Saturday, September 03, 2005

Holding the scarf

Dancers (not me) performing a Greek line dance.

I spent a delightful afternoon today at the annual Greek festival staged by the Greek church in Belmont, California. I am half Greek, and mentioned the fact to another festival-goer.

I took folk dancing lessons briefly, many years ago, and a few of the dances I learned actually stuck. Luckily, those seem to be the same ones that everybody else remembers, too, and the Greek bands know it. I can do a Syrtos, among others, pretty well.

Thus, after a lovely lunch of moussaka and dolmades, I went and joined the handful of people dancing. The tradition with these Greek dances is that the person on the right end of the line often takes hold of a scarf which connects him (most often an athletic young man) to the group. The scarf affords a bit of flexibility and allows the leader to improvise, often fairly dramatically. (If you ever join a Greek line dance, watch and imitate the second person for the straight steps, and don't worry too much about getting them exactly right.)

Today, for the first time in my life, somebody handed me the scarf. When I took hold of it, it took me a few bars to get to the front, regain the beat, and adjust mentally to the idea that all eyes were now on my feet. If there is a correct set of moves that may be improvised, I never learned them. I improvise dance fairly often, but almost never in front of people. After a few moments, I got my feet under me and let the music take hold. I can't really explain it, but once I got started, all the extra turns and hops just flowed naturally, following the twists and turns of the music.

Whatever I invented during those moments, I had great fun doing it, and it must have shown. When the music ended, the other dancer told me, "I think your feet are all Greek."


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