How to island dance

Island Dance

There are two distinct categories in the traditional Greek dance; the springing/leaping dance and the shuffle/dragging dance known as Syrtos. The later is the oldest, and most representative of island dance. Over the years, climatic conditions of the lands and people's social lives have both influenced and developed the characteristics of traditional regional Greek dance. Surrounded by the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, island dances are characterized by the "lightness" of steps while those of the mountainous mainland are heavier and, at times, at a slow-to-fast pace.

Most dances are circle like dances, starting with the right foot and moving counter clockwise. Each dancer is linked by a handkerchief, or by holding hands. In island dances, the circle is usually formed by groups of families, the husband leading the wife, who would be then followed by the eldest son, and the rest of the children. Occasionally, the local priest would lead the way for the first dance, symbolizing a blessing to the family. In olden times, a man would never hold a womans hand but a kerchief unless it was his wife. While in other regions a woman would not be able to dance next to a man that was not part of her family.

Greece has 6 mainland regions, and 3 island regions. The island categories are the Ionian Islands, to the West, the Aegean Islands (Cyclades and Sporades groups) to the east and the Dodecanese islands to the southwest. The largest of all the islands is Crete. Although Cyprus is an independent country, it is however the largest inhabited island by Greeks, and falls within the Greek major cultural regions.
The following descriptions of Greek dances come from the book World of Greek Dance, the Greek Folk Dance Manual and a variety of websites as found in our bibliography.

Aegean Islands
The Aegean Islands can be found between the coasts of Greece and Turkey. Villages of the inhabited islands are clustered with traditional little cubical, whitewashed houses. It is characterized by delightful music that is very lyrical and graceful. As such, the dances exemplify lightness of steps, and the springing in the knees. Most frequently danced are the Ballos, Syrtos, Tata, Savrots, Chiotikos and Ikariotikos. Aegean Dances are joyous and lyrical.

Dodecanese Islands
Dodecanese means twelve islands. These islands were under Italian rule between 1923 till 1944, and then the British rule from 1944 till 1947. After 24 years of being an occupied territory, the islands were finally reunited with Greece in 1948. The islands have been an occupied territory more than once; hence, the inhabitants of this region were influenced in their dances by their conquerors. These islands have remained isolated by distance and therefore relatively unchanged. Most are barren and the people live from the sea. One of the major influences was the Cretans who immigrated, fleeing from the Turks. The music is characterized by a particular plaintiveness. Dances from this region include, Syrtos, Ballos, Issos, Syrtos Radou and Trata.

Ionian Islands
Also known as Eptanisia, meaning the seven islands, were reunited with Greece in 1864. These islands were highly influenced by Italy. The people from Corfu are particularly musical. It is not uncommon to see organized concerts in the main square. The dances are graceful and flirtatious. Cephallonians are noted for their humor, which is portrayed in their dances. Most frequent dances are Ai Yiogis, Ballos, Kerkyraikos, Katoa sto Yialo and Tsirgotikos.

Cyprus is one of the largest Greek islands in the Far East Mediterranean Sea, 60 miles west of Syria and 40 miles south of Turkey. Due to the close proximity of these Arab countries, Cyprus is an island that has been most influenced by Arab music. Hence, their dances are quite distinctive, but still similar to those found on the Aegean Islands.

Here are some of the dances that are more well known and popular throughout the islands of Greece.

Dodecanese Sousta
A family of dances on the Dodecanese islands. The name means "spring," describing the hoppy steps. The rhythm is an even 2/4 (one-two, one-two). Each island has its own version and its own songs, with those of Rhodes and Karpathos perhaps being the best known. The remaining Greek villages in Southern Italy do a version of this dance, perhaps because the Dodecanese were also under Italian control until 1947.
Island (Nisiotiko) Syrtos/Silyvriano Syrtos
The basic dance on the Aegean islands instead of the Kalamatiano. Before the 1922 catastrophe it was also very popular among the Greeks of Constantinople and western Asia Minor (Ionia). It has a lilt different from any of the other Syrtos. Like the related Ballos, it may be danced in either 2/4 or 8/8 time. The alternative name, Silyvriano, is from the most famous song for the dance, which comes from Silyvria, just south of Constantinople on the Sea of Marmara. Several other famous Syrtos songs are named after their places of origin: Politiko. Sometimes the Syrtos is part of other dances; for example, in Mihanikos from Kalymnos, slower music interrupts the Syrtos and the leader dances with a cane, imitating back problems, which are common to the sponge-divers of the island.

