According to Aggeliki Chatzimichali, Greek women traditional costumes appear in the form of cavadi, that is a long apparel with a vertical opening or a cross dress, with sigouni, that is costumes with a vest and in a dress form. Ioanna Papantoniou states that, in general, the women costumes have either a Byzantine or a Western origin. The islanders are dressed with vraka, a type of a loose trouser, while men from continental Greece wear foustanella, a pleated skirt-like garment which became a national costume by Otto, the first king of Greece, after its independence.
N.G.Politis, the founding father of the Greek folklore studies, believed that woven fabrics, embroideries, jewels, woodcarvings, costumes etc are cardinal items for the understanding and restoration of the cultural life of Greek people. Information about Greek traditional Costumes are offered by books, videos, films, Museums, photos, drawings, paintings etc.
Male and female Greek traditional costumes are divided to urban and rural, directly linked to the historical period they belong to: they are influenced by local customs, available materials (silk, wool, linen, cotton, etc.), people’s skills (weavers, needlewomen, embroiderers), as well as the socioeconomic factors and contacts with other areas.
In Greece, we have 2 main types of male traditional costumes:
Fustanela is a pleated, white, skirt-like garment, mainly worn in mountainous areas of Greece, like for example the Peloponnese, Central and Northern Greece, etc. The skirt consists of 400 pleats. The pleats symbolize the 400 years that Greece was under the Ottoman rule. It was worn by the Greek warriors during the War of Independence (1821), like for example Theodoros Kolokotronis, Georgios Karaiskakis, Athanasios Diakos. Today this costume is worn by the Presidential Guards (Evzones or Evzonoi). The main components of the costume, among others, are the following:
Vraka is a baggy trousers costume worn mainly by islanders in Greece, like for example, the Cyclades, the Ionian islands, the Dodecanese, etc. The main components of the costume, among others, are the following:
In Greece, we have 2 main types of female traditional costumes:
The main components of the female costumes, among others, are the following:
Queen Amalia (Spouse of Otto, the first king of Greece, 1832-1862), designed a costume of her own inspiration to establish national identity for the country’s sovereignty. The main components of the costumes, among others, are the following:
Today, the “Amalia costume”, can be worn by pupils during National Holiday school parades.
According to the Oxford’s Learners Dictionary (https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/dance_1), “dance is a series of movements and steps that are usually performed with music”, while the Britannica encyclopedia (https://www.britannica.com/art/dance) refers to dance as “the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, usually to music and within a given space, for the purpose of expressing an idea or emotion, releasing energy, or simply taking delight in the movement itself”.
Dance corresponds to one of the intangible cultural goods of a nation forming an integrated part of the life of its citizens. Dance is a non verbal communication in a way not limited by words or the need for music or choreography; it reveals the desire to connect with others. As Gartzonika (2014) states, it is the movement of the body in a rhythmic way, contributes to self-expressing and combines music, words and movements. More specifically, by learning the traditional dances of different region, local cultural dissemination can be achieved, while dance can be both easily and pleasantly involved in training procedures.
According to the Greek Ministry of Culture (https://ayla.culture.gr/en/orismos-apk/), “since 2002…. the Greek state adopted the term intangible cultural goods, to establish the safeguarding of the cultural heritage”, while, by the Law 3028/2002 “On the Protections of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage in general”, specifying these intangible goods, it, inter alia, includes dance among the testimonies of traditional folk. The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) (https://ich.unesco.org/en/convention) goes a step forward as far as the protection of the dance as a good of the cultural heritage.
