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Haris Koukouvitis & Stella Ponidou

Dances and songs of the Vlachs in Kokkinoplo.

Koukouvitis, Charis & Ponidou, Stella: "Dances and songs of the Vlachs in Kokkinoplo", 16th International Congress on Dance Research, Corfu, Greece, 30/10-3/11, 2002.

1. Introduction

This paper is a part of a wide research that is being conducted by us in Kokkinoplo. The aim of the research aim is to write down the songs, the dances, the morals, the mores and the myths of the village. The research is conducted on the spot and at various and different moments, when celebrations, festivals or events that are celebrated with songs and dances take place. The inhabitants of the village, who are now old, participate themselves. Some of them help us with the tales, the memories and the information they give us for every event. What is written in this paper is information, songs and dances as they were reproduced, mostly by women, of Kokkinoplo. The registration was done without any preparation or studiedness. An invitation for coffee sometimes would end up in a fiesta with songs and dances that would last for hours.

2. The place and the people

Kokkinoplo is a mountainous village that is literally scrambled on the southwest side of Olympus, the "Mountain of the Gods". It belongs geographically to Thessaly, in the province of Elassona. Lately, under the "Capodistria project", it has become a municipality along with Pithio, Kalivia and Kalithea. The earth is stony with limestone and the soil is reddish. The village took its name from the reddish soil (kokkinos (reddish) + pilos (clay) = kokkinopilos, in short kokkinoplos according to the inhabitants' accent). The inhabitants are Vlachs. They are farmers, cattlemen, and some of them are in the business of producing lime from wood and stones that they carry themselves from the mountain. It is a very hard job since the stony earth does not allow the use of machines. Even today the few inhabitants who are farmers do some basic work like tilling and harvest manually. This is the reason why many have left the village and are living now in other places such as Katerini, Thessaloniki and Athens, and some have moved abroad. Nowadays the village has few inhabitants and most of them are old. All the inhabitants are known for their great love for their village, their tradition and their history. The myths, the legends, the traditions are alive, but most of all the dances, the songs and the music.

3. Dances and songs

Kokkinoplites sing and dance at every important moment of their life: engagements, weddings, festivals, but also in times of toil such as tilling and harvest. The old Kokkinoplites teach the young ones the songs and the dances, and they, in turn, present these in celebrations, festivals and in reunions of Kokkinoplites who no longer live in their village.

According to the testimonies of the old Kokkinoplites, the inhabitants used to sing and dance on important Christian celebrations, such as Christmas and Easter, for many days. They also used to celebrate on the 26th of July, Saint Paraskevi's day, the patron saint of the village, and on the 2nd of May, Saint Athanasios's day. There is a church that was built in honor of the saint in the highest place of the village. Weddings, engagements, name days and christenings are events celebrated with singing and dancing. The bender starts with songs that refer to the occasion or the event, and afterwards people dance. They begin with table songs whose content is related to the event and when everybody is in high spirits they start the dancing. There is a leading woman who knows most of the songs, she remembers them, sings very well and she is the one who will start the singing and then the other women will follow. Sometimes after the end of a song they discuss which will be the next one.

There are songs for every occasion and event: table songs, dancing songs, joyful, wailing, befooling. There are songs for every moment of an event. Take for example the engagement and the wedding. There are songs about the first meeting of the young, about the virtues of the girl, about the bride’s obligation to clean the table after the engagement meal. There is a song about the bride’s departure from her parents' house, a song about her entry in her mother-in law’s house, etc. There are songs about locations, sanctities, churches, like the one that is sung on Saint Athanasios's day (2 May) “In Saint Thanasis' yard”. The same order is kept in dances. In big celebrations we have the Tranos dance, in the village’s square, in “toka” under the plane. There, in the square, is the church of Saint Paraskevi. Four circles are created: men, old women, young women, children. They dance and sing various dances: slow ones, Syrtos, Tsamikos. They hold hands “by the palms” or with joined fingers and bent elbows. The steps are simple and only in some dances are complicated. In the old days, the musical instruments (when available) were bagpipes; later they used clarinet and toumbeleki (clay hourglass-shaped drum). Nowadays they also use the violin, the lute and the tambourine. Everything is done in its order, in sequence. They obey the moral laws and the rules of a society whose function is based on moral codes and unity of mind. Unwritten laws control the life of this small community and all the inhabitants obey these laws. Harmony and settled roles: Men - Women. Parents of the groom – Parents of the bride. Old – Young. Parents – Children. As examples we mention some of the village’s songs, as Kokkinoplites sang them to us. Kokkinoplites participated and helped us in our research.

3.1. In Saint Thanasis yard.

This is sung after the end of mass on the saint's day (2nd of May) in the churchyard that was built in honor of the saint in the highest place of the village.

In Saint Thanasis's yard

Oh paved with marble (repeat 3 times)

Covered with lead (twice)

Ai Aidonoloulis I am looking (twice)

And I say to Katsigiannis (twice)

Oh Zorbades are coming for us (twice)

To violate our sanctities (twice)

The sanctities cannot be violated (twice)

Because they have silver doors (twice)

Golden locks

3.2. Down in the twelve villages

A song sung at the time of threshing.

Down in the twelve villages (twice)

Black pencil-drawn eyes

In the fifteen houses

There twelve are threshing

Black pencil-drawn eyes

Threshing and rethreshing

Come, girl, out of the dust

Black pencil-drawn eyes, come from the sun (twice)

The sun, the sun my love

Black pencil-drawn eyes, the dust I want

And this one the first thresher

Black pencil-drawn eyes

I will take him as my husband

3.3. Bride, take the handkerchief

A song sung in engagements and at the moment when the tables should be cleaned after eating and drinking.

Give me these tables (twice)

Full of itsia and flowers

Full of itsia and flowers and covered with roses

And covered with roses, loaded cypresses

Loaded cypresses, a north wind blows

A north wind blows and all the flowers are shaken

and all the flowers are shaken and the tables are full

and the tables are full with itsia and flowers

full with itsia and flowers, take, bride, the handkerchief

take, bride, the handkerchief to clean the tables

The following inhabitants of Kokkinoplo danced, sang, gave us information and helped us with our research:

Ms. Urania Kordonouli; Ms. Urania Mposnaki; Ms. Urania Kokoli; Ms. Athina Kastanara; Ms. Vaia Koukouviti; Mr. Vasilios Koukouvitis; Ms. Eleni Zaroti; Ms. Fani Kokoli

Haris Koukouvitis & Stella Ponidou



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