Pontos, located along the southeast coast of the Black Sea, for centuries has been a gateway
between Greek and Persian, and later Turkish, cultures. Its dance and music have many
qualities that are unique to the region. Pontian dance music is often uneven in rhythms
and the length of beats, such as 5/16. Principle music instruments used for accompaniment
are the lira (narrow, rectangular shaped guitar), the touloum (bagpipe) and the daouli
(two-headed drum). The lira, also called kementche, is the main instrument in Pontian music.
It is a bottle-shaped, three-stringed fiddled played in the upright position. Because of its
light weight, musicians sometimes would move among the dancers or even dance a few steps with
them in enthusiastic moments. The Pontian touloum has no drone. Player can either cover the
holes on both of its pipes or leave one open, depending on the type of harmony he wants to
play. The daouli is a wooden cylinder covered with skin on both sides held by rope. Its size
is usually customized to the playerís measurement. The beat is kept with playing the larger
stick, while the thinner stick fills in the rest. (According to Boxell)
In terms of costume, Boxell states that styles vary from place to place. The ones that are usually used by dancers today are replicas of urban dress. Men wear a headscarf, vest, shirt, long pants and leather boots. Women wear a jacket on top of the shirt, long skirt, a scarf around the waist, high heels and a skullcap placed on the front half of her head.
The dances are executed in a tight single line formation, with participants holding hands or top of the shoulder. The exception to the linear pattern would be the Omal Kars, a coupleís dance that is often done at weddings. Though Pontian dances were originally done in closed circles, a form unusual in Greek dance, the pattern is opened up for the purpose of stage performance. The basic step is the syncopated knee bends (tromakhton), resulting in the trembling effect. Dancers combine the basic step with small skips to travel across the space, rhythmically shifting weight between feet. One foot may be placed in front of the other, but legs are never crossed. The tempo and intensity of the music determine the height to which the dancers raise their knees and ankles. Movements are restricted, uniform within the formation and precise; consist of kicking the ankles, swinging the arms and occasionally turning of the head. Torso and waist are kept straight. Ponto is among the richest in music and dance tradition; there are around seventy known dances and more that are yet to be discovered says Boxell.
The following is a description of some of the most popular dances, as suggested by Dennis Boxell.
This dance literally means trembling. It is danced in many regions of Pontos. The lead dancer holds a handkerchief and takes the line of dancers through a labyrinth or snake pattern.
This is a dance from Kars and is very popular in America. It is a quick four-measure dance done in 2/4 rhythm. Kotsari means ankle bone, referring to the lifting of the ankle. Dancers hold shoulders, take three steps to the right and rest in place. The trembling effect is done in this dance as well.
Also known as Pyrihios, it is the most renowned dance of Pontos. It is a menís dance, and is very warlike in style, in quick 7/16. Dancers execute combinations according to the leaderís order.
This dance is a couple's dance and is danced normally at weddings to and from the church. The steps are quick and small but also very rigid and keeps the trembling that Pontian dances are well known for.
It is also interesting to note that the Pontian style is one of the most serious of all Greek dances. This is because dancers are representing those who have gone to war and died for their families. Each time the daouli beats, it is representing one heart that has died at war. This is why Pontian dancers look very somber in their expression and have a hard and powerful style.
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