Greek Folkloric Belly Dance – Tsifteteli

In about 5 weeks from now I’ll be making my way to Crete (Greece) to spend 8 wonderful days with the boyfriend on one of the biggest islands of Greece and the Mediterranean Sea. I can’t begin to explain how excited I am for this; it will be the first longer holiday we spend together and we’re both very much looking forward to just being the two of us and nobody else in this world.  A bit of breath in hectic times; we can use it!

We’ve already begun doing the regular preparation: bought a little booklet and a map and we’ve browsed sites left and right to see which sight-seeing-spots are likely going to be on our to-do-list. But as a belly dancer I have more work laid out for me than just that. Because aside from digging up old sites and owning up to having the prettiest landscapes, Greece covers its piece in belly dance history too. And their specific style is named “Tsifteteli”.











From the wiki page:

The Tsifteteli (Greek: τσιφτετέλι, Turkish: Çiftetelli), is a rhythm and dance of Anatolia and the Balkans with a rhythmic pattern of 2/4. The dance is probably of Turkish origin and in the Turkish language it means “double stringed”, taken from the violin playing style that is practiced in this kind of music. However, there are also suggestions that the dance already existed in ancient Greece, known as the Aristophanic dance, Cordax. However it is widespread in Greece and Turkey, but also in the whole former Ottoman Empire region.

Chryssanthi Sahar dancing
Chryssanthi Sahar dancing

I’ve looked it up a bit to already have a taste of what I’m going to delve into and found Chryssanthi Sahar and her love for Tsifteteli. She’s a native Greek dancer and through the love of her grandparents for folkloric dancing and Tsifteteli she’s been practicing Greek native dances and belly dancing from early age on. And she’s written quite an elaborate explanation on Tsifteteli. Aside from describing the history (which I’m not going to go into a description of what the history behind this type of dancing is like but after having read a bit into it I think it’s needless to say that it roots from a deep, dark history.. Much unlike the music (or the dancing) in many cases would make it appear like maybe!) she also describes quite a detailed how-to.

This is an excerpt from the same website for your (and my own!) convenience about the more practical side of Tsifteteli:

Tsifteteli is mainly a social dance. People dance it together and mostly in pairs (man and woman, woman and woman, man and man, mainly though man and woman). They improvise together, they communicate through the dance. And if a man and woman dance together they even flirt through the dance. This is one of the reasons why Tsifteteli is immense popular also today and it will probably never stop being popular. It is the expression of the soul and the game of love.

The movements of Tsifteteli are a lot simpler than the movements of the Arabic Raks Sharqi. But this doesn’t mean that Tsifteteli is easier to dance. For non-Greeks it may even be more difficult to dance then Raks Sharqi, because it has no rules and it depends very much on the feeling for the music. In order to dance Tsifteteli right, one has to become very aware of the Greek Tsifteteli music. This is especially important for the traditional (Rembetiko) Tsifteteli.

The most common Tsifteteli movements are:

  • Shoulder Shimmy
  • Vertical backwards figure 8
  • Hip circle. Hip semi-circle
  • Rotating around oneself with hip circle
  • Hip lift to the front
  • Hip lift in circle
  • Half camel step
  • Hands stretched out to the sides
  • Sniping with the fingers
  • Hands put at the back side of the head
  • Bending backwards
  • Belly rolls (sometimes)
  • Hip sway forwards\backwards
  • Hip shimmies and particular steps are not used in Greek Tsifteteli.
Want to read the whole article? Link here. And here’s a link to a video she made:
If you want to see more of her moves; she made loads more videos. Check out the video section on her website. Talented lady, isn’t she? I love the loose playful attitude and bounciness. Looks too easy but I’m sure it’s quite some effort to make that look so effortless! As usual with the greatest dancers, of course. But hey, they started practicing at some point too so I suppose that if I start like they did once, I must be able too do this too at some point 😛 So I should really have a look into finding a workshop whilst we’re on Crete anyways. Would be great to add to my future repertoire, don’t you think so?

13 thoughts on “Greek Folkloric Belly Dance – Tsifteteli

  1. Really interesting. I’ve started taking “Zumba” classes (I know–don’t judge me), and . . . my hips are moderately controllable, but I cannot do the shoulder shimmy for the life of me. How do you find it?

    Have a great time! Blog some photos!

    • I’m okay with the hip shimmies by now but I found that shoulder shimmies take a bit more effort. I think it’s got to do with hip shimmies having weight all around it, where as the shoulder shimmies have more weight in the front that needs to be controlled too.. if you know what I mean 😛 Don’t know, but that’s usually what “gets in the way” for me!

      What’s wrong with Zumba? It looks like a good, energetic way of moving around on music. No matter the hype; if it’s fun and it works and it’s -your- thing, then there’s no issue. Keep up, I’m sure it’ll become easier as you go 🙂 Are you going to write down your findings on Zumba? I’d love to read about real experiences.

      I’ll surely blog some photos! Thank you for the well-wishing Jenn. 🙂

  2. Heh. I think your theory probably essentially sound, although I, personally, can’t claim to have much “weight in the front” either. 😉

    I actually LOVE Zumba–it’s just if you’re looking for a legitimate, authentic dance form, it borrows and fuses more than teaches anything traditional. But yeah, it’s a great workout. I’m pretty new to it, but I suspect I will, indeed, be blogging about it soon. After I get my religious rants out of the way for a while. 🙂

    • Eh, if there are no borders anymore online and they’re fading more and more offline too, then why should we maintain the borders in our dancing? Too many cultures we don’t know about I say 🙂

      Awesome, I’ll be waiting for it!

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