“Marvellous things happen to one in Greece – marvellous good things which can happen to one nowhere else on earth” Henry Miller – The Colossus of Maroussi
The little scare with the weather passed by quite quickly as the grey clouds dispersed as quickly as they gathered, the wind disappeared and the previously agitated sea returned to normal which enabled us to return to our now familiar routine of beach and swimming pool. The local people lamented the fact that it wasn’t going to rain but we of course were selfishly glad of that no matter how much the place needed precipitation.
In the evenings as the cicadas settled down we would walk through the twisting paths by the sun baked gardens and the flower beds of straining woody geraniums and sprawling succulents and back to the sea front where we ate in our favourite tavernas where good food was served by the attentive waiters and we could sit and listen to the sound of the sea and if the children didn’t fall asleep then we would finish at the hotel bar where there was nightly entertainment.
Whilst I am not an enthusiast of quizzes and karaoke a holiday in Greece is just not complete without going to a traditional Greek food and entertainment night and this really must include participative Greek dancing and one evening we were delighted to find Greek entertainment. A real enthusiast will prepare for such an evening by purchasing a CD of Greek music to practice beforehand but this is not strictly necessary and all you really need to be able to do is to recognise the opening chords of ‘Zorba’s Dance’.
What you really need to do to get ready for a Greek night is:
- Abandon high culinary expectation
- Prepare yourself for copious amounts of cheap retsina
- Be prepared to make a complete fool of yourself on the dance floor
- Have your travel insurance documents handy, as they will be needed at the hospital.
In ancient Greece, dancing was believed to be the gift of the gods. Sacred dances were held as offerings to the deities, as commemorations of key events, and as a way of keeping communities together.
Most Greek dances are danced in a line and the line moves generally to the right and the person on the end with their right hand free is the leader. Everyone else follows the leader who calls the steps that can be quite complicated. Beginners are supposed to join the line at the end and it is considered bad manners to barge into the middle. One of the most common dances at Greek party night is called the Zembekiko, or drunkard’s dance. After a few glasses of retsina this one is quite easy because it has no specific steps and involves stumbling around precariously to the rhythm of the music. In the Zembekiko there are several dancers down on one knee clapping around a particular dancer, and then they’ll swap places now and again. There are no rules. You can dance alone or join the clapping for someone else. As long as people are having fun, that is just fine.
The Greek night here in Corfu was good fun but the best that I have been to was in Mykonos in 2005, which was held in a rustic bar in a village in the hills and as well as the food and the wine and the dancing also had table dancing, setting fire to the floor with lighter fuel dancing and plate smashing. Breaking plates is linked with the Greek concept of kefi, which is the spirit of joy, passion, enthusiasm, high spirits, or frenzy. Some say that it wards off evil spirits, others that breaking plates symbolises good luck (especially for potters I should imagine). Whatever it means it is a lot of good fun.
Breaking plates like this is now considered a dangerous practice due to flying shards, and perhaps also because of intoxicated tourists who have poor aim and may hit innocent bystanders. It is officially discouraged and in Greece, as well as in the United Kingdom and a bar or restaurant that wants to do it requires a license and probably has to satisfy a long list of EU regulations. Tucked away in the hills, I doubt if this place had a license but it didn’t last long and they very quickly substituted the plates with paper napkins to throw around. Mind you if you think plate smashing is dangerous in the old days they used to throw knives at the dancers feet as a sign of respect and manhood. This was a bit reckless and not surprisingly, due to countless injuries, that tradition gradually changed to the present-day flower throwing alternative, which is a bit pansy but a whole lot safer.
As it got later the children tired so we returned to the room and the balcony which overlooked the bar and with a final ouzo listened to the pulsating beat of ‘Zorba’s Dance’ against a background of velvet sky with a scattering of stars all reflected in the placid sea where boats rested like fireflys on the water waiting for tomorrow’s adventure.