San Joaquin Delta College Hellenic Dancers doing the Greek Syrtos dance at the school's new campus dedication in 1977. They wear the traditional Greek folk dance costume. A musician is playing a Thracian gaida in the center of the circle, leading the dance. Used with permission.
When I originally wrote my paper on “The Genesis of the Round Dance,” I included a short section on the ancient Greek dance forms:
The ancient choruses, dances, and songs of the dithyramb of Greece displayed the familiar pattern of a dignified, circular dance around the altar of Dionysus in the theater’s orchestra. In fact, the term orchestra originally meant the circular dancing place of the theater. In addition, the terms carole and chorus, also originally Greek, meant a sacred ring dance, men and women holding each others hands [other related English words are chorale, choir, and choreography]. LDS scholar, Dr. Hugh Nibley, reminds us that the creation was often acted out in these Greek dance dramas:
The Greek play has a chorus. Well what does chorus mean? It’s a ring dance; it’s a circle. Same as our word curve; Latin: curvus; going around. The chorus sings, and the chorus of the muses sings the poiema, the creation song . . . When they sing together, it’s the poiema, the song of the creation. It’s a glorious thing. It’s a round dance like the Egyptian maypole.
Nibley takes it one step further to explain that all the arts originated from the ancient temple dramas. “So poetry, music, and dance,” he tells us, “go out to the world from the temple-called by the Greeks the Mouseion, the shrine of the Muses.” Again he states that, “All the arts and sciences began at the temple. Dance, music, architecture, sculpture, drama, and so forth-they all go back to the temple.” Kraus supports this claim of a ritualistic connection between the arts when he informs us that Native American ceremonies and sacred dances are “part of an elaborate drama which embraces all the arts.”
The more one learns about the arts, the more one is convinced of Nibley’s stunning summation.
I want to expand a bit more on the traditional Greek dance forms, and share some more interesting details I’ve learned about these ancient practices that still are continued today. [Read more…]