Following Valeria Lo Iacono (2022), “the idea behind the creation of this convention reflects a major shift in the attitude towards cultural heritage, from one that is static and linked to monuments and material culture, to one that is more flexible and that takes into consideration practices, knowledge, traditions, skills, as well as material elements associated to these practices, such as spaces and artifacts”. Moreover, Dr Alkis Raftis, the president of the Executive Committee (2022-2025) of the International Dance Council (CID) (http://cid-world.org/), the official umbrella organization for all forms of dance worldwide, which is a non-governmental organization within the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, has made a list of dances (https://cid-world.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/CID_themes-Heritage-List.pdf) recognized by the UNESCO as part of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Dance can be traced since the days of Ancient Greece (Kapousi et al. 2007), and is mentioned in the Homeric poems, while each region, further to its local traditional costumes, has a variety of dances. Several Greek traditional dances are believed to have ancient roots and for that reason it appears as an intangible cultural good connecting the past, present and future of a certain local region. Such dances are for example “The Trata Dance” danced by Greek women from Megara (Attica region). S. Dan Paich at his paper «The public festival: A diachronic glimpse at its socio-economic and political role» (2007), exploring dances of healing and release traditionally danced by women, states that in a fresco of a Greek tomb in Ruvo di Puglia, in Southern Italy “…the dance, illustrated in the fresco, still is practiced to this day in Megara, and is called “Trata…”. Another such dance is the “Serra Dance”, a war dance of the Pontic Greeks, living in Pontos region, until the last century, on the southern coast of Black Sea. The said dance has also its origins from the “Pyrrhic Dance”, a Greek Ancient Dance (Nathanail, 2018). Both dances are inscribed on the list of the National Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece.
By the proposing Virtual Reality Experience (VRE) digitized application, the selected traditional costumes made of “smart” textiles will “come to life” within their traditional settlement where young dancers will perform dances corresponding to the specific local region. Users – trainees will be able to better understand, through this realistic visualization, terms such us, inter alia, civilization, local heritage, customs and traditions, realize their national and local identity within the framework of the European Union and identify any similarities and differences from one country to the other.
The dances of Greece are a living expression of the heroism, courage, patriotism and self-sacrifice of the Greek people as well as the expression of their love, hope and happiness. All of these have been handed down through the centuries and give the dance of today their meaning, vitality and significance.
Dancing has traditionally been one of the most ancient forms of community entertainment and in most of Greece this still holds true. The people gather together at certain times during the year to celebrate important historical, national, social, religious or other cultural events in their yearly calendar with music and dancing. These dances cannot be separated from the every-day life of the Greeks for it is within the context of their lives that dances have meaning.
Consider the occasions associated with the dances: weddings, betrothals, baptisms, days honoring patron saints, pre-Lenten activities, Easter etc. It is on these occasions the Greek has an opportunity to physically express his emotions associated with the particular event. This was apparently true even with the ancient Greeks, “among the Greeks….. the dance was a social activity in the truest sense of the word. By means of in the Greek expressed his personal and communal emotions of joy and sorrow, marked all the great event of his own life and that of his city – and thoroughly enjoyed himself” (Lawler, 1985:121).
In modern Greece the association of the dance with the activities of the Greek Orthodox Church is not to be overlooked nor taken lightly. The majority of the associations for dancing are celebrations conducted either in or under the sponsorship of the church. Indeed, this religious association also appears to date fro ancient, even Minoan, times. Referring to the ancient Cretans, Lawler states, “… dancing was of the highest importance, not only as an amusement and spectacle, but as an integral part of their religion” (op. cit. 29) Elsewhere she tell us “... the Greek drew no hard and fast line between religious and secular dancing; and many of the dances in which he engaged informally, to commemorate events in his own life or that of his family, or merely for enjoyment, were offered also to the gods.” (op. cit. 116)
This relationship between the church and the dance is very strong and may be difficult for the non-Greek to comprehend. In many Christian churches in western cultures dancing has long been forbidden on the grounds that is immoral even through in Psalm 150:4 we are exhorted to “Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.” (KJV, 1978:685) Frescoes in many churches dating from byzantine times depict just activities.
The “dance” of the prophet Isaiah is included as part of the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony, in which bride, groom, koumbaros (best man) and the priest circle the altar three times. Speaking of the koumbaros at a Sarakatsani wedding, Patrick Leigh Fermor (1966:10,11) writes, “Hand in hand, led by the priest under a fusillade of flung rice and sweets, he accompanied the thrice round the altar in a slow and dignified dance. More than any other stage in solemnization… this. Hieratic pavane hallows and confirms the sacrament.” This same “dance” is also part of the ordination service for priests as well as of the baptismal service.