Italians occupying the Greek islands named Ballos after a similar dance of their own, but their name originally comes from Greek; the verb "ballizo", which meant "to dance alone" in ancient Greek. The basic "promenade" step is almost identical to the island Syrtos (see above), except that it is done by couples rather than in a circle. Often the island Syrtos is danced first, and then the couples break off from the circle into the Ballos without stopping. Beyond the basic step, the steps are largely improvised by the couples. Ballos may be danced either in 2/4 time or 8/8 time. The dance is known throughout the Greek islands including Cyprus, and before the 1922 catastrophe it was also popular among the Greeks of Constantinople and western Asia Minor (Ionia).

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Kalakeke Pacific Island Dance Co. – Home of Kalakeke Pacific Island Dance Co., Polynesian dance group and entertainment. Located in Santa Clarita and Southern California


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Kalakeke Pacific Island Dance Company was founded by the Farrell family in December 2007. We are dedicated to sharing the Culture and Dance of the Pacific Islands with All in a Family “Ohana/Feti’i” environment that exudes Love, Caring and Fellowship in a manner that is pleasing to God. Kalakeke PIDC has been serving the Santa Clarita Valley for Fifteen years as a Polynesian dance school and entertainment company. We dedicate our time to sharing the Polynesian culture by teaching and performing to the public, as well as offering authentic Polynesian entertainment. Kalakeke organizes and hosts two major events: Te Mana Ori Tahitian Solo Competition and the Santa Clarita Pacific Islander Festival. We perform at regular community events that are local in Santa Clarita and in Southern California.


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Dances of the island of Haiti

The island of Haiti, now occupied by two-thirds (eastern part) of the Dominican Republic and one-third by the Republic of Haiti, has a rather turbulent history that is reflected in the culture of the 21st century. Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola (the Spanish name for the island at the time) in 1492. The Arawak Taino tribes that lived on the island tried to resist the Spanish invasion, but were soon completely subdued.

Dances of the Dominican Republic

The first permanent European settlement in the New World was the Spanish Santo Domingo (1496), which became the capital of the Dominican Republic. Many mines and plantations were built on the island, where slave labor was used. In 1697, the French were given the western third of the island, which had many sugar plantations. The elite on the island still tried to stick to their Spanish ancestry, but most of the population was of African or mixed ancestry. Therefore, in the Dominican Republic, one of the most popular was the Dominican dance Baile de Palo ("dance of the long drums") of African origin, which is based on death rituals in which the spirit of the deceased was escorted to the last journey with the help of dance. nine0003

Haiti retains an abundance of religions that originated in Africa. After the revolution in Haiti (1791-1804) these religions were united under the common name of voodoo. Transcendence in dance, including the trance states that the dancers fell into, was a way to find some kind of outlet and relieve tension in the lives of people who existed in miserable conditions. From the time of slavery to the present day, due to constant poverty and political instability in the country, Haitians have found the meaning of life in dancing, which helped them forget about everyday life. nine0003

Therefore, voodoo dances such as rada, congo, petwo, etc. are most popular in Haiti, as well as folk dances like affranches (“liberation of slaves”) and ceremonial rara dances. The heritage of European dance is preserved in such dances as the Congo minuet and the country dance.

