Zeibekiko, a solo dance with free choreographic structure, constitutes one of the most expressive urban dances in Greece. The dancer based on the rhythm of the accompanied music composes momentary improvised kinetic combinations that are unique and non repetitive. The composition of the dancing movements requires skills that are interweaved with the artistic-creative activity and the aesthetic culture of the dancer. The spectator, according to his own aesthetic culture and criteria, is engaged and evaluates differently the aesthetic outcome. The aim of the paper is to study the aesthetic evaluation of the zeibekiko’s choreographic composition by two groups of spectators having different professions or entertainment preferences, but being at the same age and educational level. The selection of the two groups and the collection of data were based on descriptive research and on the principles of ethno-aesthetic method. The analysis included the use of t-test and ANOVA..
The results showed that there are differences in the aesthetic evaluation of the choreographic composition of zeibekiko dance between the two groups. The differences based on the different perception of the dance performances, the level of knowledge of the aesthetic rules and the aesthetic perceptions. However, for both groups the decisive perceptive parameters that define an aesthetic acceptable choreographic composition of the zeibekiko dance lies on the natural appearance of the dancer and the harmonic combination of the arms and legs movements in relation to the music rhythm.
Key words: aesthetic perception, Greek traditional dance speciality, volleyball, speciality, zeibekiko
Dance is a cultural act which expressively emanates from the specific experiences and cultural conditions of the inhabitants of a given geographical region. Within the locality of the community, dance constitutes the means for the creation of folk culture and at the same time it is the community’s product or expression (Kavouras, 1992). Furthermore, dance is a form of popular celebration and emotional manifestation. Under this identity, and according to contemporary ethnological studies, dance, apart from the realm of rural social life, is also incorporated within the urban culture, marking the living conditions of discrete population groups in urban centres (Tyrovola, 1994).
One of the most fundamental popular traditional dances, which appeared in Greek urban centres in the late 19th century, is the ‘zeibekiko’. The zeibekiko is a dance directly connected with the folkloric traditions of the urban centres as, before it was transferred to the cities, it existed as a popular traditional dance incorporated in the dance tradition of local communities both in Greece and Turkey. The zeibekiko dance apparently originates from the rural communities of the Zeibekoi, a minority group (of Thracian-Frygian origin) of the population of Aidinio, Prousa, Smyrni and other areas, converted to Islam. The dance became one of the main expressions of popular urban dance tradition in the cities of the Minor Asian and Greek coast. It dynamically becomes the predominant kinetic expression of the psyche of those comprising the lower classes of urban society and later of the wider masses arriving in Athens and provincial cities. In the post-war era, the zeibekiko makes the leap to the higher urban classes, it assumes shape and form as a rhythmic and dance expression in various kinds of popular urban music and it survives today as the most prevalent dance, accepted by all social classes, the rhythm of which has become the basis of the majority of popular music (Tyrovola, 1994). Today, it is not an exaggeration to state with certainty that the zeibekiko dance has marked the identity of modern Greek man and constituted a reference point and artistic expression not only for the poor, the illiterate and generally those living on the fringes of society, but also for a large part of the higher class and, later, for urbanized rural communities.
The urbanized zeibekiko dance is danced by one person and is of free choreographic structure. It is executed in a space that does not exceed a few square metres and is characterized by total improvisation. The dance improvisation each time corresponds to a new re-creation, the terms and limitations of which are determined by the unwritten laws of the established system of norms and stimuli (Tyrovola, 1994; Tyrovola, 1999). The dancer functions as his own choreographer (Tyrovola, 2003) and, based on the rhythm of the musical accompaniment, he instantly composes improvised kinetic combinations characterized by uniqueness and non-repetitiveness. The ability to compose dance movement requires skill and mastery which is interwoven with the concept of artistic-creative activity and the dancer’s aesthetic education. The spectator treats the dancer of the zeibekiko and his choreographic composition each time as a special case and at the same time as a display of the boundaries of aesthetic perception. This means that the spectator, depending on aesthetic perceptions and criteria-products of knowledge, experiences, social class or personal taste, perceives and evaluates the final dance product differently. In other words, the spectator perceives and evaluates the choreographic composition and dancer’s skill viewing the dance as an aesthetic product or result.