At one time in the area of Iraklion, Crete, as soon as the bride and groom exited from the church the musicians began playing while the wedding guests sang mantinades (rhymed couplets) in praise of the newlyweds. At the same time bride, groom, koumbaros, sympetheri (parents and close relatives of the bride and groom) began to dance the Siganos in a stavroto or crossed handhold. After some time, other dances would also be performed – Syrto, Maleviziotiko, Pentozali – depending on the kefi and desires of the guests. All of this while still at the church before departing for the groom’s home to continue the celebration. (informant-Antonis Peristeris) Of course, in almost every area of Greece the bride is escorted to the church with music and dancing and the wedding party is frequently escorted to the groom’s house afterward with the same.
It is not uncommon to see the priest in a particular village lead the first dance at a community celebration. On Easter Monday, 1980 in the village of Athikia, near Corinth, the majority of the villagers piled into cars, trucks and any other available vehicle to drive up in the mountain to an ancient chapel dating from byzantine times. There, after a brief liturgical service, the priest circulated among the people tapping the traditional red eggs and saying “Christos anesti” (Christ is risen), elicint the response, “Alithos anesti” (He is risen indded) when he finished it was time for the music and the first dance. This is true several other areas of the country as well.
A typical paniyiri (celebration for a particular saint) on the island of Karpathos begins with the liturgy, after which a meal is served to the entire community. When it is finished the music and dancing begins. In many parts of the country such paniyiria are still celebrated with music and dance.
The dances of Greece are so many and varied that is difficult to try to classify or group them. However, they do tend to have regional similarities and can be classified in such broad categories as mainland, island, plains, mountain and urban dances. Each of these groups has its own characteristics which are thought by some to reflect their particular geographical traits: the tall, majestic mountains are evident in the stately, proud bearing of the local inhabitants of mountainous villages as they move with simple steps combined with high lifts and leaps (for the men); dances of the plains regions seem to be more “earthy”, with running steps, stamping and lifts not so far from the ground, “… leaps, whirling, and stamping on the earth are well know fertility motifs, the like of which are found among the wedding dances and agricultural rituals of primitive peoples in all ages.” (Lawler ol. Cit:45) Islanders tend to move in a way which reminds one of the sea, as their dances seem to flow and undulate in a lilting manner reminiscent of the waves.
These general characteristics are given with the understanding that the inevitable exceptions exist in almost every region. In spite of these regional differences, they are nevertheless bound together by a common thread which makes the identifiable as Greek.
They are some traditional customes frequently reffered to as dances, which in the strictest sence might not be considered as such. They include carnival celebrations such as the “goat dance” of Skyros, the “dance” of the tzamala in Thrace and Macedonia, the movements associated with the soil fertility celebrations, the “fire-dancing” of the Anastenaria and the rain-making rituals performed in many parts of Greece.
The majority of Greek dances are in an open circle moving counter-clockwise. This possibly dates form ancient times when the circle was considered magical and impenetrable be evil. The circle has a leader who is usually free to improvise his or her own step variations within the framework of the dance and the local style. He or she is usually, but not always, one of the more capable or skilled dancers of the community.
Although the counter-clockwise moving open circle is the common formation of Greek dances, it is by no means the only one. There are dances performed in closed circles, open circle dances moving clockwise, as well as couple and solo dances, serpentine forms and free-form dances where the dancers may be placed wherever the choose.
Many dances which are performed by both men and women today were at one time limited to one sex or the other, i.e. Fissouni (for women), Mennousis (for men). Other dances may have been performed by both sexes but in selerate lines or with the last man and first woman joined not by the hands but by a handkerchief. Today in most villages societies as well as in the urban areas it is usually accepted for both sexes to dance in the same line and for either men or woman to lead the dance. An interesting exception to this still exists in the village of ‘Olympos, Karpathos, in the Dodecanese islands. There the dancing is always begun by the end of the village, with the women joining in later. Except at the very beginning of the dance (before the women join) the men do not dance next to each other; there is always a woman on either side of each man unless he is either the first or last in line. There may be many women, however, in between each man. The dance must be led by a man, and the last dancer must also be a man. In other villages on the same island only the Sousta may be led by a woman or danced without male participants.
