History of Crete
Musical Instruments of Crete
Cretan Dances
Rebel Songs (Rizitika)
Folk Poetry (Mantinades)
Legends of Crete


: Agkaliastos

: Anogianos Pidihtos
Men's martial dance that is danced in the region of Anogia, with special characteristics the hopping steps and the strong taps of the feet in the ground. It seems that it springs from an ancient dance of the Kourites. The hands of dancers are hold from the palms crosswise and form a dance of twelve steps (six steps forward, six steps backwards). It is attributed with a lyre and a lute.

: Apanomeritis

: Zervodeksos
A cheerful and comical dance that suits the spirit of the Carnival. It is named zervodeksos because the dancers dance sometimes with a direction to the left (zerva) and sometimes to the right (deksia). The change of the direction is being done when the lyre player plays a high musical sound.

: Katsampadianos
It is being danced with eleven steps and is attributed with a lyre. It is mainly danced in the prefecture of Rethimno and more specifically in the province Amari but also in the regions around it, as well as the village Harkia in the province of Rethimno. According to the book of I. Tsouhlarakis, "The dances of Crete", this dance was first danced around 1800 in the region of Ampadia in the province of Amari (prefecture of Rethimno), as a variant of pentozali, so that Sifodaskalakis, a limping chieftain of the region, could dance in a feast.

: Lasithiotikos Pidihtos
A dance that belongs to the family of hopping dances of Crete, likely having an origin from the ancient Pirrihio dance. In the Lasithiotiko Pidihto is portrayed all the nobility and modesty of the people of Eastern Crete. In Sitia they call it "Stiako'" and in Ierapetra "Gerapetritiko" (in the old days in Ierapetra it was usually called "Cretan dance"). With no doubt it is the most representative dance of Eastern Crete, in which are characterized but also appreciated the skilful dancersas well as the good instrumentalists. It begins with a slow rhythmical introduction and progressively it becomes fast but also retained without exceeding the limits and it ends up as a Dionysiac dance. The Pidihtos has some small variants in Sitia, Ierapetra and Merampello in the steps but also the melody in which there is a big variety.

: Maleviziotis (Kastrinos)
Maleviziotis or Kastrinos Pidihtos is a swift dance which is completed in sixteen steps, (eight forwards and eight backwards). The accompanying music is played by violin or lyre with lute, mandolin or askomantoura in the mountainous regions. This dance is enthusiastic and dynamic. It is circularly danced with hands holding from the palms in the height of the shoulders and the elbows bent. It is developed with upstandingness and enthusiasm and it leaves the first dancer to improvise.
The divine origin of this dance has a certain base after a lot of dances of Greeks have their roots from the Minoan times. In Greek writtings we meet revolutionary dances under arms as the orsiti (ancient Cretan dance) that Athineos says that it has its roots from the ancient pirihi. The term "orsos" or "orses" is given in the swift figures that the dancers make in our days. The dance was first danced in the province of Malevizi in the prefecture of Heraklion (Kastro), that's why it is called Maleviziotis or Kastrinos. In Chania this dance is called Kastrini Sousta. In the rest of Crete it was propagated around the decade of 1920.

: Mikro Mikraki
A dance that we mainly meet in the prefecture of Rethimno. It belongs to the category of the round dances of Crete.

: Ntames
A form of round dance that is danced in certain villages of the prefecture of Rethimno and Chania. It is danced by men and women, as the woman keeps the end of a cloth with her left hand and next to her a man holds the other end, up to the moment where the lyre player will say "ntama", so each man leaves his partner's cloth in order to dance with the woman that is front of him.

: Ksenompasaris
This dance owes its name to the folk couplet that is sung always first during the dance:
" My ksenompasariakaki, my ksenompasariko,
my curly little basil, wish you were mine".
Its melody is cute, light and it makes the dance enthusiasts want to dance. In the old days they used to danced and sing it in every feast, especially in the mountainous villages of Ierapetra and Merampello (where they call it "Mana").
It was well-known until the decade of 1960. It is a settled and slow dance that resembles the Sigano. In the old years in Ierapetra they didn't know the Sigano. It came over the last years from central Crete, as the olders say. We can say that the Ksenompasaris mighr be an old local form of the Siganos dance.

: Pentozalis
Pentozalis is a particularly enthusiastic and swift dance. Its basic steps are five and it is based on a rhythm with eight musical metres. It is danced by men and women holding each other from the shoulders in circle. The accompanying music is played by violin or lyre with lute, mandolin and askomantoura in the mountainous regions.

