St. Demetrios Dance Troupe

Greek Dances

2008 Greek Heritage Festival 2008 Greek Heritage Festival

Dance has been an integral part of Greek culture since ancient times. Although, unfortunately, no records of written music or choreography survived antiquity, it is believed that at least one dance, the Tsagonikos, as depicted in an ancient black and orange vase, is still performed.

Although not necessarily ancient, most of the dances known to us now have been passed down for innumberable generations, as there have always been celebrations at weddings, births and seasonal festivals. And while many sects of the Medieval western Church banned dancing, the link between the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek dances continued to be very strong. Dancing is, even today, a big part of the celebrations of the sacraments of marriage and baptism, as well as church feastdays.

Some songs/dances were born out of the 1821 Revolution, and at least one commemorates the "modern" diving bell of the early 20th Century. Due to the westernization of Greek culture, some folk dances have been truly relegated to the realm of history, as young people leave their villages for the urban setting of Athens. But the basic syrto (line dance) and some of the improvisational dances like tsiftetli and zebekiko, are still very much a part of Greek culture. Vivid proof of this is the thriving recording industry of Greece, which every year, produces music which can be danced to the syrto. And even more western-styled Greek recording artists have at least one song or album with a more traditional sound.

The Music

One of the biggest challenges of a folk dance group is acquiring the specialized, authentic music of a region. Many dances are only done to one particular song or using instruments that may not be commercially viable for current recording artists.

The music we use in our performances has been acquired from different sources: cassette tape recordings of (some live) traditional music from Greece, handed down by past instructors; tapes/CDs from the professional instructors at the annual Diocese dance workshops, who supply music to the dances they teach; even CDs of modern artists' live concerts, which always tend to feature a traditional dance-along section.