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;
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.
“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
Dancing is one of the oldest means of expression and chronologically
follows the song. The roots of dance in Greece are located
approximately in 1000 BC.
In ancient times, dance was highly respected in particular for its
educational properties. Dance was essential for developing personality
as well as preparing for battle. Dance along with music, writing and
physical exercise, was the basis of the educational system.
In contemporary Greek dances and rhythms we find
musical motifs of ancient Greece. The traditional
Greek dances are divided basically into two
The springing/leaping dance or “pidiκtos” and
the shuffle/dragging dance known as “sirtos”.
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.
4. Greece has 6 mainland regions: Epirus, Macedonia, Thrace,
Thessaly, Central Greece and Peloponnese. In addition, the
Greek islands fall into various categories such as the Ionian
islands between Greece and Italy, the Aegean Islands in the
central Aegean Sea, the Dodecanese islands, in the southeast of
the Aegean, and Crete, the largest island which lies in the
southern part of the Aegean Sea, to name but a few.
Traditional dances in Greece are very diverse. Each of these
regions or groups of islands in Greece has its own dances, which
vary from region to region and even from village to village.This
difference of dances is due to reasons such as the climate, the
lifestyle of residents, wars and other disasters.
The name of each dance is usually associated with the place of
origin (syrtos-kalamatianos, the Macedonian, etc.) or the name
of the main character (the Menousis, the Manetas).Also, it may
take its name from the various eras (the Easter dance), or
derived from the names of occupations (the dance of the
Epirus lies between the Pindus Mountains and the Ionian Sea.
Dances from Epirus tend to be slow, heavy and danced with
immense dignity. Their main instrument is the clarinet. Some of them
are also combined with polyphonic singing.
Most of the times the locals were dancing their dances in public. In
these public dances, everyone had their position and the series was
absolutely predetermined, based on the social status, the age and
sex of the dancer. What generally characterizes the Epirus dances is
limited and restrained movements. However, the manner of
implementation differed between men and women. The steps of the
women were more smooth and small and performed in whole foot.
There was also no room for women’s improvisation and steps
should be followed strictly. However, the men had the comfort to
move more strongly. This place is also rich in folk music.
Dances of this area include Sta Tria, Pogonisios, Sta Dyo, Vasilo
Arhontissa, Yiatros, Kalamatianos, Tsamikos, Zagorisios, Koftos e.t.c.
6. EPIRUS: Koftos dance
Koftos is danced in an open circle by both men and women. Its
name is due to the fact that there is an abrupt stop of the music
which the dancers follow stopping their dance too and leaving
out an exclamation of “ah”. The video showing Koftos dance is
in the movie “Traditional Greek Dances Part 1”.
Thessaly was united with Greece in 1881. It mainly
consists of fertile plains for farming. Their dances are
similar to those of Epirus. Thessaly has a strong
tradition of song-dances where the dancers sing the
music, often without instruments. Instruments common
to this region are the clarinet, violin, lute and defi
(tambourine). The zournas and gaida were more
common in the past especially in the areas bordering
Macedonia. The dances are generally slow and
dignified which include Sta Tria, Sta Dyo,
Kalamatianos, Kleistos, Svarniara, Karagouna and
The video that presents Mperatis dance is in the
movie Part 1.
Macedonia is one of the biggest Greek areas which borders Thrace, Epirus, Thessaly
and the Aegean Sea. So, its musical, rhythmic and dancing civilization is similar to
them. Moreover, they’re similar to other tribes of the Balkan peninsula.
The thriving urban life of Macedonia has influenced its villages, creating a high
standard and cultural level. The refugees of Minor Asia and East Thrace, who settled in
Macedonia, have enriched the population and promoted the formulation of a wider
variety of melodic, rhythmic dance and music. Macedonia by musical tradition is
divided into West and East.
The areas of West Macedonia are more rhythmic due to the complex shapes which
resemble those of the Balkan neighbors. Here, we can see the famous “hasapiko”
dance. In the villages of Central Macedonia, we can also meet refugees from Pontus,
East Romelia, Macedonia, and Vlachs. All these groups have enriched in their own way
the dance tradition of the area.
