About Greek Dance Significance and Costumes

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About Greek Dances...

Greek dances are expressions of historical significance and cultural pride. Mythical and historical events are recounted in some dances. A few examples are the TSAKONIKOS, the labryinthine dance/Dance of Theseus; the HASAPIKO which dates back to the Byzantium when it was danced by sailors and villagers; and the beautiful, waltz-like BALLOS, a dance of courtship. The KALAMATINOS and TSAMIKOS are among the most popular across Greece culture today and reflect the roles of men and women in the culture.

About Men's and Women's Dances and Costumes...

In a men’s dance or mixed-gender dance led by men, the leader may display stylized evidence of his bravery, physical skill and courage, and his worth as a man and fighter, with leaps into the air, wheeling, turning and mid-air somersaults, such as in a men-only Tsamikos. In some dances involving men and women in a line, the men may be first and then the women in the line separated with a handkerchief in the hand of the last man and the first woman.

In a women’s dance, or a dance led by a woman, the movements are more dignified, demure and modest. However, a Tsamikos dance performance led by a woman making full use of the music can be stimulating, inspiring and just as dynamic (but in a different way) as when led by a man.

Men's Costumes…

The most distinctive ceremonial costume for Greek men is derived from the clothing worn by the Klephts, who were the participants in guerrilla warfare waged against the Turks during the War for Greek Independence. The outstanding feature of the Klepht costume was the white pleated kilt called phoustanella. The complete dress uniform of the Klephts, including the distinctive phoustanella, was often referred to as tsamika. Thus the Tsamiko was danced by these men wearing the tsamika uniform—and this historical experience contributed to the national ceremonial military uniform that we see today.

Today’s men’s national ceremonial military uniform is called a “Tsolias,” which is worn by diplomats and warriors. The uniform consists of the distinctive phoustanella (today made of approximately 350 triangles called “langolia”), and a waistcoat , or “fermeli.” The “fermeli” has panels hanging from the back which can be either black, blue or maroon in color—the color is significant, as the maroon is worn by the captain of the guard. The “fermeli” is worn over a white shirt with puffy sleeves. Pointed shoes, called “tsarouhia,” are worn which contain metal cleats on the soles designed for mountain climbing. The “Tsolias” uniform is worn today by the ceremonial guards at the Presidential Palace, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and at other national locations and ceremonial events.

Women's Costumes...

Women’s costumes emphasize modesty (usually covering to near floor length), elegant beauty in the stitchery and woven-fabric, and tasteful accents of jewelry. The weight of the cloth ranges from heavy woolen for the northern climes and lighter fabrics in the southerly parts of the country—always with the characteristic modesty and emphasizing feminine beauty and grace.

The “Amalia,” is considered the women’s national costume of Greece. The costume was designated by the first queen of Greece, Queen Amalia. Originally, the Amalia skirt was green, but was later changed to blue. A long sleeve jacket is worn with the skirt. A hat is worn which has a long cord, traditionally made of the woman’s own braided hair, with a tassel at the end. It was said that the longer the cord the more favor that particular girl or woman had in the court of Queen Amalia.