OPA! The world of Greek dance PDF Print E-mail

FACT: Greeks love to (Greek) dance.

Whether it’s fast, slow, or medium paced, we can’t help ourselves but get off our seats and join a circle of friends to the sound of Greek music.

It doesn’t matter if we know the steps or not. We’ll learn.

Oftentimes, when somebody doesn’t know how a dance goes, they learn by mimicking the person in front of them in the circle. Other times, they’re in too euphoric a state to care. All they want to do is move to the sound of a high-pitched bouzouki. And how can you blame them?

Once you’ve learned the steps – either by taking classes or by practicing on your own – you’re pretty much hooked. The reason being, these are the dances that bring Greeks together socially. At weddings, engagement, baptisms, and certain religious holidays, we celebrate by eating, drinking, and dancing.

Greek dance has been around for a very long time. The styles and meanings of each dance vary depending on what island or mainland village (area) you’re from. There are over 4,000 traditional dances that come from all around Greece, as well as what are called Pan Hellenic dances which have been adopted by Greeks worldwide (e.g. Kalamatiano, Tsamiko, etc.).

I will make mention of these Pan Hellenic dances in the paragraphs and videos that follow, but what I would also like to focus on are the dances you may not know much about. I’m talking about dances like Pentozali and Tik. Heard of’em?

So without giving away too much, let us now delve into yet another arbitrary list compiled by yours truly. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you, a mix of six popular and not-so-well-known Greek dances.

Let us begin…


The Kalamatiano is by far the most popular dance in all of Greece and is commonly used at festive gatherings by Greeks worldwide. It got its name in the 19th century from the town of Kalamata in southern Greece, and was originally called Syrtos O Peloponisos. The dance is performed in a circle going in a counter-clockwise direction and consists of twelve steps. Take a look…


The tsamiko is an ancient warrior dance which was very prominent in the 1821 era of Greek history during the country’s war of independence. The pace of the dance follows a slow tempo and focuses mostly on style and attitude, rather than steps. During the tsamiko the leader of the line (moving in a counter-clockwise direction) commonly performs spirited leaps near the end of the song. This requires strong arms by the person dancing beside him, as the two are holding hands throughout the performance. The video below of dudes in dresses will show you how it’s done.


The Zorba has got to be one of my favourite Greek dances of all time because of the sequence of moves involved at the beginning of the song. The skill level required to execute this dance is very high, but once you get the hang of it, you’re flying. Without getting too complicated, let me just say the best way to describe this dance is to compare it to a five-speed car. It starts off nice and slow, and before you know it you’re cutting up a rug. The dance was choreographed in 1964 for a performance in the famous movie Zorba the Greek, which tells the story of a young Greek man who is looking to break away from the normalcy of his everyday life with the aid of the mysterious Alexis Zorba. Here’s a look at a clip from the movie where the two men get their dance on. OPA!

And if that didn’t impress you, then this will. Here’s footage of a Greek flash mob pulling off one of the largest Zorba dances ever, at the Ottawa Greek Festival in Canada. This is the definition of pure awesomeness!


If you’re looking for a workout, then the Pentozali is for you. This dance was originally designed to keep Cretan soldiers in shape, and pretty much consists of two speeds: fast and faster. As a matter of fact, half the dance is performed in midair because of the amount of hopping involved. In order to execute a perfect rendition of the Pentozali, you must make sure that you are holding on to your neighbouring dance partner’s shoulders, which can sometimes be strenuous. The dancers traditionally wear breeches, which are worn tight around the waist and thighs, and baggy around the hips.

Here’s a video of six palikaria showing us how it’s done! And the good news is, if it doesn’t work out for these guys down the road, I’m sure they will have just as successful a dancing career as members of Riverdance. Take it away, boys!


The Zeibekiko is another very popular Greek dance, and is commonly referred to as the dance that washes all of your sorrows away. The name of it derives from the Zeibek warriors of Anatolia, and is danced by one person at a time with absolutely no choreography. In other words, you’re free to make it your own, which is basically why it never gets old! Originality during a Zeibekiko ranges from dancing around a glass of wine during a song, to getting on a table and having onlookers raise it (and you) to the air. In the olden days, if a second dancer got up to dance while somebody else was performing, it was viewed as a sign of disrespect. However, nowadays it is considered proper Zeibekiko etiquette to stop dancing midway through a song to allow somebody else a turn to show off their moves.

Here’s a clip of perhaps one of the best Zeibekika I’ve ever seen. I’ve featured it before on the Morning Frappe blog, but that’s because I just love it so much! Here we go!


Tik is a dance which originated from the Pontic Greeks who lived near the Black Sea. Like many of the other dances, Tik was almost always performed in order to motivate soldiers before going into battle. The dance is complimented by the sounds of the Pontic Lyra, and is performed in six different styles, all of which consist of lots of stutter-stepping. Here’s a look a one style known as Tik Diplo. Try and keep up…

Hope you enjoyed that!

Tell us which dances you know, which dances you want to learn, and which dances we may have missed (we know there are many).

By Staff Writer – Jonathan Bliangas

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jbliangas