Greek Dancing.

Greek Dancing. Bacchanalian Dance, by the Ceramic Painter Hieron. Description of some Greek Dances, the Gěrănŏs, the Corybantium, the Hormos, &c. Dancing Bacchante from a Vase and from Terra Cotta. The Hand-in-hand, and Panathenaeac Dance from Ceramic Ware. Military Dance from Sculpture in Vatican, Greek Dancer with Castanets. Illustration of Cymbals and Pipes from the British Museum. The Chorus. Greek Dancers and Tumblers.

Dancing Bacchante. From a vase in the British Museum.

Fig. 9: Dancing Bacchante. From a vase in the British Museum.
Greek terra cotta dancing girl, about 350 B.C. (British Museum.)
Fig. 10: Greek terra cotta dancing girl, about 350 B.C. (British Museum.)

With the Greeks, dancing certainly was primarily part of a religious rite; with music it formed the lyric art. The term, however, with them included all those actions of the body and limbs, and all expressions and actions of the features and head which suggest ideas; marching, acrobatic performances, and mimetic action all came into the term.

According to the historians, the Greeks attributed dancing to their deities: Homer makes Apollo orchestes, or the dancer; and amongst the early dances is that in his honour called the Hyporchema. Their dances may be divided into sections somewhat thus: (1) those of a religious species, (2) those of a gymnastic nature, (3) those of a mimetic character, (4) those of the theatre, such as the chorus, (5) those partly social, partly religious dances, such as the hymeneal, and (6) chamber dances.

Grown up men and women did not dance together, but the youth of both sexes joined in the Hormŏs or chain dance and the Gěrănŏs, or crane (see fig. 11).

The Gěrănŏs from a vase in the Museo Borbonico, Naples.

Fig. 11: The Gěrănŏs from a vase in the Museo Borbonico, Naples.

According to some authorities, one of the most primitive of the first class, attributed to Phrygian origin, was the Aloenes, danced to the Phrygian flute by the priests of Cybele in honour of her daughter Ceres. The dances ultimately celebrated in her cult were numerous: such as the Anthema, the Bookolos, the Epicredros, and many others, some rustic for labourers, others of shepherds, etc. Every locality seems to have had a dance of its own. Dances in honour of Venus were common, she was the patroness of proper and decent dancing; on the contrary, those in honour of Dionysius or Bacchus degenerated into revelry and obscenity. The Epilenios danced when the grapes were pressed, and imitated the gathering and pressing. The Anteisterios danced when the wine was vatted (figs. 8, 9, 10), and the Bahilicos, danced to the sistrus, cymbals, and tambour, often degenerated into orgies.

Panathenaeac dance, about the 4th century B.C.

Fig. 12: Panathenaeac dance, about the 4th century B.C.

The Gěrănŏs, originally from Delos, is said to have been originated by Theseus in memory of his escape from the labyrinth of Crete (fig. 12). It was a hand-in-hand dance alternately of males and females. The dance was led by the representative of Theseus playing the lyre.

A military dance, supposed to be the Corybantum. From a Greek bas-relief in the Vatican Museum.