Perception is the function through which we select, assimilate and recognize environmental stimuli. This is a process of interpretation which is influenced by prior knowledge and experiences. According to theories developed on aesthetic perception, the process of perception encompasses the following (Zintsenko, 1979):
the discovery of the object in the aesthetic field
the recognition of distinct object features
selecting the specific information content in the object, which corresponds to the requirements and purpose of action.
acquaintance with the selected content and formation of image, etc.
Moreover, perception has been studied in conjunction with the senses at a neurological level (Sherrington, 1906; Liberman, 1967; Schmidt, 1975), psycho-physiological (Gibbson, 1966; Lee, 1978), psychological (Lee, 1978), social-psychological-neuro-myoskeletal (Barbousi, 1999), as well as under the terms and provisions of phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, 1977). More specifically, within the framework of psychology, there have been various studies and several directions have been developed. Certain of these were developed based on the reflexive nature of sensory processes, viewing perception as a singular action, the purpose of which is to study the sensed object and create its copy, its reflection/idol.
The conclusions derived from the diversity of studies on perception are mainly focused on the problems associated with perception. However, from the way these problems have been negotiated, there seems to be no unified theory of perception which can somehow cohesively connect the various deductions of the numerous studies. In the present study, perception is regarded as the particular way one interprets or views an object, phenomenon or procedure. Furthermore, the term ‘perception’ is used under the terms of stating the inner idea or concept, in the field of science, technology, politics and art. In art, it assumes the term ‘aesthetic perception, which, according to Carter (1976), constitutes the foundation for the existence of art as it provides the means for the interpretation of our artistic experience and the comprehension of the procedure we are subject to when we create or respond to works of art. According to Madden (1973), ‘aesthetic’ fundamentally (etymologically) means ‘perception’ and when applied, it becomes associated with the artistically ‘beautiful’ and its manner of manifestation.
In related approaches to dance, the concept of perception is either connected with the idea of communication as regarded by psychology (Royce, 1980; Smyth, 1984; Aderson, 1974; Louis, 1980) or with the development of the artistic skills of dance education, which contribute to the development of aesthetic perception aiming at artistic and aesthetic evaluation (Smith & Smith, 1984; Carver, 1985; Adshead et. al,1982; Adshead et. al,1988; Koliopoulou, 2000; Tyrovola, 2002), or approached through the prism of ethnocentricity (Thompson, 1974; Royce, 1980).
The spectator’s aesthetic perception plays an important role in aesthetic evaluation. According to Laskaris (1932) “… the spectator is not only a spectator. Artistic enjoyment is not exclusively passive since dance has the ability to create form before our very eyes and provides us with the opportunity to watch the sequence and arrangement of combinations. There are indeed aesthetic theories which support that artistic enjoyment stems also from the fact that the spectator mimics the movement unconsciously and mentally …”. This is also the direction towards which theories on the kinesthetic experience and kinesthesia gravitate, as the latter refers to the very nature of communication, which is achieved through the system of perception (Smyth, 1984). Through communication, dance connects the community at the level of images. Therefore, it is an art of imagery. In this aspect, it can be regarded as a social code of communication, as a psychological process of message exchange or as a ‘text’ with certain inner properties.
This process belongs to the typology of artistic communication because both the spectator and the dancer, as material presences, come in direct interaction. In the present, the interest focuses on the spectator who, depending on his abilities (in other words his adequacy) and interests, activates his aesthetic perception in order to approach the ‘object’ of his aesthetic evaluation. According to McFee (1986), “…what I see depends on the assimilated images/experiences I have. This means that the absence of such images cannot cause any sensation of interest in what I see…”. Therefore, the spectator’s aesthetic interest depends on perception based on aesthetically assimilated images he has, since the process of assimilation depends on the spectator’s degree of ‘adequacy’. The spectator interprets and evaluates the final product as aesthetic or non-aesthetic, either associating it with the general context, e.g. perceiving it as the end result of an activity (McFee, 1994; Savrami, 2004), or associating it with the specialized knowledge he has acquired, e.g. in relationship with the dancer’s technical skill and ability, the ‘originality’ of the choreographic composition, the skill of the movement, form, style, etc. The different received images through which the spectator approaches the dance result lead to fluctuations in interest or differences of interpretation. The latter parameter is related to the receiver’s (spectator’s) aesthetic behavior, which, besides the relationship between spectator and dancer or choreographic composition as presented within the context of psychology, seeks the function of the spectator in the dance result, viewing the spectator as a ‘critical spectator’ (Kemp, 1995).
