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Pontian dancing

from Vanamonde #783 (2008)

Pontian Greeks for millennia lived on the southeast coast of the Black Sea. Trebizond was the last capital of the Byzantine Empire 1204-1461; when the Ottoman Empire came, some Greeks fled to Russia, many remained. After World War I, Greeks relocated from Pontos (= the sea) into the State of Greece, carrying with them their dialect, music, dance. Saturday night was the first Pontian glendi (dance party) in Southern California, at the parish hall of St. Sophia Orthodox Church (which would better be called Sacred Wisdom, it's named for the great church in Constantinople not any holy woman Sophia, but this is probably hopeless), 1324 S. Normandie Ave., Los Angeles 90006; although few Pontians live here, many of us have fallen in love with their folklore. Mihalis Kaliontzidis, a leading musician of lira (bowed strings, vertical) and song, and Yiannis Gevgelis to accompany him on daouli (large drum slung over a shoulder, heavy stick beats one head, light stick the other; tapan in Macedonia), were brought from Greece.

People came from San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle. We danced until 1 a.m., early to end but having never done this before we couldn't plan well. The annual Cretan glendi, which has gone strong for years, only runs until 2. Maybe it's Americanization. Kaliontzidis had a wonderful sense of the dynamics of the evening. For me it was as if he knew my mind; just as I was thinking "We could do Eteré now" he began singing that, just as I was thinking "We could do Kalón Koríts now" he began singing that, like most dance-forms from this part of the world curved lines of men and women linking hands, fond of embroidering off-beats, rhythms with some beats longer notated 5/8 and 9/8.