The dances of Greece cannot be considered separately form the music played or sung for the dance. The one is an integral part of the other. The Greek word for dance, horos, comes from the ancient Greek and was used in the theater to denote a leader and a chorus. This can still be observed in many areas where a leader sings a line which is then repeated by the chorus, i.e. the rest of the villagers. “During the dance the leader song a couplet, perhaps improvised, which was then repeated by the rest of the dancers, who made up the chorus. The song was rendered in this call response fashion for the duration of the dance.” (Capodilupo 1982:22) A great deal of older dance music was vocal. Speaking of a very ancient custom in Nestani, Peloponnesos, K. Kakouri writes, “all dances of that hallowed day are accompanied by local songs only, never by musical instruments.” (1978:102) More recent innovations are the use of a singer who does not participate in the dance and the use of instrumental accompaniment. There has traditionally been a strong relationship between the dancer and the music and/or musicians.
Another strong influential factor on the dances in the past was the form of dress. The traditional costumes directly influenced the dances in that they denoted the wearer’s position in the community (unmarried, betrothed, newly married, young, old, etc.) and, therefore, his position in the dance. In some cases, the construction of the costume dictated certain styles of dance as the either restricted the dancer’s ability to jump, lift the leg, leap, etc., or allowed him the freedom of movement to perform such manoeuvres. Although traditional dress is rarely worn in Greece today, the dance styles are still influenced by the dress of the past.
The dances have a personal significance for the people who dance them. The history of Greece and her people are written into them as well as the music and song. They have been perpetuated and preserved over the centuries because of the deep pride and spiritual attachment which every Greek feels toward his county. The bond between the Greek and his village is very strong no matter where he is living; it is the place which gives him his identity. His village dances, although they may not vary significantly from those of surrounding villages, are a vital and living element which help to reinforce and perpetuate this identity.
A distinctive characteristic of Cultural Heritage is its social dimension as Heritage is a social practice (Smith 2006; Byrne 2008) where people co-create, co-produce and participate in the heritage-making through everyday practices, ultimately passing them to the next generations. For this reason, the social dimension of Cultural Heritage is strong and it is an integral part of (traditional) dancing as well. Most of the times traditional dancing requires dancers to gather, where social interaction is an inherent part of the dancing practice itself. Thus, in such a way the social aspect of the intangible cultural heritage, that is folklore dancing in this particular case, is fundamental, where movements, customs and knowledge are co-created and co-produced by people through a social nexus of interactions. For this reason, cultural dissemination activities, as well as training procedures have to reflect that aspect, as well as empower people to participate in the heritage-making. Cultural Heritage is about people, their exchanges, their practices, norms and values. Surely, it is about historic places, assets and archaeological sites and how those places are being managed. However, without people’s support, interest and their desire to retain or reuse these places and practices, they would not have survived throughout the centuries. The advent and prevalence of emerging technologies promised to lead the way for securing the preservation and accessibility of these practices through digital means. Yet, the question on how to disseminate and open up these practises, so that the general public can creatively re-use these types of data to meaningfully engage and to empower them to participate in the heritage-making, is still at stake. Indisputably, there have been attempts in recent years to bridge the gap of the digitization of these assets, between dancers and emerging technologies for capturing as well as analysing dancing movements through interdisciplinary projects bringing together various disciplines and interested parties for either manual or automatic dance annotation movement (Camurri et al. 2016; El Raheb et al. 2018). One of these projects was the WhoLoDancE: Whole-body Interaction Learning for Dance Education, a Horizon 2020 project which applied emerging technologies to dance learning for dance practitioners (Rizzo et al. 2018). The WhoLoDancE project developed a conceptual framework and toolkit for dance movement annotation for four dancing genres; flamenco, Greek folk, contemporary and ballet (El Raheb et al. 2018). It also established the WhoLoDancE Movement library, through which the user can access and explore the dance motion repository in an interactive way with the capability of editing the annotations (El Raheb et al. 2022). The WhoLoDancE project offered movement annotation (Figure 10), still it was addressed to dance experts and practitioners.
