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Sousta

The ancient pyrrhic dance

Sousta, the Cretan love dance, which is danced by one or more couples (a man dances facing a woman) incorporates plenty of elements from the ancient pyrrhic dance. This is proved by the way in which it is danced. Women and men dancers, one after the other, form a semicircle, holding each other´s hands at the height of their shoulders with their arms bended. After dancing a whole circle they are split in two teams (one of men and one of women), the one facing the other and having a distance of approximately three metres between them. Then, the men approach the women and a kind of a dance dialogue takes place between them. During the dance they touch each other, they part, the one passes under the arms of the other, they embrace, they come closer but then they go away. All these make a beautiful and amorous dance.

The man and the woman, standing the one opposite the other "battle" to conquer each other, to fall in love with each other and finally to love each other. The man with vivid hand gestures and virile steps full of lust tries to make her respond to his invitation. The woman with cute mincing steps, beautiful subtle hand movements and passionate head bows, sometimes encourages the man while others she lets him down. Sometimes she approaches him and gives him hope while others she avoids him.

In the end, however, the desirable union is achieved. The three basic steps of the dance which look like little jumps and make the dancers´ bodies look like being pushed by a spring, must be the reason that the dance during the Venetian sovereignty (1204-1669) changed its name into "sousta" from the Italian word susta, which means spring. The quick rhythm of the accompanying music, which can accept a lot of variations allows the couple a great freedom of initiatives and movements in the space and less austerity in expression. The accompanying music, in 2/4 time is played either by a lyra or a violin, accompanied by a lute or mandolin (or ascompandoura in the mountainous regions). The main characteristic of "sousta" is the hand movements. The hands become a principal means of expression, since there are some hand movements which are combined with foot movements. The couple must also match appropriately so as to form the traditional dance patterns.

The interdependence of the two imposes a relationship of responsibility and respect on each other. The dance dialogue between the two requires contact (movement coordination) that often results in a competition of improvisations that will be realised either by each dancer separately or by the couple as a whole.