The ancient Greek civilization was the greatest of its time and influenced the entire Western world, either to manifest its sorrows for the frustrations of everyday life, or its joy for good harvests and marriages or births, Greeks almost always dance or dance embraced or holding hands, as if to teach us that man will always better face the vicissitudes of life when he is united to other men and women, to his community, to his nation. The union is strength, the saying goes, and with great sensitivity the Greek people plastically expressed it in the artistic expression that reflects the way in which their people have known the world and assumed their lives.
Dancing is as important to Greeks today as it was to antiquity. In fact, many of today’s dances have been transmitted from one generation to the next with few changes. Children learn Greek dances from an early age and continue throughout their lives at parties and celebrations of all kinds of dance.
Here at Nestoras College students learn about Greek traditions at no extra cost for their parents. Today we will learn more about Greek dances.
A feature that has remained constant over the years and that can be said of all Greek dances is that they are dramatic expressions of human feelings. Greek dances celebrate the times of everyday life. Express religious feelings celebrate joy at weddings and were once thought to cure diseases or guarantee fertility. Nowadays, dances are often exhibited at festivals, fairs and demonstrations, but they are still full of the expressive narration that was taught to the dancers as the dances were transmitted to them.
Variety of rhythms
Another characteristic of Greek dance is the great variety of rhythm that it uses, sometimes even within the dance itself. A well-known example of this is the Zorba dance, which starts slowly and goes faster and faster and was popularised in the movie “Zorba the Greek.” The two main types of Greek dance are the jumping / jumping and shuffle / dragging dances. Ancient dances were more often shuffle / dragging type, and women’s dances today are more likely to use this style. Men’s dances most often use the Jump / Jump style, exemplified in the individual acrobatic dance, Tsamiko.
Most Greek dances are circle dances and usually danced by men or women in a circle, but not so much. Sometimes the circle of women can be surrounded by a circle of men. The dancers always dance to the left in circle dances. Often the circle has a leader, usually the oldest or best dancer, who performs the most complicated steps. Dancers of hands or touch the shoulders in circle dances. If men and women dance together, they can hold handkerchiefs or have a child among them.
Some Greek dances are performed as line dances. The leader of the line is usually the most experienced dancer. The line can be arranged from the oldest man to the youngest and the oldest woman to the youngest. In some line dances, such as the Laziko, men and women dance some different steps. “Sweet Girl” is a dance imported from Armenia where the line is formed as an open circle. Dancers link the little fingers and hold the arms at shoulder height. The dance is slow and expressive, with repetitive steps that facilitate the dance.
What are the typical dances from Greece?
The Greek dances are basically divided into village dances and city dances, but most of these dances come from variations of the dances of the villages. These are divided into dances of the mainland Greece and dances of the islands. This division continues when we rely on the type of dance, and not in its region, which is folk dances and popular dances. Some of the Greek dances are the following:
Baidoushka (μπαϊντούσκα): Before the liberation of Northern Greece and Southern Bulgaria from Turkish control, dances passed between Greeks and Bulgarians very often. Baidoushka spread through Bulgaria not only to Greece Macedonia and Thrace, but also as far north as Romania. In Bulgaria, “Baisoushka” describes a kind of dance, similar to the “pidisto” or the “syrtos” of Greece. The rhythm is always 5/16. The Greek Baidoushkas are usually 5/16 but sometimes 6/8, 3/8 or 2/4. They have a series of small steps in place or to the left, followed by small jumps to the right. The meaning of the name is uncertain, but probably comes from the Bulgarian word meaning “to take”.
Ballos (μπάλλος): The Italians occupied the Greek island Ballos and performed a similar dance of their own, but the original name comes from the Greek verb “ballizo” (βαλλίζω) which means “to dance alone” in Ancient Greek (as opposed to “jorio” (χορεύω), dance in group). The basic step is similar to the island Syrto, except that it is done in pairs and not in a circle. Usually the island Syrto is danced and then the circle is disarmed forming pairs and starting the Ballos without stopping. You should dance in 2/4 time (divided into long, short, short) or 8/8 (divided into long, long, short) There are 2 basic styles. The Sousta of Crete is related but it is different. The ballos is known to all the Greek islands including Cyprus, and before the catastrophe of 1922 it was popular in Constantinople in Asia Minor Occidental.
Sousta of the Dodecanese (σούστα δωδεκανήσου): A family of dances in the Dodecanese islands (not related to the Soustes of Crete and Macedonia). The name means “spring”, describing the steps in skips. The rhythm is in 2/4 (1-2, 1-2). Each island has its own version and its own songs, with Rhodes and Carpathians as the best known. The Greek villas that remain in southern Italy make a version of this dance, perhaps because the Dodecanese was in Italian power until 1947.
Hasapiko (χασάπικο): This was the dance of the association of Butchers of Constantinople during the Byzantine period, and then it was known as Makelarikos (μακελλάρικος) (butcher). The dance remained popular in Constantinople, Asia Minor Occ. And some islands for centuries until 1922, when it was absorbed by Rembetika music and became panelenic. In modern times, dance became popular with sailors and it was also called “Naftiko” (ναυτικό) in ports. Thanks to the movie “Zorba el Griego”, it became the most known Greek dance in the world. There are many variations and never 2 groups of dancers perform the same variations. The dance is performed with the hands on the shoulders of the partners and the dancers improvise the order of the variations, communicating with slaps on the shoulders.
Here at Nestoras College students learn about Greek traditions at no extra cost for their parents. This includes Greek dances.