In these areas, the first dancer is responsible for the dance team, by leading them, and
doing various dancing shapes, not only the usual circle. In his hand he’s holding a
handkerchief, and he dangles it freely, in accordance with the rhythm. In some dances
he leads the dancing team into a labyrinthine shape.
KORI ELENI dance
It’s a fast, lively and “leaping” dance danced
by both men and women. The video
presenting Kori Eleni dance is in the movie
“Traditional Greek Dances Part 1”.
Thrace is a region of the Balkan Peninsula lying in the
north-east of Greece. Due to its location between
Europe and Asia, Thrace had always been invaded by
various enemies such as Slavs, Turks, Bulgarians. This
greatly influenced its musical and dancing tradition
which is unique and rich. Thrace still keeps today lots
of dancing customs. Its music and dancing tradition
have also been affected by the music and customs of
Minor Asia coastal areas. Thracian dances are
generally skippy and light. In most of the dances only
the men were permitted to dance at the front line.
Typical dances of Thrace include antikristos,
baidouska, ginka , zonaradikos and many others.
Zonaradikos is named after the dancers’ handhold. Dancers
hold the adjacent dancer's zonaria (belt) during the dance. It is a
village line dance done in one form or another all over Greece.
In each village the dance will look somewhat different, but the
basic structure is essentially the same. The same dance is done
in Bulgaria under the name Pravo. The video showing
Zonaradikos dance is in the movie “Traditional Greek Dances
13. CENTRAL GREECE OR ROUMELI:
Tsamikos is a manful dance and one of the most vigorous Greek
traditional dances. It is considered a Panhellenic dance, because
it is danced in most of the areas of Greece. Its name was taken
from Tsamouria or Tsamiko, an area in Epirus. It is also called
‘’thievish’’, because it was danced by the thieves during the
Ottoman occupation. Depending on the area, there are various
forms of tsamikos, with 8, 12, 14 and 16 steps. For example, in
mountainous Central Greece the people prefer 8 steps, whereas
in Peloponnese the people prefer 14 steps. In many cases, the
person who dances in the front of the circle, improvises making
jumps, scissors and turns, showing in this way his dancing skills.
When the first dancer improvises making stunts, the other
dancers follow with the steps of their area. The Peloponnese
dancers’ movements have more freedom with jumps etc.
,whereas in Epirus the movements are slower.
14. CENTRAL GREECE OR ROUMELI:
The video presenting Tsamikos dance is in the
movie “Traditional Greek Dances Part 1”.
Peloponnese, also known as Morea, is the
cradle of modern Greece. It was here in
1821 that the struggle began to free
Greece from the Ottoman rule and it is the
oldest part of modern Greece, as we know
it today. The main Poloponnese dances
are Kalamatianos, Tsamikos, Tsakonikos
and Kariatidon. Instruments used are the
violin, the clarinet, the lute and santouri.
16. PELOPONNESE: TSAKONIKOS dance
The Tsakonikos dance comes from the region
known as Tsakonia. It is danced in many towns
and villages with little variation to the steps.
In some areas, it is also performed as a mixed
dance in an open circle, with the hands held up.
17. Tsakonikos dance
18. PELOPONNESE: KALAMATIANOS dance
Kalamatianós is one of the best known dances of Greece that is
often performed at many social gatherings worldwide. It is
danced in circle with a counterclockwise rotation, the dancers
holding hands. It is believed to have acquired the name
kalamatianos from the town of Kalamata in southern Greece.
It is a joyous and festive dance; The steps are 12: 10 steps
counterclockwise ("forward") followed by 2 steps clockwise
("backwards"). Depending on the occasion and the dancers'
proficiency, certain steps may be taken as jumps or squats.
The lead dancer usually holds the second dancer by a
handkerchief, this allowing him or her to perform more
elaborate steps and acrobatics. The roots of Kalamatianos can
be found in antiquity. Homer, in the Iliad, describes three
performances made around the spear of Achilles that depict a
dance in an open circle.
The video presenting Kalamatianos dance is in
the movie “Traditional Greek Dances Part 1”.
