zeibekikos

The basic rebetiko dances are three: the zeibekikos, the hassapikos and the tsifteteli. However there are other, minor, dance rhythms whose origins are located in the entire geographical and national spectrum of the Balkans and Asia Minor: the karsilamas is of Turkish origin, means "facing each other" and resembles the zeibekikos, the syrtos and the ballos are Greek island dances.

The rebetiko dances became well known all over little, newly-independent 1830's Greece, following the annexation of Macedonia and Thrace where they were already familiar to the Greek Population. However, it was the Asia Minor refugees of 1922 those who initiated the locals into the rebetiko dances and contributed to their becoming popular all over motherland Greece.

The Zeibekikos
The Zeibekikos is regarded as “the dance of dances”. Its origins have not been identified. There is a suggestion that it is a development of the ancient dances of the Greeks of Ionia and Aeolia and that its etymological analysis consists of the words “Zeus” (father of the twelve Greek Gods) and “Bekos” meaning “bread” in the ancient Phrygian language. Others maintain that its origins reach as far as the Byzantine church chants.

One thing is certain though. That the zeibekikos was a war dance of the Zeibekides. According to available information that is not older than the 18th century, the Zeibekides were a warlike tribe. They were allegedly of a Thracian descent. There is more ground though to the view that they were non-Islamic nomadic tribes of Asia Minor of the Ottoman Empire. The sultans used them as an auxiliary police force, thus exerting a control over them. An attempt to disarm them in 1833 ended up in clashes with the Turkish forces. To this fact is accorded the extermination of the tribe of the Zeibekides. The zeibekikos is a dance in 9/4 or 9/8 metre. A different sound colour, tempo and mood prevail in each variation. Apparently, the combinations of the nine beats grouping are more numerous. The zeibekikos dance has no steps. It is a man’s dance, danced solo. The rebetis improvises dancing figures which often end up to acrobatics. The dancer begins with slow, heavy circular movements that gradually become more complicated. He bends his waist down to the floor, balances a glass of wine on his head, bites a table and lifts it up with his teeth while dancing. His face is always frowned and keeps staring down to earth. He keeps his hands in a praying posture. The zeibekikos is danced indoors, usually at a tavern and never before sunset. On the contrary, the tribe of the Zeibekides used to dance it in the open air. Finally, there is the zeibekikos of Cyprus danced by women.

The Hassapikos
The Hassapikos derived its name from the “hassapis”, which in Turkish means “butcherman”. During the Ottoman occupation the butchermen in Constantinople were Greeks of Albanian descent and danced the hassapikos during the festivities of their guild. The hassapikos has 2/4 metre and is divided into eight-bar phrases which coincide with the figures of the dancing steps. The steps are four on the ground and one in the air. Two-three men of equal height who put their hands on each other’s shoulders usually dance it; a perfect synchronization is essential. The impressive part is when the dancers take a double step and dance twice as fast than the beating rhythm, in order to show their skill. They may also dance on the heels of their shoes. The hassapikos has figures, which must be uniform. There is also the version of hassaposerviko dances, which are a sub-group of the hassapikos. They have a 4/4 metre and are twice as fast than the hassapikos.

The Tsifteteli
“Tsifteteli”, in Turkish means “two strings”. The dance was named so, because it was originally a melody played by a two-stringed violin. It is in 4/4 metre. The tsifteteli has no steps and is danced mainly by women. It requires lascivious, voluptuous movements of the body. It shares many common characteristics with the well-known Turkish belly-dance and was the dance at the “Cafe Aman”.