Greek Folk Dancing

By Mary Tzagournis

(OSU Student, Spring 2019)

Growing up in a Greek Orthodox Church, I was always surrounded by dancing. Whether this be at the Greek Festival, GOYA basketball tournaments, Folk dance festivals or Greek weddings. I was intrigued by the colorful costumes, the coin skirts and pom-pom shoes worn by the evzones and wanted to learn why. Greek dancing has been a big part of my life but not till I got older and really learned to appreciate the art of it. Being able to walk into a room of other fellow Greeks that one may not even know and start holding hands to perform a dance is something that is so special. I always loved dancing because everyone is joined together to unite as one and dance to the traditional music. The Greek Americans I have encountered at camp, Goya and Church, love Greek dancing. They all know a Greek song as soon as it comes on, jumping out of their seats at dinner to do a simple Kalamatianos or an upbeat techno pentozali, always energizes the crowd and gets everyone at an event involved.

The performer can do stunts such as circling a glass on the floor and picking the glass up not using their arms but only teeth or dancing with a glass on their head. These skills are learned from generations from young boys watching their family members and now women also do the zeimbekiko although it used to be an all-male dance. I have watched this dance be performed and have gone in the middle myself and danced with a partner. This is a fun dance to watch and be a part of especially at our Columbus Greek Festival, the crowed always loves when a zeimbekiko is performed and I like to see what others come up with and how they improvise.

The tradition of Greek dancing and incorporating this culture with family, connects family and makes them grow stronger together. As stated from an article by Sofia Kalogeropoulou, “Characterized by circular formations and simplicity in their steps (often at a walking pace), folk dances allow for the participation of every generation, young and old.” By children dancing together with their parents, they are able to keep a tradition going through generations and teach their culture to next generations. I think that by family participating in dance together joining as one, makes a big impact on the relationships as well as between the children, grandparents and parents. As they are learning these dances and performing them together, they are able to share a common activity that can be cherished for years in the future generations. “The fact that children participate in the same dances as their parents and their parents’ parents illustrates that they belong to the same cultural family and share a common heritage and dance tradition.” This has the ability to unite a family and lets them share commonalities that most other cultures might not have.

In my own experience when attending Greek weddings, all my relatives all know how to Greek dance and will dance when Greek music is played. I always love seeing my aunts, uncles, sibling and cousins be brought together by Greek dancing. It is truly something special about our Greek culture that we can hold hands and do simple steps that everyone knows to a song. When my friends that are not Greek see Greek dancing, they are intrigued and most people that don’t know how try to learn. As Sofia Kalogeropoulou notes in her ethnography, “folk dance generates a sense of pride that is consciously associated with the nation and the nation’s ancestry, but, as Christos, another of my interviewees, pointed out, dance can also physically manifest the feeling of pride.” I feel very proud to know the Greek dances through dancing for the Columbus Greek festival. I have met my other Greek friends through Greek dancing and we have such a fun time together learning the dances. I think that being able to go to any Greek event and know how to dance is gives me a sense of belonging and pride.

The expressions on the man and woman’s face were said to have been blank and bored because they may have not wanted to seem like they were peasants since the middle class does not dance as much. When performing the Ballos at the Columbus Greek Festival, I dance with a boy in my dance group close to my height so that when we he turns me it is easier if he is taller than me. We also do a pretzel at the end of the which is all memorization with hand placements and which knowing which arms to go under when completing the pretzel correctly. Learning the Greek dances is muscle memory and after that you will know the traditional Greek dances for the rest of time and it is helpful in the future when learning more dances because the steps are similar.

After learning more history about where Greek dance comes from, more of the dances and music, it has made me have an even deeper appreciation. I am proud that I know how to Greek dance because it brings me closer to my culture as well as my loved ones. I think that this is a tradition that will be strong for years to come because at any age one can dance, and these dances can be passed on. Traditional Greek dance has the power to bring family and friends closer together and will continue to do so.

Works Cited

Kalogeropoulou, Sofia. 2013. “Greek dance and everyday nationalism in contemporary Greece” (file:///Users/anagnostou.1/Downloads/6-35-1-PB.pdf).

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