The urbanized zeibekiko is the most widespread dance encountered in urban centres as well as in urbanized provincial areas. It is danced by men and women alike and of all ages (from adolescence to the third age), and is included as a primary dance in the music and dance repertoire of various entertainment venues (for example, small venues featuring ‘rebetiko’ music, clubs playing Greek music, family gatherings, dance halls, live music clubs, concerts, taverns, etc.). The zeibekiko dance is an event; this is its virtue but also the problem in its approach because regardless of the different assimilated images the spectator may have, the aesthetic evaluation of a zeibekiko dancer or his choreographic composition is, on the one hand, influenced by the place where the dance is executed and the audience found there, and, on the other, by the dancer’s intentions and his manner of presentation. The latter pertains to the function of the dancer and is connected with two parameters:
the endogenous elements of the dance presentation, for example, when the dancer concentrates on his dance skill, regardless of aesthetic interest or aesthetic result, and
the endogenous elements of the dance presentation stemming from the dancer’s intention to create an aesthetic result and aesthetic interest in the spectator, which depends on conception influenced by perception.
Despite the fact that these parameters may create a different result (depending on the case) in other forms of artistic dance expression, in the case of the zeibekiko, they do not apply with such strictness. From the moment the zeibekiko dance itself allows its treatment as an artistic activity or activity of aesthetic interest and the spectator can evaluate the dancer and his choreographic creation according to assimilated images (knowledge), the dance in question may be examined within the context of aesthetics and aesthetic perception. Indeed, the ideas of artistic and aesthetic activity are interwoven and, according to Best (1985), “…most cases concerning the evaluation of the aesthetic quality of the dancer’s movement constitute part of the aesthetic evaluation of dance…”. At the same time, the spectator’s ability – at a specialized or less specialized level – to recognize the dancer’s aesthetic intention through the quality of his movements (Fraleigh & Heinstein, 1999), their combination and the combination of the other dance elements stimulates the spectator’s aesthetic interest. On the part of the dancer, this is nothing but a manner of negotiating, handling and combining the constituents of dance towards the formation of a complete choreographic composition and its execution. These constituents can be described, recognized, interpreted and assessed; in other words, they can be evaluated aesthetically (Adshead et. al, 1988).
A review of literature reveals a wide array of research efforts focusing on the study of the zeibekiko either as an independent dance or incorporated in the context of ‘rebetiko’ creation In particular, the incorporation of the zeibekiko in the ‘rebetiko’ context led to numerous articles, monographies, research papers, etc. in which the zeibekiko dance is approached through its sociological dimensions. In brief, the above body of research reveals an absence of approach to the zeibekiko dance in terms of aesthetic perception as well as aesthetic assessment (perception and evaluation) which views dance as an artistic product and aesthetic result. This theoretical and analytical practice, integrated in the context of art ontology (i.e. the nature of art) as well as in the ontological identity of choreography or dance, takes into consideration that art belongs to the world of aesthetic experience but also to historical-cultural framework (Kelly, 1998; Polychroniadou, 2002), and accepts the perception and thoughts of the spectator as statements/suggestions related to the ontological identity of the choreographic composition.
The purpose of the present study is the aesthetic assessment of the choreographic composition and execution of the zeibekiko dance according to the aesthetic perception of spectators originating from two different groups, with different professional occupations or different preferences in entertainment, but of the same age group and education level. The study assumes a different research perspective in which the zeibekiko dance is used a reference point in order to document the difference or non-difference in aesthetic perception between individuals of the same age, social class and education but of different specialisation or occupation.
Given that perception is a cognitive process rooted in the senses and stemming from personal experiences, it is likely that individuals who have acquired wider theoretical knowledge and more experiences exhibit a different aesthetic perception towards the zeibekiko than those who lack in the two aforementioned areas of knowledge and experience. Therefore, certain questions that are posed concern:
what the dancers express through the particular dance
what the zeibekiko expresses as a dance for each group
what the spectators perceive when they see dancers executing the zeibekiko
what aesthetic models prevail
what is judged as aesthetically ‘beautiful’ and what not, according to the spectators’ aesthetic perceptions
what aesthetic criteria the spectators have in order to aesthetically evaluate a zeibekiko dancer.
