger curlicues on either side of his wide, toothy smile. We have, creatively enough, dubbed him the Mustache Man, and he lives as a legend in our hearts. He was featured during the rest of the show, but during the last dance, “the most famous Greek dance” as the announcer informed us, he completely, explicitly, unequivocally stole the show. He was obviously the trump card hidden in the folk dancers back pockets (if their loose, draping, drop-crotch pantaloons had pockets) to save the best for last. Holding on to a handkerchief held steadily at shoulder height by a dancer to his left, he would leap into the air and twist around to slap his side, the inside of one heel and the outside of the other heel before he landed on the ground again. He would also bend, limbo style, balancing on the tips of his toes and held up by the handkerchief alone, to brush the tips of his hat or his mustache on the puffball that decorated his partner’s shoes. He would the swing around in a circle and spin on the tips of his toes to do it again and again and again, lightning fast some times and then painfully, achingly slow the last time. He was a true performer to the last moment, and I would do anything to be more like him. Number one on my list is growing that mustache, I’ll let you know how that works out.
The moments for pair work were very interesting to see, especially because I loved the dynamic between the dancers. The men were always cheering, whooping, singing along to the music and talking to their female partners, while the women always coyly ignored the men’s cheers or flirtatiously played hard to rouse. I pictured these group dances happening between the men and boys and women and girls of the village, either in the town square or in somebody’s barn. Doubtless marriage proposals happened because of a man proving his skill on the dance floor, or a girl her grace and poise. The dynamic between the males and females was actually the most interesting facet of the dancing in my opinion, for the strange way I could see it reflected in modern Athens. We’ve encountered a strange and strikingly prevalent phenomenon of men on motorbikes and scooters catcalling or whistling at females walking on the sidewalk as they whiz past on the street. It bears a striking resemblance to the cheering and calling of the male dancers when the females would dance alone, or when they danced in partners. Perhaps it is the great-grandfather of the scooter-rider’s catcall?
Verbal sexual harassment, dance tradition, an expression of culture or whatever, we had a fabulous time at the Greek folk dancing concert, and those are words I never thought I could ever say.
Yasas from Athens! (That means hi, mom!)