The Tsakonian dance

From the Tsakonia Archive

Tsakonian dance is a music and dance event, characterized by spiral and snake formations and is an element-symbol of the cultural identity of Tsakoni.

It is a heavy and majestic dance, characterized by the locals as “humble”, “serious”, “strict”, “austere” and “restrained”. It is the dance with which the festivities close, that is, it is the last dance, which is danced by everyone with due magnificence and “sanctity”, creating emotion and awe in everyone. The ostentatious figures and, in general, the dance exaggeration are reprehensible, because they violate the dance codes and its strict, mystical and ritual character.

It is danced by men and women, who are holding hands, very close to each other. The number of dancers can vary, but in each case must be more than fifteen, to show the shapes of the dance. The first dancer leads the group by turning the circular formation into spiral and serpentine formations.

The geographical criterion will give the name “Tsakonikos” to dance, a trend that has a long tradition in terms of dance in Greece. This happened when he stood out from the dance repertoire of the area, detached from the local context and joined the repertoire of “national” dances taught in the country’s Gymnasiums (Cheilari, 2009; 2012). In the past, in Tsakonia as well, the song gave the name to the dance, with the more common being “Kinisan ta…” (from the song “Kinisan ta tsanopoula kai ola tsa tsakonopoula”).

From the rich bibliographic material concerning the Tsakonian dance it appears that most scholars have focused their interest on the ancient Greek origin of dance and its preservation to this day. Tsakonian dance combines several elements that could support the “aura of origin” and the connection with the ancient Greek past. The relevant selection was based on morphological features, which could be compared with corresponding excerpts from literary or other ancient Greek sources.

The “labyrinthine formations” of dance, ie the shapes that dance makes in space, and its ancient Greek peony rhythm of 5/4 and 5/8, in combination with the local language idiom (Tsakonian dialect), were judged by scholars. as sufficient evidence for its characterization as “ancient Greek dance”. The local intellectuals were initially the ones who distinguished the Tsakonian dance, based on its rhythm and formations, detaching it from its place and giving it the glamor of origin from antiquity.

Versions of origin of Tsakonian dance

From time to time various versions of the origin of Tsakonian dance were given. Such as:

a) that the Tskonian dance is the “crane”, the dance that Theseus danced in Delos and represents his entrance and exit from the labyrinth (Sakellariou 1940; Papachristou 1979 (1960); Bikos 1969; Dimas 1980; Roubis 1990; Lyceum 1993; Stratou 1979, Symeonidou- Cheilari 2002)

b) that it is a “locked” wedding dance (Kousiadis 1950-1951)

c) that the dance is “pyrrhic”, a war dance (Sarris 1956; Merikakis 1969)

d) that it is an ancient cult dance in Apollonian rhythm 5/4 and 5/8, ie paean (Moutsopoulos 1957; Tyrovola, 2003), which orchestrates the struggle of Apollo with Python (Karas 1996) or “Sacred cult dance” , according to F. Bekyros & E. Tsagouris (1996: 13), which choreographically represents the movement of the snake (ibid. pp. 17-18). Ch. Petakos additionally considers that the dance initially started as a “charm”, as a mimetic and magical act, which represents and imitates the movements of the snake (Petakos, 2003, p. 14, pp. 54-55)

e) that it is a twin sister dance with the dance of the Caryatids of the ancient Laconic Bay (Houpis 1990).

Shapes of Tsakonian dance

Songs of Tsakonian dance

Today she dances with the songs: “Supa mana pandrepse me…”, “Kinisan ta tsanopoula…”, “Mantas”, “Birbilomata”, “Simeris vgika na haro…”, “Apatza to Marasia…” (i.e. opposite the Fennel). In the past we used to meet other songs, such as: “Your tiles are dripping…”, “Down in the holy orchard…”, “My vine is a broad leaf…”, “Fegki will live to get married…”. According to local informants, the songs that accompanied the much-loved “Tsakonian” dance were sung in the Tsakonian dialect, but over time and the introduction of new songs, they were forgotten.

It should also be noted that the “Tsakonikos” dance was associated with the song “Su ‘pa mana, marry me housewife, take care of me, and in foreign countries do not give it to me, mother, you will regret it…”. Of course, such a thing can not be accidental since the content of this song refers to the exile and the separation of the daughter from the mother and her place (Cheilari 2015). It is a given that the exile had a seal Tsakonia not only in the 19th century, with the transition to a better fortune in America, but historical sources report relocations of Tsakonians to Istanbul even from medieval times.

Symbolic hesitations of Tsakonian dance

Based on the fact that the symbols refer to interpretations, different interpretive versions were given. Focusing on the local context in the unconscious and conscious manifestations of Leonidio’s tradition, it is found that the snake held an important position (Hilari – Zografou 2017). This image is enhanced by the formation of the spiral.

Thus it is speculated that the Tsakonian dance began as a magical-religious ritual, where the faithful praise the god Apollo and make a challenge-invitation of his presence. Over time, it sheds many of its magical elements and transforms into an identity symbol, signifying the continuity of community, common “belonging”, common origin and common destiny.

in conclusion

In conclusion, Tsakonian dance is a living reality in the celebrations and events of the area. It is “our own namo dance” (ie our own dance), a cultural expression that enhances the deep-rooted sense of local identity, making all of us Tsakones proud. It reminds the members of the community of the common heritage, the sense of “belonging to the community”, the common memory and identity. In fact, it is the first dance that was included in 2015 in the National Index of Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Ministry of Culture – – / John Koutogiorgas

Back to the home page “Αφιερώνεται στη Θυρεάτιδα Γή. Dedicated to Thyreatis Land.” 


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