Many travellers to Greece get their first contact with Greek dance through popular films – who could forget Anthony Quinn as Alexis Zorba, in “Zorba the Greek”, dancing for the pure joy and pain of living? Filmic fantasies aside, Greek dancing has a long and distinguished past, as well as a thriving present.
In ancient Greece, dancing was believed to be the gift of the gods. Sacred dances were held as offerings to the deities, as commemorations of key events, and as a way of keeping communities together. Pyrrhic dancing was taught to soldiers as a crucial part of their military training, especially in Athens and Sparta.
Thriving Dance Traditions
Modern Greek dancing is unique in that so many of the old folk traditions have survived. Since many of the regions and islands of Greece were relatively isolated from each other, there’s a wonderful abundance of different styles, though most of the steps are simple variations on a few basic movements.
The Early Greek Version of the Disco
Many Greek dances were performed by all-male or all-female groups, but this didn’t mean that there was no opportunity for flirting. The karagounos gave the women performers plenty of opportunity to catch the eye of a handsome youth – check out these photographs of the Asteria dance troupe’s version of this dance! For a dance for men and women, look at the shots of the Sta Tria.
You’re Dancing Next
It’s hard to spend any time in Greece without being called to join in a dance. I have two left feet but even I was able to stumble through the basic dances – so get up and try it. Greek dancing lessons are popular diversions on Aegean cruise ships. After a few minutes of instruction, and maybe a glass of ouzo, you’ll be having a great time!