Ancient Greek History

How Did Traditional Greek Folk Dancing Get Started?

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Greek dances are well known throughout the world. The music is distinct, the dances are incredibly social, and there is a lot of pride associated with them. There are over 10,000 distinct dances in Greece today and while there are a few common standards that most seem to know, each region has its own selection of dances that are unique to them and tied into their distinct cultures. In fact, there are over 10,000 known dances in Greece today.

Where did all this start? The truth is, dancing has been important to the Greek culture for thousands of years.

Here’s a look at the origins of traditional Greek folk dancing:

Dance in Ancient Greece

One of the earliest references to Greek dancing occurs in Homer’s Iliad. In that work, he describes a series of three dances that were performed in a circle around Achilles’ spear. The dancers were performing a dance that some historians believe closely resembles the modern day dance known as the kalamatianos. Plato also mentioned a form of dance known as pyrrhic dance, which was developed in Sparta and was designed as warriors. They believed that the dance itself would keep them in shape for combat. The authors Aristotle, Plutarch, and Lucian also mentioned this kind of dancing.

The Spartans were also known for other forms of dancing. The women were known to perform a boisterous form of dance that was designed to attract suitors. It was said to show off their athleticism, which was important to the Spartans because they believed if the woman was strong, this would increase her likelihood of bearing sons. They were also known to have a communal dance known as the ormos dance and was performed in a circle with both men and women. The men would dance boisterously and the women would only do modest and demure movements. Many believe that this dance eventually evolved into the popular syrtos dance that we know today.

Modern Dance Evolved from Ancient Greece

We know of about twelve total dances that were common in Ancient Greece and each served different purposes. As mentioned above, the ormos was likely the predecessor to today’s syrtos. There was a dance mentioned in the Iliad that is thought to have become today’s kalamatianos. Other dances, such as the Dionysiakos, have their roots in Greek mythology and a pagan festival for fertility that took place at Mount Olympus.

At the time when the original dances were created in Ancient Greece, the nation of Greece hadn’t been formed yet. The region was broken up into a series of city-states with the Greek language and some cultural similarities being something that they all had in common. The dances also originated during this time. As different regions adopted these dances, the steps, music, and traditions started to change until it evolved into the dances that we have today.

Modern Greek folk dancing evolved into the thousands of dances that exist today. As evidenced by the fact that ancient writers such as Homer and Plato spoke of communal circle-style dancing, it is safe to say that this is a tradition that began in Ancient Greece.

Sources:

Wikipedia – Greek dances 

Wikipedia – Ancient Greek dances

Wikipedia – Kalamatianos

Wikipedia – Pyrrhichios

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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