Pontus is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the
Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Anatolia, Turkey. The name was
applied to the coastal and mountainous land by the Greeks who colonized the
area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Pontos Euxeinos
("Hospitable Sea”), or simply Pontos.
Musical and dancing styles of Pontos were influenced by its topography. For this
reason the musical style of the east Pontos has significant differences from that
of the west Pontos. The Pontian music of Kars, for example, shows a clear
influence from the music of the Caucasus and elements from other parts of
Anatolia. The music and dances of Turks from Black Sea region are very similar
to Greek Pontic and some songs and melodies are common.
A unique aspect of Pontian dances is the tremoulo, a fast shaking of the upper
torso by a turning of the back on its axis. Like other Greek dances, they are
danced in a line and the dancers form a circle. Their bodies stand erect when
dancing, the legs are slightly open and the arms are either high up or bent. The
legs follow the body with absolutely synchronised movements.
The most renowned Pontian dances are Tik, Serra, Maheria, Kotsari and Omal.
Kochari is a type of dance danced today by Armenians, Assyrians, Pontic
Greeks and Turks. It has been described as follows: “ Group dancing, when
dancers imitate jumping goats, is known as kochari. Dancers stand abreast,
holding each other's hands, The tempo of the dance ranges from moderate
to fast. Squatting and butting an imagined opponent are followed by high
jumps.” . The video presenting Kochari dance is in the movie Part 2.
22. AEGEAN ISLANDS
The Aegean islands are the group of islands
in the Aegean Sea, with mainland Greece to
the west and north and Turkey to the east.
The dances of the Aegean are usually danced
in a group , mainly in an open or closed loop .
At the same time dances for couples are
found ( between men or between women , or
husband and wife ) dancing opposite
(karsilamades or zempekiko ) or paired Bali ).
Features of the Aegean island dances are the
"lightness“ of the movements, the use of "
soustarismatos“, benting knees, and low
leaps made parallel to the ground.
Typical Dances of the Aegean Islands are
Ballos, Sirtos, Karsilamas, Sousta, Trata,
Stavrotos, Chiotikos and Ikariotikos.
23. AEGEAN ISLANDS:
Ikariotikos is a traditional dance accompanying
songs originating in Ikaria , a Greek island in the
North Eastern Aegean Sea. Some specialists say that
the traditional Ikariotikos was slow and the quick
"version" of it is in fact a Ballos.
It’s first danced with the arms in the basket weave
hold. Then, as the dance speeds up it is danced by the
hand hold on the shoulders. The dance is separated in
three parts. In the first part of the dance we have
slow moving walking steps , while in the second part
we move into a dance similar in steps to the Issios of
Kalymnos and then in the third part we move into the
quick steps with the mobility of both legs and body.
24. AEGEAN ISLANDS: Ikariotikos
The video presenting Ikariotikos dance is in the
movie “Traditional Greek Dances Part 2”.
25. IONIAN ISLANDS
The Ionian Islands also known as
Eptanisa, meaning the seven islands,
are a group of islands in Greece. Their
music was highly influenced by Italy
with main instruments being the
guitar, violin and lute and in recent
times, the mandolin. The people from
Corfu are particularly musical and
famous for their ‘kantades’. The
dances are graceful, flirtatious and
sometimes with swaying movement.
Dances from these islands include
Syrtos, Ballos, Ai Yiogis, Fourlana,
Rouga, Korakianitikos, Thiakos,
Kerkyraikos and Tsirigotikos.
26. IONIAN ISLANDS: Kerkiraikos
The Kerkiraikos dance is accompanied by folk
songs and is danced in Corfu. The dance of Corfu
is characterized by lightness, grace and strong
lyrical element. It is danced in couples who face
the direction of the dance . It can also start from a
simple circle and then be transformed into pairs .
The legs play the basic role. The dance consists of
12 steps and has many similarities with the Greek
27. IONIAN ISLANDS: Kerkiraikos
The video presenting Kerkiraikos dance is in the
movie “Traditional Greek Dances Part 2”.
The dances of Crete express the rich inner world of people, their
emotions , excitement , frustration , love and romance .