The zeibekiko is a particularly widespread dance. Therefore, both amateurs and professionals, who are occupied systematically with the dance and see it as an artistic activity, are in direct visual contact with professional and non-professional zeibekiko dancers and have a solid opinion as to the manner of its execution. The present study deals with the aesthetic perception surrounding the zeibekiko dance and also attempts to determine any differences which may exist between individuals of the same age group but with a different occupational relationship with dance (professionals – amateurs). Therefore, the uniqueness of the present study lies in the fact that the analysis and aesthetic evaluation of the zeibekiko does not adhere to an a priori approach forged by various trends of the aesthetic visual proposed by scientists or choreologists at various times, but is based on the aesthetic perception of each individual separately, regarding dance as an aesthetic result.
Method and Procedure
The qualitative method was used for the data collection, which is an empirical method of social research and aims at the interpretation of social phenomena. During the procedure, there was interaction between the researcher and the object under research, and the foundation of theoretical directions was based on the information derived from the research (Glasser & Strauss, 1976; Gefou-Madianou, 1999). Qualitative research is associated with descriptive research related to already formed situations (Thomas & Nelson, 20033), and, in order to collect data, it uses observation, interviews, case studies and questionnaires - the most common data collection method (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984). In the case of the particular study, data was obtained from the subjects’ written responses to a written questionnaire. The purpose of the questionnaire was to ensure the validity of the obtained information on prevailing practices (Thomas & Nelson, 20033). During the filling in of the questionnaire, it was deemed necessary for the researchers to be present in order to give any clarifications and to avoid misinterpretation of the question items. The use of interviews was supplementary and served to clarify and explain any possible obscure points of the questionnaire.
Case studies aim at determining the unique characteristics of certain individuals or the detailed description and analysis of specific situations (Yin, 1989; Gefou-Madianou, 1999; Thomas & Nelson, 20033). The epistemological interest of this study lays emphasis, according to Stake (1998), on the question: “…what in particular can a researcher discover when focusing on one case only…”. In this case, the case study is used in order to obtain information on one particular dance – the urbanized zeibekiko. Furthermore, employing the individual as a reference point (the individual being in the centre of attention as an evolving entity), the case study was used in order to seek answers to critical questions, since it was considered necessary to use multiple witness sources to clarify the possibly vague boundaries between the particular phenomenon and its content (Stake, 1995). Finally, the case study highlighted the active role of individuals in the formation of the part of the world in which they live, underlining the interrelationship between situations, the meanings of dance and the action of individuals (Strauss & Corbin, 1990; Denzin & Lincoln, 1998; Gefou-Madianou, 1999; Lykesas, 2003).
Within the data collection procedures, a pilot research was initially conducted in order to better understand the issue at hand and improve the main research (Thomas & Nelson, 20033). In brief, the pilot research was conducted to prepare the grounds for the main study and to ensure that possible errors would be avoided. For the pilot research, conducted from November 2003 to January 2004, the sample consisted of 20 subjects (N=20) regardless of age (20-35), education, vocation and sex, but of the same social class and area of residence (Athens). Whether the subjects danced the zeibekiko or not during their evening entertainment was not taken into consideration and there was no strict control over every external source of fluctuation.
During the main research, conducted from February 2004 to June 2004, the sample consisted of entirely different people from the pilot research, divided into two experimental groups of different potential. The subjects were of different sexes, vocation and occupation, but of the same age (22-23), social class, area of residence (Athens) and level of education (undergraduates of the Department of Physical Education and Sports Science of the University of Athens). In particular, the first group (A1) consisted of 20 students specialising in Greek Traditional Dance (N=20). The second group (A2) consisted of 17 students specialising in Volleyball (N=17). The first group consisted of 17 female students (N=17) and 3 male (N=3) while the corresponding numbers for second group were 16 (N=16) and 1 (N=1) respectively. It is obvious that the female subjects comprised the majority of the sample (33 female students vs. 4 male).
In the pilot research, the questionnaire distributed to the subjects included 27 ‘open type’ questions. The subjects were allowed to develop their views and express their opinion in writing without guidance or any other limiting factor imposed on their responses. The given answers constituted the foundation for the creation of a second questionnaire which determined the framework and direction of the main research.
