Makedonia is a large region in northern Greece, situated between Ipiros to the west and Thraki to the east, and bordering on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Bulgaria to the north. Much like the other northern regions of Greece, Makedonias people and culture reflect centuries of contact between various ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. Formally united with Greece in 1913, the region has been populated by communities of Slavic-speakers, Roma (gypsies), Vlachs, Sarakatsans, and various Muslim groups in addition to being home to Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians. In addition, Makedonia (like neighboring Thraki) provided a new home for refugees leaving Turkey and Bulgaria during the early 1920s, and these groups also brought their own distinct music and dances to the area. This multicultural tapestry has created very diverse cultural influences and traditions in the regions music and dance.
Within Makedonia, smaller local regions maintain distinct styles of music and dance that frequently also have much in common with neighboring regions outside of Greece (i.e., Florina with Bitola in FYROM). Generally, specific ensembles of instruments and groups of dances set general regions within Makedonia off from each other. In western Makedonia (Grevena, Kozani, Kastoria), one might expect to hear clarinet, lute, violin and defi much like the ensembles also typical of Ipiros; in addition, brass band music is common in this region. In central Makedonia (Edessa/Almopia, Goumenissa, Roumlouki, Kilkis), one might hear gaida (bagpipe) with daouli (large drum) or toumbeleki (hourglass drum), brass bands, zigia ensembles of 2 or 3 zournas (wooden oboe) and a daouli, or even clarinet with lute and defi (more common near the Aegean coast). In eastern Makedonia, the lyra (3 stringed fiddle) and kaval (end blown flute) also common in neighboring Thraki can be heard in addition to gaida, defi, and toumbeleki (Drama) as well as zourna/daouli ensembles (Serres) similar to those found elsewhere in the region.
Much like the diversity in musical styles, dance forms and customs in the region vary widely. Each areas dances and styling within this region are unique- even basic dance forms such as Gaida and Baidouska/Baidouskino done throughout Makedonia are usually danced with strong local styling that may make the dance nearly unrecognizable to dancers of neighboring regions! Syncopated bouncing that shakes the entire body of the dancer is common in faster dances from Florina, whereas dancing in neighboring Edessa/Almopia is usually done in a heavier style with deliberate steps, touches, lifts, and knee bends that emphasize the beat of slower dances. Overall, dance styling in Makedonia tends to be heavy, with most steps executed in a deliberate fashion that fully transfers weight from one foot to the next during dancing. Lines of dancers are often gender-segregated much like those in neighboring Ipiros, Thraki, and Thessalia. In western and central Makedonia, women and men dance in separate lines with the womens circle variously inside the mens line, outside the mens line, or with mens and womens lines in completely separate spaces of the dance area! In eastern Makedonia, by contrast, women often stand towards the end of the line while men form the front of the chain of dancers (just as they do in nearby Thraki). There are also a wide range of dances traditionally performed only by men- or exclusively by women- throughout this ethnographic region. In addition to line dances, freestyle/couple dances variously termed antikrystos or karsilamas are frequently seen, and are usually done with slightly different steps and styles in each local area.
Dances from Makedonia include:
Gaida, Baidouska/Baidouskino, Pousnitsa, Tikfeskino, Trite Pata/Zavlitsiena, Patrounino, Stankena/Marena/Souleimanovo, Zaramo, Pousteno/Leventikos/Litos, Hasaposservikos, Beratse, Omorfoula, Kori Eleni/Leno Mome, Enteka, Aintin/Selanik, Drama Havasi/Dramsko, Ta Daoulia Kroun, Babo Horos, Patrouna Mpile, Ormanli, Tourka Niviasta/Nastritzini, Mantzourana, Hasapia, Lekka, Teska, Syre-Syre, Syrtos, and Karsilamadhes/Antikrystoi of various types.
Paidouska: Before the liberation of northern Greece and southern Bulgaria from Turkish control, dances passed back and forth between Greeks and Bulgarians quite often. Baidouska spread from Bulgaria not only to Greek Macedonia and Thrace but as far north as Romania. In Bulgaria, "baidoushka" describes a class of dances, much like "pidikhto" or "syrto" in Greek; the rhythm is always in 5/16. Greek baidoushkas are often in 5/16 but sometimes in 6/8, 3/8, or 2/4. The ones which I've seen done all have a series of smaller steps in place or to the left, followed by hop-steps to the right. The meaning of the name of is uncertain, but is probably from the Bulgarian word for "limping."
Gaida: Takes its name from the primitive Balkan bagpipe which was once popular in northern Greece but which the clarinet has replaced in most areas. It really refers to a tune, not a dance, since some villages have completely different steps for the same song. The common Gaida dance, however, is known in most of Macedonia. It is probably from the town of Florina and its steps are similar to the Hasaposerviko, although the style is distinctive. The rhythm is 2/4, starting slow and speeding up.
Leventikos: The name, loosely translated, means upstanding or manly. The dance comes from Florina, where it is the most popular dance, but it is also done in other western Macedonian towns such as Kastoria and Kozani. Many songs are used; the music is interesting both for its complex rhythm, usually described as 12/8 (7+5, or 3+2+2+3+2), and for its instrumentation: the areas around Florina are the only place in Greece where brass instruments such as cornet and tuba are used, which the locals adopted from Turkish military bands. There are several variations, including a simplifed version for teaching (it's a difficult dance to do). The dance may be done by men and women. The Slavs call it Poustseno.
Makedonia: This is a relatively new dance and is done throughout Macedonia. The words to the song Famous Macedonia (Makedonia), which are patriotic and sing of Alexander the Great and the 4,000 year Greek presence in Macedonia, were composed to an old tune before World War I when Greeks, Serbs, and Bulgarians fought for Macedonia. The dance (16 steps in 2/4 rhythm) was composed at the same time, probably in Oneiri.
Omorfoula: From the region of Florina. This dance is fast, and energetic and danced in an open circle. It's name was derived from a song that is no longer remembered.
Nizamikos: A war dance which name comes from the Turkish words, nizam askeri, meaning tactical troups or soldiers.
Partalos: Mens dance from thessaloniki. The dance consists of 6 basic steps, and the hands are held by the shoulders.
Pousnitsa: Mens dance from the region of Florina, which can also be called kathistos. It is danced freely, and only by men. The name means kathistos-gonatistos (sitting and kneeling), because it consists of fast kneeling, falling to the knees and quickly getting back up, turns, and kicks.
Raikos: Also called Paitouskino, this dance was originally danced in Naousa, and Edessa. Now danced throughout Macedonia, you can find different variations of this dance and with a slightly different name.
Dimitroula: A women's dance that is named after a song of the area. The dance starts slow in a tight circle, and as the music speeds up, the steps become quicker and the hands begin to move and/or go to the shoulders.