Despite the rich dance repertoire of the Cretans, some dances
like apanomeritis , mikro mikraki etc. have disappeared
because of evolution. Some of the dances still danced today are
soysta, pentozali , siganos and kastrinos or Maleviziotis or
Although all Cretan dances are danced all over the island and
they have their roots in ancient Minoan ceremonies, each dance
has something unique. There is an unwritten tradition that ranks
them by district. So syrtos is considered a dance of W.Crete (
Chania ) , sousta is of Central and Western Crete( Rethymno ,
Heraklion) , the Maleviziotis of Central (Heraclion ) and pentozali
eastern Crete ( Lassithi ) .
The Maleviziotis or Maleviziotikos or Kastrinos or pidihtos
is the quickest and liveliest dance of Crete . It is called
Maleviziotis because it seems that it took its final form in
the province of Maleviziou. It is called Kastrinos because
Heraklion was earlier called Big Castle. It is called Pidihtos
from the nervous airy jumps and stunts that the dancers
make. It is considered the chief dance of Heraklion .
It is danced by men and women. With its fast pace and
vitality it gives the dancer the opportunity to show how
quick he is, to show his endurance, his ability to improvise
and impress with airy jumps. This dance has eight leg
movements. In Maleviziotis dancers rush forward as if
they attack. In the eighth movement some of them raise
their right hand as if they throw the javelin.
30. CRETE: Maleviziotis dance
The video presenting Maleviziotis dance is in the
movie “Traditional Greek Dances Part 2”.
The Dodecanese, meaning “twelve islands”, are a group of 12 larger
plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are
inhabited. This island group generally defines the eastern limit of the
Sea of Crete. They have a rich history, and many of even the smallest
inhabited islands boast dozens of Byzantine churches and medieval
The most historically important and well-known is Rhodes (Rodos),
which, for millennia, has been the island from which the region is
controlled. Of the others, Kos and Patmos are historically more
important; the remaining nine are Astipalea, Kalimnos, Karpathos,
Kasos, Leros, Nisyros, Symi, Tilos and Kastellorizo.
They have a rich musical tradition and their dances were influenced by
the Cretans who immigrated, fleeing from the Turks. This probably
explains why their main instrument was the lyre. The violin became
popular accompanied by the santouri and in some cases replaced the
lyre although the lyre is now having a major comeback. Dances from
this area include Syrtos, Ballos, Roditikos, Lerikos, Sirba, Haniotikos and
Roditikos is the most typical dance of Rhodes and
of all Dodecanese. It’s a lively, joyful and erotic
dance in which the main front dancer usually calls
his partner, a woman, to dance in the middle of
The video presenting roditikos dance is in the
movie “Traditional Greek Dances Part 2”.
34. HASAPIKO DANCE
The hasapiko, meaning “the butcher's dance” from
the Turkish word: kasap “butcher”, is a Greek folk
dance from Constantinople. The dance originated in
the Middle Ages as a battle mime with swords
performed by the Greek butchers, who adopted it
from the military of Byzantine era. In Constantinople
during the Byzantine times, it was called in Greek
makellarikos from makellarios “butcher”. There are
two versions of the dance, the slow one and the fast
one, often called hasaposerviko, referring to Serbian
and other Balkan influences on this version of the
35. HASAPIKO DANCE
The video presenting hasapiko dance is in the
movie “Traditional Greek Dances Part 3”.
36. SYRTAKI DANCE
Syrtaki is a popular dance of Greek origin, choreographed by
Giorgos Provias for the 1964 film Zorba the Greek. It is not a
traditional Greek folkdance, but a mixture of the slow and fast
versions of the hasapiko dance. The dance, and the
accompanying music by Mikis Theodorakis, are also called
Zorba's dance, Zorbas, or "the dance of Zorba".
The name Syrtaki comes from the Greek word: syrtos, a
common name for a group of traditional dances of so-called
"dragging" style, as opposed to pidikhtos , a hopping or leaping
style. Despite that, Syrtaki combines both syrtos (in its slower
part) and pidikhtos (in its faster part) elements.
The link below presents the syrtaki scene from the film Zorba
37. SYRTAKI DANCE
The video presenting syrtaki dance is in the
movie “Traditional Greek Dances Part 3”.