The steps and behavior of the dancers clearly suggest a Greek origin. The rhythmic quality is given by the tambourine, which originated from the tympanon, in imitation of Hellenic castanets, or by clapping hands by the dancers. The dance can be both woman to man (courtship), or man to man (duel and supremacy).
In a dance with a mixed couple (man and woman), there takes place a mimick of courtship, innuendos and desires. Dancing men and women are arranged along the edge of the circle facing each other. The first dance steps are slow: he stares into her eyes, she looks down, her hands on her hips with palms facing outward, a position full of coquetry that enhances the hips and breasts.
After some outside rounds, the pair go to the center: the man sometimes claps the rhythm with his hands, sometimes tries to go around the woman. She retreats with the "tagghiapassu" or pirouettes to escape the siege and to always face the man. Sometimes she raises an arm above her head in the "scartagnetta", that is following the rhythm snapping fingers, sometimes slides "u muccaturi" (her scarf) around her neck or shakes it in the face of her companion.
He always tries to impress her with the ability of his steps and then "scapigghiarla" (that is taking her scarf). Sometimes the couple dance shoulder to shoulder in direct contact, but in this case the "mastru d'abballu" can come in, at the request of the girl's relatives. The dances last long, with haunting, enthralling rhythm, also thanks to the abundance of wine in "bumbuli" (oval earthenware jars), offered to quench the thirst.
In a man-to-man dance, first of all a circular space for the dance is marked, a symbolic evocation of a tribal territory, which was to be conquered and defended. A charismatic leader, the "mastru d'abballu", is chosen, and as the music starts the master takes his position at the center of the circle, then heads to the audience to choose a partner, inviting him with a slight bow, and after greeting, touching his forehead with the fingers of his right hand.
After some rounds he invites another dancer among the public to take his place, and after more rounds he returns to the dance by replacing the first with the words "fora 'u primu" (out the first), and so on until the end of the dances.
The dancing steps follow a ritual. The pair formed under the command of the master start dancing for the possession of the circle. The contestants are arranged around the circumference and, looking at each other, try to imitate steps. The purpose is to push the opponent to the center of the circle. The movements of the upper and lower body, ideally divided into two at the waist, are independent: legs frantically increase speed, while the trunk is mostly static, just swaying.
Sometimes a finger is pointed upwards in defiance. Other times dancers try to impress and confuse the partner with a "soprapasso", a difficult dance step made crossing feet and hitting the ground with one foot outside the other alternately.
When one of the contenders wins the rim, he begins the "passo 'ill'adornu", that is an imitation of a falcon's flight over its prey: the dancer follows a spiralling route driving the opponent toward the center. If the latter is defeated he goes to the center, slowing the pace of steps and lowering the arms, and is replaced. But sometimes he is not defeated and tries to stop the adversary with a "tagghiapassu" (cutting the way). At this point the "schermiata" (duel) begins, with the right hand fingers mimicking a knife and the left hand lower, to block any blows. In the past this dance could become dangerous for the use of sticks by the dancers.