Friday, July 27, 2007

The kalamatiano.

At the festival of St. Soulas, on Rhodes, in the summer of 1947:
Two more big drums have begun to beat with punctual emphasis and one circle of dancers is beginning to form below me on the slope. They are gathered round a cluster of music-makers, dummer, violinist, clarinettist and guitar, who stand back to back, heads inclined towards one another. The dances always unfold like this from the centre, in a flower-like pattern. For a moment or so the participants stand in a semi-circle about the musicians, listening with lowered heads and nodding to establish the time: then they begin, slowly, hesitantly, to dance, the subtle meshes of their footwork calculated, deliberate, matching itself to the scribbling of the strings. Then, one by one, they appear to catch fire; their heads rise on their shoulders, their tip-tilted chins begin to carry upwards from the very ankles the smiles of recognition which light their faces. As the circle moves slowly about its centre -- the little statuary group musicians -- it begins to establish the authority of the rhythm, rising, you feel, as much from the warm dust of the earth as from the music that is being made. In a little while too, the musicians begin to feel the established circuit, and raise their heads with a sort of pleased relief; they relinquish the melody to its own created momentum and allow it to be carried away on the tide of the dancing feet. Meanwhile the circle itself is growing as new dancers break into the circumference at every point, taking up the rhythms from the twinkling feet of their neighbours', smoothly as candles taking a light from one other. Soon the whole organism has developed its own life and swallowed up the individuality of each of its members, accepting it into the rhythm of the whole, which now moves round and round the live hollow centre of music with the queer archaic peristaltic movements of the kalamatiano -- the most graceful and earth-coaxing of all Greek dances. From where I sit I cannot hear the highly syncopated jabber of the violins with any clarity: but the spicy afternoon air begins to tremble at the thump of the big drum which marks the end fo each bar with a cavernous wallop. The circle wheels and sways, ever-widening as new dancers surrender to its magical appeal.
Lawrence Durrell, Reflections On A Marine Venus 166-67 (E.P. Dutton & Co., 1960).

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