During the main research, the subjects were presented with a questionnaire consisting of 18 ‘closed type’ questions. Subjects therefore could not develop opinions but had to choose the answer that best expressed their views. The available options were either positive (Yes) or negative (No) responses, or ranking type questions. The questionnaire included in particular:
6 general type questions, concerning the subject’s relationship to dance and the kind of dance they preferred
8 zeibekiko-specific questions
4 questions pertaining to the qualitative characteristics of zeibekiko dance, which were connected with the aesthetic criteria and perception of the spectators.
Data processing and analysis was achieved using statistical methods and was based on the use of the t-test and fluctuation analysis (Oneway-ANOVA) with a significance factor of p<0.05. The equivalence and homogeneity of fluctuation between the two groups were examined. The degree of homogeneity was examined in order to observe the non-difference of magnitude and fluctuation between the two groups. Through this method, the differences between the two groups were detected and comparison and display of statistically significant differences was rendered possible (Bagiatis, 1997). Concerning the technical part of the construction and design of the questionnaire, the method of Means Descriptives was used based on relevant references in literature (Papadimitriou, 1986; Tsiboukis, 1986; Berdie et al, 1986; Kioumourtzoglou 1987; Kabitsis & Charachousou, 1990). Statistical reliability control was achieved through calculation of Cronbach’s a (a=0.93 – a very satisfactory value, quite above the limit of 0.70) which examines the inner coherence of the scale.
From the questionnaires and the statistical data processing, the results shown in the following charts were obtained:
Graph 1 shows that, in the corresponding question, the answers are positive for the majority regardless of the group (Α1=19 & Α2=14). The percentage that responded negatively in the Greek Traditional Dance speciality (A1=1) was 5% and in the Volleyball speciality (A2=3) 17.6%.
Graph 2 shows that a considerable number of students of the Greek Traditional Dance group (A1=8; A1=40%) do not dance zeibekiko at all during their evening entertainment, a fact which is somewhat odd. The immediately next percentage (A1=25%) corresponds to “sometimes” (A1=5). In the group of the students specialising in Volleyball, the most important figures correspond to “rarely” (A2=6) and “sometimes” (A2=5), 35.3 % and 29.4% respectively.
Graphs 3 show that the two groups show common preferences concerning the location where they dance zeibekiko. The students specialising in Greek Traditional Dance prefer to dance in venues where ‘rebetiko’ music is played (A1=7) as well as family gatherings (A1=5). The majority of responses corresponds to “rarely” (A1=4) and “very rarely” (A1=3). Concerning the second group (Volleyball speciality), a trend is observed for dancing in ‘rebetiko’ music venues (A2=7), “large dance halls” (A2=5) and “family gatherings” (A2=5). The smallest percentage of preference corresponds to “Greek music clubs” (A2=3).
Graph 4 shows that among the students of the Volleyball speciality, preference towards male dancers was at A2=88.2% corresponding to the response “very much” (A2=15) and merely A2=11.8% for the response “a lot” (A2=2). Among the students of the Greek Traditional Dance speciality, male dancers received 70% for the response “very much” (A1=14), 25 % for “a lot” (A1=5) and 5% for “not at all” (A1=1). Also showed that among the students of the Volleyball speciality, preference towards women dancing zeibekiko received a percentage of 64.7% at the response “a lot” (A2=11), 23.5% at the response “none” (A2=4), and 11.8% at the response of “very much” (A2=4). Among the students of Greek Traditional Dance, concerning their preference towards women dancing zeibekiko, 10 students responded “none” (A1=50%), 1 student responded “very much” (A1=5%), and 9 responded “a lot” (A1=45%).
Graph 5 indicates that all students claim that they are able to recognize whether a song is structured according to the zeibekiko rhythm or not. For all the students of both groups (Α1=20 & Α2=16), the response was positive (100%).
Graph 6 shows that, from the above chart, one more statistically significant difference may be observed. More particularly, the subjects of the Greek Traditional Dance (A1), at a percentage of 65%, appear to be capable of three different rhythmic patterns of the zeibekiko (A1=13), while there are cases of subjects who can distinguish only two (A1=3) or four (A1=4) rhythmic patterns. In contrast, the majority of the Volleyball speciality subjects can only distinguish one rhythmic pattern of the zeibekiko (A2=12, 70.6%). In this group, few are the cases of those who can recognize more than one rhythmic pattern.
