Sunday, 20 January 2013

Greek Dances - What do they mean?

I have addressed Greek dancing in posts previously, and you may recall that I mentioned that there were meanings behind our dances and that I would delve into them one day. Well, hold on to your vrakes guys, as that day has finally come!

So Greek dancing is all about expressing emotions and telling stories. Traditional Greek dancing had plenty of stories: some were to ensure fertility, preparing for war, celebrating victories, overcoming depression and even curing illnesses. They are usually named after villages or places where they originated from.

So what dance means what? I'll address a couple in this post and may explore some other dances in the future!

The 'Zebekiko'
This is a solo dance usually performed by men (eh but you get the odd 'modern' woman sneaking in these days too!). The songs that you dance the 'Zebekiko' to (can also be called the 'vareto') are always very passionate and often reflect struggles and broken hearts. Hence, why it is also known as the 'drunken' dance... It's usually performed very late into the evening (once the booze has taken full effect, you know how it is...). The moves are generally actually very sporadic and drunken looking and although there are some signature moves, it is generally freestyle; just moving to your emotions. It is always danced with an audience knelt down in a circle clapping you on and appreciating your deep felt expressive emotions (unless you're in a fancy dress apparently...) Watch an example below!

The 'Kalamatiano'
This is performed by both men and women in a circle, and is considered a celebratory dance! There is an even number of people as they are coupled up; men and women dance in pairs as well as in a circle. The person at the front has a mantili (hankie) and waves it around as they lead the group. Depending on the occasion being danced to, you can imagine lots of stories when they dance! If you're at a wedding and there are young people performing the dance, you could imagine that the couples are courting and getting to know one other before they have their own matrimonial ceremonies one day. Also, please pause to appreciate the costumes... bless their little outfits; gotta love the fluffy balls on the shoes!?

So that's the traditional Greek dancing. You know, very sweet, innocent, conservative; traditional! Having said that, current Greek dancing has changed somewhat... As clothing has become more racy, so has the dancing..! If you're out in the bouzoukia, you will witness something very different to the traditional dances, but still interestingly distinguishable as Greek. Check this video below of the 'Tsifteteli' to see what I mean...

So... you will probably have noticed the much shorter skirts, and the more sensuous hip wiggling and body writhing amongst the modern Greeks! A big difference to the traditional dances seen above, enen! These days, children learn to dance this way very early and it is not uncommon to see young kids at the bouzoukia dancing until 4am!

So come rain or shine, depression or glory, pain or pleasure... Greeks express how they are feeling by dancing! Next time you are out watching Greek dancing (be it traditional or modern) really take the time to think about what the performers are feeling and appreciate it. Don't forget to toss some cash at them too to show your respect! (Er.. and no, this has nothing to do with the 'cabaret', that's a whole other story.....!)


  1. Love these videos especially the last one! I may need some practise before my next trip!

    1. Thanks for your comment and I'm glad you enjoyed them! Yes, definitely get some practice in! The Greeks will drag you up dancing either way haha

  2. Thanks for the info. That was a great help.


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