Both countries share one national dance: merengue in Haiti and merengue in the Dominican Republic. This dance originated during the Haitian occupation of the Dominican Republic (1822-44). After the country freed itself from Haitian oppression, Dominican musicians distanced themselves from their Haitian roots by increasing the tempo of the merengue. At the time, like other couple dances with close contact between the dancers, the merengue was stigmatized as an obscene dance and people were punished if they were caught dancing the merengue. Merengue has experienced a resurgence in popularity since the 19From 16 to 1924, during the American occupation, when-Dominicans perceived the merengue as a symbol of pride and national identity.

Haitian dance

Deeply connected to traditional Haitian music, dance in Haiti is literally overflowing with the spirit of community, emotion and history of the island nation. Despite cultural stereotypes (most people in the world believe that dance in Haiti is used only for religious or spiritual rituals), dancing in this country appears in the life of literally every person. nine0003

The beat of the drum resonates with the soul of the people of Haiti and this finds expression through movement. The roots of Haitian dance lie in Africa. With the help of Haitian dance, stories of important events are told, spirits are called, and the dance also promotes communication among people.

Compass dance

This style of dance originated in Haiti and is named after the style of music it is performed to. The dance is performed at a fast pace to the accompaniment of guitars, saxophones and synthesizers. It is somewhat similar to the merengue dance, but is performed at a slower pace. Compass can be danced as a couple or solo, and some people describe it as a Haitian version of salsa. nine0003

Dancing at festivals

The Rara festival is an annual festival celebrated on the first day of Lent and Easter. Rara is unique in that it combines traditional music with cultural Haitian dances, and sometimes these dances are intertwined with expressions of political protest. The festival usually closes with a performance by the lead dancer who performs a traditional dance, as well as fireworks.

Haitian dances of African origin

When Africans were brought to the Caribbean island of Haiti as slaves, they brought their rituals and cultural traditions with them. Songs and dances from different parts of Africa, from different African cultures and ethnic groups, crossed in Haiti and merged together, creating a new, Haitian art. Some of the old traditions, songs and dances come mainly from the Congo and Dahomey, but they evolved over time and mixed with elements of the Haitian native Indian (Arawakan) traditions, as well as the customs of the French who occupied Haiti. nine0003

As in the neighboring island of Cuba, Africans, who started a new life in a new land and with new rules, tried to maintain their beliefs, customs, and sacred and social art forms under total oppression. Important religious traditions related to dance and music have been passed down from generation to generation and continue to this day. The gods and goddesses, known in the voodoo religion as Loa, are often performed by dancers, especially during religious ceremonies. nine0003

Afro-Haitian dance has greatly influenced the contemporary dance world, in large part due to the research of Katherine Dunham. Dunham was fascinated by Haiti in 1930 when she traveled there as a dancer and anthropologist to study the country's culture, history and dance. Dunham, in turn, won the hearts of Haitians by beginning to perform the indigenous dances of this country.

The "folklorization" of Haitian dance has made both the religious and social dances of Haiti known throughout the world. nine0067 French court dances such as the quadrille became social dances in Haiti, here they were complemented by movements of the torso, pelvis and legs, as well as rhythmic African melodies.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Dance of the Congo became popular, which perfectly shows the combination of French and African influences on the Caribbean island. The dance was named after a people in West Africa and is usually dressed in red and white, which are considered the national colors of the Congo. The actual meaning of this dance has been lost, but it is believed that in the Congo it was originally a ritual dance, which was then transformed into a social one. nine0003

Religious dances and traditions of Haiti

The passionate history of the people of Haiti cannot be told without mentioning the Haitian voodoo dance. Often people ask the question: what is actually like a Haitian dance. To get an answer to this question, you first need to familiarize yourself with the West African forms of dance, accompanied by djembe drums. Without an understanding of this art form, the history of Haitian dance would be incomplete.

Haitian dance is unique because of the fusion of diverse African styles and cultural traditions. Many different African ethnic groups crossed over on the island of Hispaniol (now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic) when they were brought as slaves by the French centuries ago.