Graph 7 shows that 40% of students of the Greek Traditional Dance speciality characterized the zeibekiko as an “expressive” dance (A1=8). Four characterized it as a “heavy dance” (A=20%) and three as a “free dance” (A=15%). Similar are the views of the Volleyball speciality group, as 35.3% responded that they considered the zeibekiko an “expressive” dance (A2=6), 23.6% as a “manly” dance (A2=4), while 17.6% regarded zeibekiko as a “free” dance (A2=3).
Graph 8 indicates that, from the above Graph, “sadness” (A1=17 & A2=15) is the main feeling projected through the zeibekiko dance. The students of both specialities (Α1=85%, Α2=88.2%) support that the motivation for one to dance zeibekiko is negative psychological mood and not joy or any other positive feeling.
Graph 10 corresponds to the question item where the subjects were to check up to three dancer characteristics from a total of ten. Most responses in the first group (A1) reveal that a good dancer is one who totally responds to the rhythm (A1=18). The next two characteristics receiving an equal number of responses (A1=10) indicate the idea that a good dancer is one who is “expressive” and avoids gimmicks and exaggerated movements in space. Another advantage the subjects recognized in a dancer is personal style (A1=5) while they also highlighted experiences as a vital factor (A1=3), as well as dance and harmonious adaptation depending on the accompanying song (A1=3) and ease and communication with the spectators (A1=1).
The second group (A2) focused on more characteristics. More specifically, the subjects of this group gave priority to the absolute response of the dancer to the rhythm (A2=8). The group also valued the dancer’s experiences (A2=7) and the variety of movements in the choreographic composition (A2=7), while six subjects (A2=6) highlighted the dancer’s expressive adaptation to the accompanying song. Also, the responses highlighted the dancer’s expressiveness (A2=3), personal style (A2=5), creativity (A2=1), absence of gimmicks and exaggerated movements (A2=3) as well as the dancer’s ability to communicate with the audience through dance.
The questionnaires gave an accurate picture of the aesthetic evaluation for the choreographic composition and execution of the zeibekiko dance, based on the aesthetic perception of spectators coming from two different groups. Additionally, the questionnaires highlighted the differences in aesthetic perception between the two groups of subjects, who were of the same age, social class and education but of different specialisation and occupation. More analytically, it was observed that the subjects of the volleyball speciality group, in contrast with the subjects of the Greek Tradition Dance speciality, visit entertainment venues with modern music more frequently. On the contrary, the students of Greek Traditional Dance do not seem to prefer such entertainment. However, both groups do not prefer venues with traditional Greek music for their entertainment. This finding is particularly impressive for the students of the Greek Traditional Dance speciality, as one would normally expect these students, because of their occupation with this cognitive subject, not to be averse to such entertainment places.
The repertoire which both groups have been taught presents a certain uniformity. The kind of dance which monopolises the interest of students in both groups is Greek traditional dance. They also like zeibekiko although they are not particularly keen on dancing it, a fact which is related to their infrequent visits to entertainment venues.
The two experimental groups exhibit common preferences concerning the place where they dance zeibekiko. Most prefer places where ‘rebetiko’ music is played and family gatherings, not at the exclusion of other entertainment places. The preference for ‘rebetiko’ music clubs is connected with the fact that these places attract mainly young people, making it easier for the subjects to feel free to express themselves. Also, these clubs are rather small and usually have a special dance floor which is visible from every angle of the club and easily accessible to anyone wanting to dance. Similar conditions exist during family gatherings, where guests are limited in number and familiar to each other.
In contrast with the above, students seem to eschew large venues and Greek music clubs. An inhibiting factor in both of these places is the absence of adequate dance space. Additionally, due to their size, these places are frequented by a great number of people resulting in even less personal space. Also, clubs do not have a dance floor and the musical repertoire does not often include zeibekiko songs. Instead, the repertoire focuses on fast tempo songs (such as ‘tsifte-telia’), which mainly aim at cheering up the crowd and do not require special knowledge and technique or adherence to any choreographic rules to be danced.
