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Zorba’s Syrtaki Performed on Sailing Boats on Lesbos

Syrtaki on Lesbos
The syrtaki was performed on sailboats in Mytilene Port, the capital of Lesbos. Credit: Golden Movies / YouTube (Screenshot)

Summer festivities on the Greek island of Lesbos began in an upbeat fashion with the performance of the syrtaki on sailing boats in the waters off the island’s capital, Mytilene.

The music and accompanying dance popularized by the 1964 film Zorba the Greek were performed on the sailboats of the Mytilene Open Sea Lesbian Association (LOIATH).

Cultural events will continue to take place in Mytilene over a period of two months, exposing visitors to the unique and vibrant cultural practices of Lesbos.

Syrtaki Staged on Sailing boats on Lesbos

The performance has been described as “A unique event that combined the enchanting music of the flying pianist Elena Xidia with the diverse cultural heritage of the region.”

12 sailboats fall of dancers performing the iconic syrtaki circled a central boat with Elena Xydia onboard playing the piano. The port of Mytilene was packed with tourists and locals alike who came to witness the sounds and visuals of the syrtaki which have become synonymous with Greece in the popular imagination.

The dance group of Kostas Agopian, under the direction of Paschalis Mantis and the production organization of Stelios Zafeiropoulos, performed at the event organized by the vice-mayor of culture of the Municipality of Mytilene, following an invitation from Mayor Stratis Kytelis and vice-mayor Panagiotis Tsakiris.

In addition to the stunning performance of the syrtaki on LOIATH’s sailing boats, Lesbos will host a variety of other cultural events this summer.

A unique element of Greek culture

Most people believe that the syrtaki (συρτάκι) is a traditional Greek dance going back to the early 20th century. The millions of tourists who visit Greece every year will dance – or at least watch – the syrtaki being danced in tavernas.

However, the dance was specifically created for the iconic movie Zorba the Greek, released in 1964, which is itself based on the novel written by Nikos Kazantzkis.

And the composer is none other but Mikis Theodorakis, the most prominent Greek musician of all time. What Theodorakis did was take the alternating slow and fast steps of the hassaposerviko dance, and compose the music to Zorba the Greek.

The most important aspect of the syrtaki music and dance is the rhythm acceleration. The name syrtaki comes from the word syrtos, a common name for a group of traditional Greek dances. The word derives from the verb σύρω (syro), meaning drag, as I drag my fellow dancers.

The dancers dance in lines or in a circle, with each dancer holding the shoulder of the person beside him. The measure is 4/4, rising gradually and reaching 2/4 in the fastest part of the dance. The dance starts with slow, smooth moves that gradually become faster, and more lively, often including small leaps.

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