In about 5 weeks from now I’ll be making my way to Crete (Greece) to spend 8 wonderful days with the boyfriend on one of the biggest islands of Greece and the Mediterranean Sea. I can’t begin to explain how excited I am for this; it will be the first longer holiday we spend together and we’re both very much looking forward to just being the two of us and nobody else in this world. A bit of breath in hectic times; we can use it!
We’ve already begun doing the regular preparation: bought a little booklet and a map and we’ve browsed sites left and right to see which sight-seeing-spots are likely going to be on our to-do-list. But as a belly dancer I have more work laid out for me than just that. Because aside from digging up old sites and owning up to having the prettiest landscapes, Greece covers its piece in belly dance history too. And their specific style is named “Tsifteteli”.
The Tsifteteli (Greek: τσιφτετέλι, Turkish: Çiftetelli), is a rhythm and dance of Anatolia and the Balkans with a rhythmic pattern of 2/4. The dance is probably of Turkish origin and in the Turkish language it means “double stringed”, taken from the violin playing style that is practiced in this kind of music. However, there are also suggestions that the dance already existed in ancient Greece, known as the Aristophanic dance, Cordax. However it is widespread in Greece and Turkey, but also in the whole former Ottoman Empire region.
I’ve looked it up a bit to already have a taste of what I’m going to delve into and found Chryssanthi Sahar and her love for Tsifteteli. She’s a native Greek dancer and through the love of her grandparents for folkloric dancing and Tsifteteli she’s been practicing Greek native dances and belly dancing from early age on. And she’s written quite an elaborate explanation on Tsifteteli. Aside from describing the history (which I’m not going to go into a description of what the history behind this type of dancing is like but after having read a bit into it I think it’s needless to say that it roots from a deep, dark history.. Much unlike the music (or the dancing) in many cases would make it appear like maybe!) she also describes quite a detailed how-to.
This is an excerpt from the same website for your (and my own!) convenience about the more practical side of Tsifteteli:
Tsifteteli is mainly a social dance. People dance it together and mostly in pairs (man and woman, woman and woman, man and man, mainly though man and woman). They improvise together, they communicate through the dance. And if a man and woman dance together they even flirt through the dance. This is one of the reasons why Tsifteteli is immense popular also today and it will probably never stop being popular. It is the expression of the soul and the game of love.
The movements of Tsifteteli are a lot simpler than the movements of the Arabic Raks Sharqi. But this doesn’t mean that Tsifteteli is easier to dance. For non-Greeks it may even be more difficult to dance then Raks Sharqi, because it has no rules and it depends very much on the feeling for the music. In order to dance Tsifteteli right, one has to become very aware of the Greek Tsifteteli music. This is especially important for the traditional (Rembetiko) Tsifteteli.
The most common Tsifteteli movements are:
- Shoulder Shimmy
- Vertical backwards figure 8
- Hip circle. Hip semi-circle
- Rotating around oneself with hip circle
- Hip lift to the front
- Hip lift in circle
- Half camel step
- Hands stretched out to the sides
- Sniping with the fingers
- Hands put at the back side of the head
- Bending backwards
- Belly rolls (sometimes)
- Hip sway forwards\backwards
- Hip shimmies and particular steps are not used in Greek Tsifteteli.