Ancient Greek Dance

Much like music and theater, ancient Greek dance was an important element of ancient Greek life.

People constantly gathered to celebrate things from new babies to marriages to funerals to festivals honoring the gods.

Ancient Greek dance evolved over time with many different styles. There are approximately 200 ancient Greek dances from every region of Greece.

Origins of ancient Greek dance

Ancient Greeks believed that the gods invented dance. They thought dance first appeared on the island of Crete.

Ancient Greeks believed dance was created by the Curetes of Crete when Zeus was born.

Apollo was the god of dance and the goddess of dance was known as Terpsichore.

Basic ancient Greek dance styles

Ancient Greeks danced in two specific ways. Circular dances were performed around an altar of offering.

Line dances were performed with a leader. Dancers would follow and mimic the dance steps of the leader.

Ancient Greek dance was an important part of a child’s education. The ancient Greeks believed a good dancer was a gift from the gods.

Good dancers were highly rewarded within society. Some dancers even had monuments built of them.

At first only men were allowed to dance with men. Over time men and women started to dance together at home, festivals and other celebrations.

Evidence of different dances can be found in literature, vases, paintings and sculptures. Dancers wore a variety of costumes.

Each dance was choreographed to bring out the beauty of a dancer’s movements.

Ancient Greek theater used dancers in almost every performance from comedies to tragedies.

Specific styles of ancient Greek dance

Ancient Greek dances had specific styles depending on the celebration. Ancient Greek dances performed at religious ceremonies were called Apollonian.

The Apollonian dances were very simple with lots of gentle swaying. Musical instruments such as lyres, flutes and aulos were played during these ceremonies.

When ancient Greeks celebrated a marriage, a new born child or a festival honoring the gods, the style of dance was called Dionysian.

The Dionysian dances were more upbeat and energetic. The same musical instruments were played but with a more rapid beat.

Regional ancient Greek dance styles

Besides Apollonian and Dionysian dance styles, each region had their own style too. Regions created their own choreography for dances.

For instance, the dance style around the islands had a more fluid flow. The Aegean Islands provided dances that were primarily for couples.

Dances closer to the Black Sea known as Pontic dancing were very sharp and intricate. In the Epirus dances were very slow and required tremendous balancing skills.

Other regions such as the Peloponnese, dances featured line dancing. During these dances the line would follow a leader and mimic the moves of the leader.

In Macedonia, dances start slow and finish with a flurry of activity as well as movement.

Dances found in the Thrace region were light with skipping movements. Only men can lead the line in a Thracian dance.

Facts about ancient Greek dance

  • Ancient Greeks believed a good dancer was a gift of the gods.
  • Apollo is nicknamed the Dancer.
  • Terpsichore is the goddess of dance.
  • Religious dances were called Apollonian style.
  • Festival dances were referred to as Dionysian style.
  • Two forms of dancing: circular around an altar and line dancing with a leader.
  • Ancient Greek dances from around the Black Sea were called Pontic.
  • There are more than 200 ancient Greek dances.


1. Ancient Greek dances performed at religious ceremonies where called?

Apollonian dances

2. There were two forms of dance styles. What were they?

Circular around an altar or line dancing with a leader

3. Who is known as the goddess of dance?


4. How many ancient Greek dances are there?

Approximately 200

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