The Greeks believed in enjoying life. One of the things that made life enjoyable for them was music and dance. Greeks had an appreciation for beautiful things, and they believed that music and dance were among the most beautiful parts of life. Music seems to have been a part of almost everything that Greeks did.
For the ancient Greeks, dancing was often a part of religious ceremonies. The Greeks had many public festivals through the year, and they almost always included dancing. Religious dances were usually very simple and involved the dancer swaying gently. These religious dances, which were called Apollonian, were performed with instruments such as lyres, lutes, and kitharas. These dances might also be performed at funerals. Greeks also had a more energetic dance, called Dionysian dance.
It is clear that the Greeks valued dancing and skilled dancers. Some dancers had monuments built in their honor. Others were presented with crowns. It was even possible for well-known dancers to marry into the upper class. This was almost impossible for everyone else.
It’s possible that the Greeks valued good dancing so much because they believed that it was invented by the gods. They believed it was a gift that the gods only gave to certain humans. Therefore, the Greeks believed a good dancer had been chosen by the gods to have such a talent. This also explains why dance was used in religious ceremonies.
Imagine that you’ve done some time-traveling and have found yourself in ancient Athens. These are some dances you can use to impress your new friends:
- Geronos: this was one of the most popular Greek dances. It was also one of the only ones in which boys and girls danced together (but only children; not adults). This dance uses snake-like movements. It recreates the story of Theseus escaping the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur. Dance and a mythology lesson, all in one!
- Epilinios: dancers of epilionos danced atop vats of grapes. They crushed the grapes with their feet as they danced, making wine in the process. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I want to drink anything made with feet!
- Imeneos: this was a dance done by a bride and her mother at a wedding.
- Iporchima: this was a cross between dancing and pantomime and was used in theater.
You should also be prepared to sing. Greek dancing included singing. The leader of the dance sang a statement, and another group repeated the statement. This is where we get the idea for a chorus. There are still dances performed in Greece that use this ancient style.
Many Greek dances involved dancers in a circle. In fact, the word “chorus” originally meant a sacred ring dance. Ring dances were often done around a musician. Sometimes the ring was centered around an altar, a tree, or a sacred object. In ring dances, dancers held hands, and it was one of the few dances in which men and women were allowed to dance together.