The subjects of the Greek Traditional Dance speciality comment on those dancing zeibekiko although many of them do not dance. In contrast, the subjects of the Volleyball speciality do not pay particular attention to the manner of execution and are indifferent to the way others dance. The ‘dance specialists’, due to the improvisational nature and rhythmic diversity of the nine-beat rhythm (zeibekiko), feel rather insecure towards composing their own choreography and become afraid to freely express themselves. They would rather participate in group dances with certain kinetic motifs and style elements, which make the whole dance experience less intimidating for them. However, the confidence they have thanks to their theoretical knowledge of what is aesthetically ‘beautiful’ and what not, as well as their ability to distinguish the various rhythmic patterns of zeibekiko, predisposes them to criticize – from a safe distance - and indicate weaknesses of other dancers.
The majority of responses indicated preference for male dancers of zeibekiko, which demonstrates how certain stereotypes still stand strong, even today. For both male and female subjects, the image of a man dancing ‘good’ zeibekiko, in theory and in practice, is incomparable since it is a dance that better suits the male temperament and men experience the dance more intensely. Despite the fact that all the subjects are confident that they can recognize whether a song is structured on the zeibekiko rhythm or not, between the students of the two specialities there is a substantial difference in terms of ability to distinguish the diverse rhythmic figures of the zeibekiko dance. This finding was expected because the students of the Greek Traditional Dance speciality, in contrast with the subjects of the Volleyball speciality, are analytically taught all the structural and rhythmological patterns on which the zeibekiko is structured so that they acquire a more complete knowledge of the style and rhythmic particularities of the zeibekiko deviations and variations.
The subjects of this study characterized the zeibekiko as an “expressive” and “free” dance. This is in accord with the improvisational nature of the dance and the presence of the dancer’s personal style and element. For all subjects, the dominant emotion expressed through the dance is sadness. In other words, the motivation for one to get up and dance is not the joy he may be feeling at that moment. On the contrary, it is a repressed emotion, embitterment, sorrow or other negative feeling. The dancer’s mood plays an important role in the execution of the zeibekiko dance as it is directly connected with the manifestation of the dancer’s emotions and the way these emotions are perceived by the spectators. The dancer’s expressiveness mainly depends on his facial expressions and the manner he executes the various dance movements in space. Exaggerated or accentuated hand and leg movements are not regarded as an aesthetically ‘beautiful’ sight. Gimmicks are not appreciated; on the contrary, preference is shown to those who dance plainly and simply, without leaps and stretched out arms or other such ‘bursts’. Through dance, the dancer conveys meanings and ideas to the audience. A part of these meanings is perceived and understood only by those who are aware of the same cultural context. The individual’s aesthetic perception is shaped predominantly by tradition and the cultural conditions at a certain place and time which have been established by aesthetic models. Though the zeibekiko dance is improvised and of free choreographic structure, it belongs to the dance form category of ‘closed’ or ‘programmed’ improvisation. The significance of this is that aesthetic evaluation of this zeibekiko is derived based on the rules and norms which apply for the particular dance and which exclude arbitrary and exaggerated movements in space which are out of rhythm. Finally, a fundamental element, non-negotiable and accepted by all subjects as being a vital requirement, is the dancer’s adherence to correct rhythmic structure. If this element is absent, whatever the manner of execution or interpretation is, the dance result cannot be considered ‘beautiful’ or ‘good’.
In conclusion, result analysis showed that there are no particular differences between the responses of the two experimental groups, a fact which indicates common aesthetic perceptions at a macroscopic level. The existing differences between the two groups in the aesthetic evaluation of the choreographic composition and execution of the zeibekiko dance are due to different assimilated images/experiences, knowledge of aesthetic rules and aesthetic perceptions. However, for the subjects of both groups – dancers or spectators, actively involved with dancing or not and regardless of entertainment preferences – the determining factor of what defines an aesthetically acceptable choreographic composition and execution of the zeibekiko dance is the non-deliberate and uncontrived presence of the dancer and the harmonious combination of hands and legs in response to the musical rhythm. If the above are supplemented with diversity in movement combinations, ability to directly convey emotions and absence of any unnecessary movement and gimmick, then, according to the results of the present study, the execution and interpretation of the zeibekiko dance can be regarded as aesthetically ‘beautiful’.
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