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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Tips for Performing Greek Line Dances


By Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin





Sometimes folk dance clubs are invited to perform at international festivals or other events that celebrate world cultures. These tips are designed to help North American folk dancers include Greek dances in a way that is culturally respectful.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Panayiota in traditional dress that represents both the regions of Asia Minor AND Kato Panayia. This region in present day Turkey is referred to as Ciftlik. This traditional costume also represents the island of Evia (Εύβοια), which is considered the second largest Greek island!




Sometimes, folk dance groups in North America introduce errors into Greek dances when they reteach them to their members. These tips can help remove some of the American "accent" when transmitting them to new dancers.

In a folkloric Greek dance, the correct formation would be an open line, not a closed circle. I.e., Greek dances are typically done as a line that travels in a circular floor pattern.

For best effect group should place most skilled dancers into these three positions:

  • Front of the line
  • Middle
  • Final dancer

When placed in these positions, the experienced dancers can hold the line in formation. Everyone else is important, but they also act as fillers. The strongest dancers are mixed within these lines to distract from a weaker dancer. This applies to all Eastern folk dancers.

An exception to this would occur in certain athletic male dances. In these cases, it's best to place two or three three strong men together at the beginning of the line to hold/balance each other while one does high jumps, flips, and other flashy show-off moves.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Panayiota poses in a traditional Macedonian folk costume.



Accuracy vs Recreation

If you want to learn accurate information about "Greek folk dances", then the ones American folk dancers call "Misirlou" and "Never on Sunday" won't meet your criterion of accuracy. Both are "fakelore". It's okay to enjoy doing these dances recreationally, so long as you understand they do not accurately represent Greek dance and probably wouldn't be the right choice for an event that celebrates Greek culture.

One reason errors can creep into people's understanding of traditional dances is that often Greek movies or musical theater may pair recently composed music with older dances to give the dances a more contemporary feel. However, official state folk dance companies and traditional village populations often disagree with how these dances are presented in these productions.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Panayiota performs a line dance with a dance company in Greece.




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About the Author

This page was contributed by Panayiota Bakis, who is happy to share her culture and music she grew up with! Here's how Panayiota describes her background:

I always love engaging with intelligent like-minded people, especially artists. I love sharing anything and everything about my Hellenic culture and upbringing, especially music and dance. A conversation with me will bring you back to America's favorite Greek-American movie by Nia Vardalos called My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I love investigating Greek culture, history, music, and dance. Speaking of investigating, I think I missed my calling, I probably should have been an investigator. Instead, I use those skills to dig and dig and dig tirelessly, often times falling asleep on my laptop... just to find the truth. But, most importantly, accurate truth. For me personally, and other respectable folklorists, my culture and accuracy are very important. Each generation of ethnic born artists has a duty to do the best it can to pass down our traditions as was taught to us. We have been given this artistic gift to be the gatekeepers of our heritage and culture.




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