Ancient traditions, songs and dances (which originated mainly from the Congo and Dahomey) developed and mixed with the culture of the "Arawak" (the indigenous Indian population of Haiti) and French culture. As a result, a completely new dance was formed, which became the embodiment of the culture of Haiti. The creation of the voodoo religion is also one of the most important factors that influenced Haitian dance culture. Dance rituals originated as an attempt to preserve sacred and social art forms, customs and beliefs in the face of oppression and exploitation. nine0003

Praises and offerings to the gods and goddesses (L'wa), which are part of the Haitian voodoo belief, have become dance moves. Haitian dance, which is to some extent similar to theatrical performances, is very multifaceted. But its main feature is emotions. Experts say that Haitian dance is full of opposites: it can be aggressive and dynamic, or it can be graceful and slow. Even among the French aristocrats to whom Haiti once belonged, dances arose in which the typical Haitian energetic movements of the torso, pelvis and legs, as well as African rhythms, are clearly visible. nine0003

In all this variety of dance there is always a drum as an accompaniment. Its hypnotic rhythm literally plunges the dancers into a trance and leads them along. Each movement of the dance necessarily follows the rhythm of the drums. According to the indigenous people of Haiti, you can learn a real dance only when a person allows his body to relax and follow the rhythm of the drum. Every dance in Haiti is made up of specific movements that are rooted in centuries of ritual and cultural traditions. Tourists who decide to try what Haiti dances are claim that the incredible variety of dance movements makes it easier to release the emotions of the dancers, and also, like the dances of Goa, clears the mind. nine0003

The Yanwaloo dance, commonly associated with Haitian voodoo, actually originated in Benin, West Africa. In Haiti, yanwala is performed in a group like a prayer. The gods are invoked with this dance, and the dancers often lose consciousness and enter a trance state during the Janwal. The dance moves often involve wild swaying from side to side.

Source Wikipedia and


National dances and culture of Bali island in Indonesia

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Touring Bali is not only about incredible surfing experiences, fabulous sunsets and ancient temples. We want you to plunge into the culture of the Balinese, learn about their traditions and customs. One of the most important aspects of the life of local residents is dance.

For the Balinese, this is not just fun and enjoyment. Their dances go back centuries. Children are taught the right movements from an early age, dances are always performed in elegant traditional costumes to the accompaniment of folk instruments. Therefore, this spectacle brings vivid emotions to the audience and allows a deeper understanding of the culture of the island. nine0003

In the old days dances in Bali were only available to the rich, they used them in religious ceremonies. Now the dance has become more accessible, but a serious attitude towards it has been preserved. There are several basic dances. Legong is considered the most famous - it is performed by young girls, thus expressing their beauty, grace and purity. At the same time, they dress in dresses embroidered with gold patterns made of brocade or silk. The ensemble of folk instruments gamelan accompanies the dancers. This mesmerizing action can be seen in the Royal Palace of Ubud or the Lotus Cafe. nine0003

Another famous dance - the barong - symbolizes the struggle between good and evil in corresponding full-length costumes. It can be seen in the village of Batubulan or the Royal Palace in Ubud. And in the Uluwatu temple, you can enjoy the kechak dance every day: the soundtrack is a choir of several dozen men, making the sounds “chak-chak-kechak” and plunging the dancers into a trance. Kecak is also danced at the Royal Palace of Ubud.

The island's music is also based on traditions and religious customs. It is performed by the gamelan orchestra - the one to which the girls in fabulous outfits dance. It appeared in Java, and then spread to Bali, Sumatra and other islands of the Malay Archipelago. Most gamelan instruments are percussion, but there are also plucked instruments, a flute, sometimes vocals are connected. nine0003

The unearthly sound of the ensemble amazed the navigator Francis Drake, the composer Claude Debussy and the Russian poet Konstantin Balmont, who dedicated a poem to gamelan. They didn't surf, they just visited Java. You are more fortunate: you can combine riding the right waves with cultural enrichment.

Author of the article - Dmitry Vasin

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