Dancing On The Off Beat

REVIEW by Willard Manus

Joan Carol Friedberg is a folkie. Her love for Greek traditional song and dance has taken her numerous times to Greece where, armed with camcorder and tapedeck, she has explored far corners of the country where few foreigners--much less single women--have ever ventured.

Now her unique adventures have been published in a new book, DANCING ON THE OFF BEAT--TRAVELS IN GREECE. Its emphasis is on the country's music, but the book also investigates other, deeper aspects of Greek life. "The things that meant the most to me in Greece were the things I could not carry home," she writes. "I wanted to have a square lined with cafes, hugged by a massive, overhanging plane tree, where I could expct to have a chance encounter with friends on any given afternoon. I wanted to sing along with friends who knew all the words to all the same songs, I wanted to dance with people like Greek villagers, who never had to count or snap their fingers in order to keep in step."

It was through this kind of human contact that Friedberg began to better understand the spirit that animates Greek life. "The spirit percolates through its many musical expressions," she explains, "just as it appears in the pride that seems to belong to every Greek person I've ever met, a pride bought and paid for in unknown rivers of blood and tears spilled by his ancestors."

Whether searching for a gathering of the Sarakatsani in the mountains of Epirus, or trying to track down polyphonic Albanian music in Delvinaki, or listening to an old woman reminisce about her horrific adventures in the Greek civil war, Friedberg kept her eyes and ears open--and her tape recorder spinning. Now she has culled everything she heard and saw during her time in Greece and set it down in this deftly-written, instructive and deeply-felt memoir. (Xlibris Corp., 888-795-4247 or orders@Xlibris.com)