Saturday, March 29, 2014

Modern Greek Studies Visual Teaching Resources _ Zeibekiko Performance and Material Culture

In her insightful analysis of rebetiko practices, Janet Sarbanes* brings attention to the importance of material culture in the Zeibekiko performance. 

She writes in a passage that deserves our full attention: 

"This is true [the zeibekiko as an articulation of relationships] not only of human relationships: occasionally the zembeikiko foregrounds the relationship between humans and objects by concentrating the dancer’s attention on a thing requiring virtuoso physical action to overcome. Thus the dance might involve ‘‘placing a bottle or glass of wine on the floor that [the dancer] must drink from without using his hands or... five bottles or glasses which he must dance among without touching in addition to draining their contents’’ (Patrides 31). Or he might overturn a chair to balance himself on before turning it upright and sitting in it, or tumble from one chair to another—all without using his hands (Patrides 31)."

She continues, "I myself have seen zembeikiko dancers in an Astoria nightclub pick up chairs and tables with their teeth, a spontaneous levitation that dramatically underscores the mutability of practices we associate with ordinary objects. In each instance, everyday things cease to function instrumentally and instead, like the buckets and brooms in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Chaplin’s umbrella, become adversaries or partners in the dance. In thus ‘taking on’ his immediate environment, the zembeikiko dancer may be said to participate in what Jacques Attali calls the play of composition, ‘an ongoing quest for new, immediate communication, without ritual and always unstable’ (Attali 141)."

I was delighted to find the visual above that captures this kind of communicative act, see around the 7:30 min mark.

* Sarbanes, Janet. 2006. "Musicking and Communitas: The Aesthetic Mode of Sociality in Rebetika Subculture." Popular Music and Society, 29:1, 17–35.

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