An Opening up the audience spectrum, a game experience for annotating dance movements, the Motion Hollow game, addressed non-expert users as a way to motivate them to contribute to the annotation process of the movements (Kougioumtzian et al. 2022). The experience used the Laban Movement Analysis framework (Kougioumtzian et al. 2022). The gamification aspect of the experience offered interactive element for the users and all in all the experience aimed in “paving the way for creating user-generated annotation content in the field of dance movement.” (Kougioumtzian et al. 2022, 23) (Figure 11).
Although gamification has at times received critical remarks on education and cultural engagement (Dichev and Dicheva 2017), still holds a prominent position for being capable of enhancing cultural dissemination to non-experts, that is the general public. Moreover, there is a great potential in bottom-up, participatory approaches for generating content for heritage-making (Koch 2021). Tapping into the potential, participatory annotation of dance movement could further be explored for innovating and strengthening co-creation aspects. In addition, aiding to that element, it would be useful to explore the possibility of developing data sets that have been captured through the 4DCulture project, where they can be re-usable and useful to the users. In order to realize that, the data could abide to the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) guiding principles (Wilkinson et al. 2016). By applying the FAIR guiding principles to the data sets the accessibility and re-usability of the assets could be amplified, which could ultimately strengthen user engagement and participation. One aspect of this, is high quality metadata, so that people can easily and reliably interact with the cultural sector. Cultural data that stand alone without its context could lack the ability to be interactive and thus, meaningful to the users. Furthermore, good and detailed documentation procedures on how the data was collected is significant in retaining transparent methods and openness in the processes both of collecting and also in analysing and visualizing the data. Additionally, to achieve an efficient dissemination of the project results and make them accessible, available and useful as much as possible, open licences could be used, such as Creative Commons licences could be used (Creative Commons 2022).
Folk dances are one of the means by which the members of any given community may share in various social experiences. They are, indeed, one of the oldest forms of community entertainment. Therefore, one assumed a connection through them with the past. Especially when we are dealing with a country which has an ancient written history as Greece’s, one tends to search for dances that may be ancient or even archaic.
That ancient Greeks danced cannot be denied. There are numerous references to dancing which have come down to us in the works of Homer, Plato, Socrates and others, as well as in the ancient theater. In some instances, even dance names have been included in a few theatrical works which have survived. Various dances are also depicted in a multitude of vase paintings. To assume, however, that the Greek dances of today are the same as the ancient dances would be folly. On the other hand, to say that there are no connections would also be inaccurate. Certainly many of the dances occasions have remained the same: weddings, religious feast days, national holidays. In addition to dances which are only for men or those only for women just as dances for a specific sex existed in ancient Greece.
Many people search for a meaning, story or history behind each dance and/or movement. Without doubt there are dances which depict particular events in the life cycle of the people, but by no means should one have the impression that every dance tells a story. Quite often a dance song will tell a story of either a local happening or an historical event. This is true for all regions of the country. The best known historical songs are the kleftika which describe many of the events and participants in the war for independence from The Turks. The majority of these songs are in syrto or tsamiko dance meter, but that does not necessarily mean that either one or both of these dances are acting out the events described.
There are dances or dance events (carnival, anastenaria, Kaloyeros, tzamala, etc.) which are usually for the purpose of ensuring fertility or abundance of crops. Describing an ancient Creta dance as depicted in scenes of the famous Harvester Vase, Lawler tell us “One of the men dancers stoops down and dances in a crouching position, striking the earth -as dancers do even today in Crete, during the village festivals to stir the earth to renewed production” (1985:36).