The Greeks and The Black Sea

Below is an excerpt from the book The Greeks and The Black Sea: From the Bronze Age to The Early 20th Century by Marianna Koromila. Published by the Panorama Cultural Society, Athens 2002, Page 247.

One hundred generations in Pontos and three generations of refugees from Pontos in Greece

Seven decades have elapsed since the great ‘Exodus’ of 1922 and the enforced exchange of all Orthodox Christian and Muslim populations between Turkey and Greece, completed in 1924 (In the annals of diplomacy, there is no other treaty like the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923). Yet any outsider at a Pontian gathering cannot but notice, as he watches the refugees dancing, those traits distinctive of their close and tightly-knit society with its overtly archaic roots.

All the Pontians in the circle, from the first to the last, dance with the same intensity. There is no lead dancer, no protagonist, who performs special figures or intricate movements. No one asks the musicians to play a special tune so that he may head the dance, as is the case in other, more open, individualistic societies. No one dances solo here. Everyone participates as an equal. The disciplined group of dancers, whether of men, women, or both, moves as one. Its joy is an affirmation of that sense of personal sharing in every common undertaking. Each Pontian bears the same burden of responsibility, and the unanimity of the dancers can be likened to the united efforts of members of a ship’s crew battling against a storm. A wrong step by the third dancer or a slight hesitation by the sixth would immediately mar the overall effect. The Pontians’ attitude to dance is the same as their attitude to everyday life, where the entire village is responsible for the community’s survival. No one follows, and no one leads.

The dance circle is small. The participants may be many but the group does not spread out, it has learned to dance close together. Outdoor feasts were few in Pontos, on account of the cold climate and the summer rains -not to mention the necessary precautions under Ottoman rule – and most celebrations were held indoors. Even in the countryside, the highland meadows, the famous parcharia, or in church courtyards, the circle may become denser but not wider……