Facts about Cyprus

Area: 9,251 sq km
Capital: Nicosia
Language: Greek, Turkish
Currency: Euro
  Turkish Lira
Population: 784,301
Coastline: 648 sq km

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Folk Dancing

Cyprus folk dances are the expression of feelings, thoughts and enjoyment of Cyprus people. 

The origin of folk dancing is very old. It may even be said to be related to shamanist ceremonies and early religious and incantational worship.

The Turkish Cypriot people do their folk-dances at the ceremonious occassions such as marriages, kina nights, harvest days, etc. These dances are generally performed in the following sequence : meeting dances, henkerchief dances, "zeybek" dance, women dances, dramatic dances, and butcher dances. Meeting dances consist of men and women gathering. The women's dances are generally slower in tempo.

Cypriot men used to dance mostly during Cyprus wedding festivities and at various junkets on high days and holidays, but also in coffee-houses in the evenings, on threshing-floors, and wherever men gathered together. Social convention restricted women to mainly dancing at weddings.

In the period we are considering, roughly from 1910 to the seventies, the basic dance of both men and women was the "kartchilamas" performed by a confronted pair of dancers. The "kartchilamas" consists of a series of dances that vary slightly according to the performers, the locality, or the era. These dances are essentially parts of a whole, or suite, the parts being known as the "kartchilamas" or "first", "second", "third", "fourth", and "fifth" or "balos", rounded off by other dances such as the "syrtos", "zeipekkikos", and "mandra". A feast would usually end with one of the pan-hellenic dances, the "kalamatianos", and a circle-dance in which all might join.

Cypriot dances are mainly of the type performed by a confronted pair, invariably two men or two women, or men's solo dances displaying virtuosity and often performed with a hand-held object, either a sickle, knife, sieve, or tumbler. In their steps and general characteristics - such as the movement of the body and limbs - they have features in common with dances of the historic Greek island area (the Asia Minor seaboard, Aegean islands and cities, and the Ionian isles). Apart from these common features, Cypriot dances are distinguished by steps peculiar to certain localities, such as stamping in one spot with the feet, crossed alternately in front of each other, in the "second" and particularly the "third" ""kartchilamas"" and in the "syrtos" for men. Improvisation is another characteristic of Cypriot dances and may be attributed to their being performed by only two people and so to an overriding sense of comparison and, by extension, of competition. But it is to be noted that improvisation and the freedom of the dancer to do his own thing are constrained by the community's severe strictures upon any excesses. Indeed, the more inward-looking the community, the more rigorous the restraints.

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