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Intangible heritage – Singing and Dancing!

In Cyprus, almost every single place, village, mountain, cave or river has its magical story. Stories about their name, their importance and how they came to be. Stories that reflect the way the Cypriots loved, worshiped and cherished the island’s nature. Almost at every corner, there is a story or a legend to discover and we will be happy to share it. We are a nation of great storytellers and we do not just tell our stories and traditions we sing and dance them too!

signing and dancing - traditional band

If you happen to attend a wedding or a traditional feast, you might see someone standing up all of the sudden (usually after a glass or two of zivania) and start rhythmically reciting verses that will bring laughter and gaiety to the quests. These are the so-called “Tsiattista” – a traditional poetic dueling that has been around since the days of Homer. In times where there were no newspapers, internet or other sources of information the “Tsiattista” played the role of the dissemination of information about current affairs, love, passion and things that took place around the island. This lively and impromptu oral poetry is often performed to the accompaniment of violin or lute in ‘jousts’ in which one poet-singer attempts to outdo another with clever verses made up of rhyming couplets. It has long been a popular component of wedding feasts, fairs and other public celebrations, where eager crowds encourage poets to perform successful tsiattistaes exhibit quick-wit, deep familiarity with poetic and musical traditions, a rich vocabulary and an active imagination.

Traditionally most of the heartland villages organize a yearly outdoor event that includes music and dancing – check the heartland calendar here. The traditional dances of Cyprus constitute the main form of expressing the oral and traditional musical culture of the island. The repertoire includes men’s dances, women’s dances, individual men’s dances displaying virtuosity danced with a hand-held object or tool, comical dances and others. Their main feature is the element of improvisation.  Observing the traditional dance elements (rhythm, movements, “steps”) each dancer – male or female – will improvise and show off his/her sensitivities and skills.  This would give rise to a dialogue between musicians, the dancers and the spectators as well.  Apart from the singing, the instruments that accompany the dancers are the violin, the lute, and sometimes a percussion instrument like a frame drum called “tamboutchia” with the palm and fingers or with two small sticks.

Cyprus traditional folk dances and poetic dueling are a sight to behold and an experience to treasure forever. The movements of the dancers and the objects they use reflect the daily rural life of the old times. Check our legendary events calendar if you are intrigue to attend a folkloric festival (i.e Wine feast in Koilani, Shepard’s Festival in Dora, Rose Festival in Agros, Apple Festival in Kyperounta).

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