Pentozalis is perhaps the most known but also historical dance of Crete. It is said that during the Turkish domination, Crete and in general Greece under the need of allies was collaborating with Russia. At that time, the empress Ekaterini was on the throne of Russia, who had sent away of the throne the empress Elisabeth of Russia. A Greek Captain of the royal guard, Papazolis, also participated in the coup d'etat. After Ekaterini's V dethronement, Papazolis, in agreement with Russian courtiers, asked from the empress to help the Greek nation to be exempted from the Turkish domination. Ekaterini decided to send army in Greece so that it will help at the rebellion, since the release of Greece and the sinking of the Ottoman Empire served also her own plans to spread her empire. This became fast acquaintance in Greece through Papazolis, who in his travel incited the Greeks. However Ioannis Vlahos or Daskalogiannis from Crete heard about the rebellion, travelling with his boats as a tradesman in Russia. Daskalogiannis, an educated and polite man, courageous and powerful in Crete, came first in contact with the courtiers of Ekaterini and came to an agreement about the help from Russia. This way, when reaching in Crete in agreement with his commanders, he prepared his own revolution on Crete, counting on the help of Russia.

During the delivery they decided to make also a new martial dance that would symbolize the fifth "zalo", that is the fifth revolt against the Turks. So he ordered to in the instrumentalist Kioro from Anopolis at Sfakia, to compose a martial dance with five zala (steps), and twelve turnings, the number of the leaders that were participating in the revolution. The dance was danced with the soldiers holding each other from the shoulders, which symbolizes the mutual support amongst the warriors. This revolt however failed, Daskalogiannis like the rest of his captains were killed, but this dance remained to remind the revolt, as well as Daskalogiannis himself .
An other version reports that Pentozalis has been created after the agreement between five captains that every one of them had his own turning.
In Pentozalis the first dancer, in absolute agreement with the rest of the dancers, hasa restriction of improvisation, his steps are ritual and counted. Women do not often lead in Pentozalis.

: Priniotis

: Siganos
Siganos is a slow walking dance which is danced holding hands from the shoulders, is completed with six or eight steps, with eight steps is danced in Milopotamos, while with six steps is danced in Heraklion. When it is danced with six steps it does not complete the melody because its basic metres are eight, however it is easier this way, and generally is characterized as a tourist dance. Because in Siganos the circle of dancers when there are many curles in spiral, many say that it depicts the exit of Theseus from the Labyrinth.
Siganos is said to be the dance of the bride, because it is danced in the marriages with the groom on the front and the bride next to him.
There isn't enough evidence about its origin, it is said however that during the Ottoman domination, the privileged ones used to call the Cretans at their places and put a slippery material on the floor in order to make the women and their girls dancing to fall so as their skirts would raise. So, the Cretans not being able to do anything else, they asked from the instrumentalists who were usually Christians to compose a melody for a dance with no walking, with strong steps so thatthe women won't lose their balance and fall.
That way the composition of Siganos was made.
An other version reports that the Turks on dominated Crete had forbitten the Cretans to dance revolutionary dances. So the Cretans invented the Siganos that resembles a lot the steps of pentozalis, in order not to forget this great dance. Today Siganos is accompanied very often by a series of couplets, sarcastic, erotic, of grief and pain.

: Sousta
The Sousta is the facing dance of Crete that has a lot of elements from the ancient pirihios. The particular way that is danced is the evidence. The dance is being danced by men and women, alternately holding palms all together, shaping in the beginning a semicircle, afterwards they separate and stand the one opposite the other making two teams, on of the men and and one of the women. During the dance a story is developed between the man and the woman, the man calls and hugs, trying to invite the woman erotically. The woman with turnings and figures resists to the erotic call. With the movements of the hands and the head, a discussion is developed little by little. Till in the end, befalls the union. The development of this dance therefore is an erotic history that each one of the dancers, depending on his place, plays his own role.
The dance requires an absolute interdependence between the body, the hands and the head that all of them, in a combination contribute to the absolute expression of the dance. The rhythm is based on metre 2/4 and the accompanying music is played with lyre or violin and lute, mandolin or askomantoura in the mountainous regions. Its basic steps are three.
The Sousta as a dance has its roots from the ancient pirihios that is considered the most ancient Cretan martial dance. In the antiquity, the Greeks believed that the Cretans had invented the art of dance under a divine inspiration and that the most ancient dances of Crete and in general of all Greece were the dances of the Kourites.

