|Acknowledgement: Dora Stratou Dance Theatre, Greece.||
Portrait of the Greek Dance
Research: Anne Leonidou
| Regional Characteristics |
Epirus | Macedonia | Thrace
Greece is one of the few countries in the world where folk dances are as alive today as they were in ancient times. Dance has always played an important role in the life of a Greek. It is an expression of human feelings and everyday life. The Greeks danced at religious festivals, ceremonies; they danced to ensure fertility; to prepare for war and to celebrate victories; they danced at weddings; to overcome depression and to cure physical illness. Almost every dance has a story to tell. Dance was regarded as one of the highest forms of art. Plato agreed with his mentor Socrates that every educated man should know how to dance gracefully by which he meant the manly exercises that kept the body strong and supple and ready to do its duty on the battlefield. The Pyrrhic, or weapon dance (a form of mock combat) taken from Crete and perfected in Sparta, was the ideal.
The dance, of all the arts, is the one that most influences the soul. Dancing is divine in its nature and is the gift of the gods. Plato
There are two distinct categories in the traditional Greek dance; the springing/leaping dance and the shuffle/dragging dance known as sirtos; the latter being the oldest form of dance. Most dances are circle dances, start with the right foot and move counter-clockwise. Each dancer is linked by a handkerchief or by holding hands, wrists or shoulders. In mixed dances, the man will lead the dance, which allows him in most regions to improvise or break away allowing him to express himself. Until recently, men and women rarely danced together although chains of men and women danced together at the same time, the women in the inner circle and the men in the outer circle. The order of dance varies from region to region. In general, the men are commonly at the beginning in descending order of age, followed by the women also ranked according to seniority. Sometimes the married men come before the bachelors and likewise for the women. The oldest inhabitant always leads the dance. In the islands the circle is usually formed of groups of families, the husband leads the wife who is followed by the eldest son, his wife and their children etc. Occasionally the local priest will lead the first dance symbolising a blessing. In olden times a man never held a womanís hand but a kerchief. This also applied to married couples. In some regions a woman could not dance next to a man who was not family: therefore a child or an elderly would be placed in between. Most women's dances are slow, simple and dignified whereas the menís dances often portray their manhood.
Lucien tells us that the Thessalians have such regard for dance that they name their eminent citizens pro-orchesteres or lead dancers.
Greece has 6 mainland regions: Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace, Thessaly, Central Greece and Peloponnesus. In addition, the islands fall into 3 main groups: the Ionian Islands to the west, the Aegean Islands to the east (which include the Cyclades and Sporades groups) and the Dodecanese Islands to the southwest. The largest of all the Greek islands is Crete. Although Cyprus is an independent country, it is however the largest island inhabited by Greeks and falls within the Greek major cultural regions.
Their main instrument is the clarinet. The main dances are Sta Tria, Sta Duo, Kalamatianos, Tsamikos, Zagorisios, Menousis, Koftos, Fisouni, Kentimeni Podia, Pogonisios, Fezodervenayias, Vasilo Arhontissa and Yiatros.
The variety is partly due to its geographical position where it borders with the Balkans. The main dances are Gaida, Leventikos, Nikolos, Akritikos, Baidouska, Partalos, Kastorianos, Omorfoula, Nizamikos, Sire Sire, Boimitsa, Antikristos and Mikri Eleni.
The instruments common to this region are the bagpipe (gaida) and the lyra. The most popular dances are Zonaradikos, Souflioutouda, Apadiasteite sto Xoro, Kastrinos, Sfarlis, Syngathistos, Podaraki, Stis Treis and Baintouska.
Also known as Eptanisia, meaning the seven islands, they were reunited with Greece in 1864. These islands were highly influenced by Italy. The people from Corfu are particularly musical. It is not uncommon to see organised concerts in the main squares. The dances are graceful, flirtatious and sometimes with erotic swaying of movement. Cephallonians are noted for their humour which is portrayed in their dancing. Most frequently danced are Sirtos Ai Yiogis, Fourlana, Ballos, Kerkyraikos,Thiakos and Tsirigotikos.
The Cretan lyre is the most distinctive instrument on this island. Their most popular dances are Pentozalis, Maleviziotikos, Haniotikos, Laziotikos and Sousta.
An island in the far Mediterranean sea with the majority of its inhabitants of Greek origin, language, culture and traditions (82%) . It was a British colony between 1878 and 1959. It became independent in 1960. Its music and dance are quite distinctive. The most popular dances are menís Kartsilamadhes, womenís Kartsilamadhes, Sirtos, Zeimbekikos, Dachas and Sousta.
The main dances are Tik, Omal, Kotsari, Kots, Trygona, Gerasaris and Serra.
The other well known dance is the Dance of the Scarves and Karsilamas
The fall of Constantinople in 1453 saw the beginning of the Ottoman Empire, now, present day Turkey. It was in this area that three of the most popular dances often referred to as Pan Hellenic dances originated. These are the Hasapikos, Karsilamas and Zeimbekikos.
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