Cypriots love to dance! In Southern Cyprus folk dancing has a long and glorious past that is as much a part of society today as it was several hundred years ago. The Greek influence on folk dancing is unmistakable here, the country having embraced some of the oldest dances in the Greek world. But folk dances in Cyprus are unique. It is a quality that shines through and is a reflection of the assemblage of people and cultures that have graced this Mediterranean island over time.
The Syrtos is the most popular folk dance on Cyprus. Also known as the Kalamatianos, the Syrtos is thought by many to represent the oldest dance in Cyprus and is led by both male and female dancers. There are several derivatives of the dance on the island, but all adopt a similar style that involves a circular group of dancers performing steps simultaneously holding each other at the wrist. Twelve basic steps are performed, while the lead dancer improvises at a pace and tempo to match.
Another popular and altogether different folk dance in Cyprus is the Zeimbekikos. It heralds from the Thracian Greeks who populated the island in the 1800s. Originally an all-male dance, the Zeimbekikos is a dance embraced with gusto. There are basic steps to the dance around which dancers improvise. In some of the older versions of the Zeimbekikos displays of sword fighting from Thrace can be seen.
Other Cypriot folk dances performed on the island include the Antikristos, Datsia, Sousta and Drepani. The Hasapikos folk dance - thought to date back to the Byzantine era - is perhaps one of the most difficult folk dances to perform. It is characterised by a set of elaborate dance movements, which some experts think depicts the "slaughter" dance associated with the Byzantium guild of butchers. This has bought the dance worldwide renown making it one of the few Greek Cypriot folk dances recognisable outside of Greece and Cyprus today.