Pirihios that is named this way because with the general name pirihi all the martial dances are characterized, is said that it was invented by the Kourita Piriho, a Kourita God. This martial dance is danced with all the martial equipment and depicted the battle of pedestrian soldiers. It was danced from one warrior or by many together, where they depicted the movements of the fight. It is considered however that the famous Cretan musician and composer Thalitas, who composed a lot of songs for this dance, rescued it. Thalitas in the antiquity was known for the composition of paeans that him made famous. It is said that Thalitas according to an oracle from Delphi was called in the Sparta in order to rescue the place from a plague with the help of paeans. It was probably then that he taught the Spartans the pirihio. Little by little it was propagated in all over Greece. Reports say that the dance was danced around 60b.C. in Athens in the feast of Panathenaea.
Around 300a.C. the dance began to be danced from women as well and thus it took an erotic character. Its current name came from the time of the Venetian domination from the Italian word "susta" that means lamina (spring), since the body during the dance reminds of it. With its spread, every city that was danced in, was changing its name claiming its fatherhood. It prevailed however in the islands of the Aegean and on Crete. In the islands the rh ythm is also played with a ntaoulaki.
In the older times, the dance gave the opportunity in man in love of expressing his sentiments to a woman. The variety in the rhythms and the songs of Sousta is very big, and gives the possibility for a spread of the hands and a bigger expression of the body. Two good dancers can easily during the dance to carry out a love story from the beginning till the happy end.

: Sirtos
Sirtos or sertos is a slow dance that is danced in a rhythm based on metre 2/4 (4 turnings by 2 times) and is accompanied by lyre or violin, lute, mandolin or askomantoura in the mountainous regions. There is a big variety of rhythms that accompany the Sirtos, the first, the second, the Kissamitikos, etc.
It is named Sirtos because the legs of the dancers are shuffled on the ground without losing their contact with the earth, which the Cretans worshipped as a Goddess. It is completed with eleven or twelve steps, when it is danced with eleven steps it keeps one rhythm, and its pace is circular, with hands in a distance looking upwards.

During the dance, the dancers shape a circle which closes and opens inwards. The circle is led by the first dancer, who has the possibility to improvise, making small variants in the pace, shaping the figures, small complicated steps, however without enthusiasm and big jumps, and without exiting the circle, he makes turns and moves that take off the dance. After he finishes, he goes last one and the second dancer becomes first making his improvisions.
When the dance is danced by men only, the following shaping is strictly followed. The first dancer with a piece of material draws the second one and they dance while the rest of the dancers follow, walking while holding hands. The first dancer takes the first turn following the steps of the Sirtos, on the second turn he makes alternations in the steps with prudence, making small improvised figures, on the third turn with more enthusiasm he executes more intense steps and exiting the circle with swift movements, he touches the last dancer. Thus the second becomes first and executes his own variants. This becomes until all the dancers dance in the front. This has a particularly allegorical importance because it depicts the leader with the commander that together draw the men in the war and when the leader is killed, the commander takes his place.

Historical elements say that a few days before the historic event of the fall of Istamboul, about 1000 Cretans volunteers begun to fight in Istamboul (the only naval expedition that was completed). When Istamboul fell, the 150 remaining Cretans continued fighting in the three towers that they had undertaken. So, the leader of the Turkish army, as an example of good will and bravery, decided to let them leave with one of their boats, armed and with their flags of war, honouring their self-sacrifice.

According to the tradition, the Cretans over the few moments of resting from the war used to sing songs that prompted in heroism and self-sacrifice, combining the ancient pirihi with the Byzantine music, making two melodies of their own, so as to accompany their songs. After years, during the marriage of a captain, the chieftains ordered the organist to play those honoured melodies, and under the sentimental charging of their memories, they danced the ancient dance in variants. This resulted to the current sirtos with the eleven steps. According to the instrumentalists and the dancers of that time, this dance started to propagate itself all over Crete during the '20s, with certain variants regarding the steps and the melody. Its expression from revolutionary in the Western parts, becomes more lyrical as long as we move to the Eastern parts. So, it is differently danced in Kissamos, differently in Milopotamos, differently in Heraklion and differently in Sitia.
Women in Crete hold many times first in Sirtos, in contrary to men, they give big importance to the dancing expression rather than in virtuosity, do not execute jumps and leaps but small modest steps with harmony in the movement of body and legs. They make turns that refer very often to the murals of Knossos that depict the blue ladies with the tufted skirts.

: Sotis


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