Ancient Greek Dance

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Definition

In ancient Greece, dance had a significant presence in everyday life. The Greeks not only danced on many different occasions, but they also recognized several non-performative activities such as ball-playing or rhythmic physical exercise as dance. In fact, dancing to the ancient Greeks seemed like a natural response of the body, mind, and soul to music. They would dance spontaneously at weddings or drinking parties (symposia), or perform pre-arranged choreographies as exemplified by the chorus' dances in the ancient Greek theatre. Greek dances could be performed individually or in a group. They could tell a story, showcase martial and athletic skills, entertain guests, or shape processions and other key parts of religious rituals.

More about: Ancient Greek Dance

Timeline

  • c. 1500 BCE
    Images of female dancers, perhaps goddesses or priestesses, appear on gold rings and as clay figurines in Crete.
  • c. 740 BCE
    Dipylon inscription, the oldest known text written in the Greek alphabet, labels the Dipylon wine-jug as the prize of a dance competition.
  • c. 600 BCE
    Dithyramb, a form of choral song and dance in the honour of Dionysos, emerges in Delos.
  • c. 575 BCE
    Unisex group of line dancers on Francois Vase represent the Athenian youths and maidens saved by Theseus from the Cretan labyrinth.
  • c. 550 BCE - c. 300 BCE
    Dancing figures, men and women, frequently appear in painted and sculpted artworks all around the Greek world.
  • c. 509 BCE
    Lasus of Hermione introduces the dithyramb choral competition, known as the Great Dionysia, in Athens.
  • c. 400 BCE - c. 300 BCE
    Female draped dancers, a particularly attractive category of Tanagra figurines, are produced in Boeotia.
  • c. 200 BCE
    A descriptive review of Greek dance, including its history and typology, is given by Athenaeus in Book 14 of his Deipnosophists.
  • c. 160 CE
    Lucian of Samosa writes De Saltatione (Of Dance), the only extant treatise on dance from antiquity, about the Roman theatrical form, pantomime, and its roots in ancient Greek dance.
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