Encyclopedia of Dance: Sirtaki


The dancers who perform sirtaki claim that in the process of dancing the surrounding ceases to exist, only movement remains, reaching automatism, and the rhythm, captivating, bewitching and not letting you stop

Sirtaki is often considered the hallmark of Greece, although this dance is not a folk dance. Reflecting national characteristics and organically fitting into Greek culture, sirtaki has become a kind of symbol of this country. The mayor of the city of Athens once expressed the idea that the Greeks in life follow the principle of sirtaki: a slow start, then faster and faster until they reach incredible speed.

History of occurrence

During the filming of Zorba the Greek in 1964, American actor Anthony Quinn had to perform a traditional Greek dance on the seashore. During filming, he broke his leg, and when the cast was removed, the actor could not perform fast and bouncing movements. The resourceful mummer replaced the movements with slow and gliding ones, thanks to which the foot could be “dragged” along the sand. And he simply misled the director of the film, Michalis Kakoyannis, saying that this dance was shown to him by the locals and that it was truly Greek. For greater persuasiveness, the name was also coined in consonance with the existing Cretan dance sirtos — sirtaki (“little sirtos”). The music for the dance was written by the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.

Sirtaki in Greek means «touch» and actually has similar features to the traditional Greek dance hasapiko — the butchers’ dance. In hasapiko the same slow, fairly monosyllabic and simple movements. Sirtaki, on the other hand, gradually accelerates in the second part, where the nature of the movements also changes significantly. This also has an explanation. After all, the aforementioned film was filmed for a long time, so at the end of filming, Anthony Quinn could already move without any restrictions. And he already performed the second part of the dance in the tradition of pidichos, a Greek dance with jumps and jumps.

With the release of the film, the dance in many countries really began to be perceived as Greek. The Greeks themselves also fell in love with it and call it the “Zorba dance” in honor of the main character. After the release of the film, the performer of the role of Zorba, the American Queen, was even awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of Greece.

Nowadays, sirtaki can be seen performed in Greek national costumes, but usually such an act only serves as a presentation of Greek culture outside the country itself.

During the existence of sirtaki, a lot of variations of the dance appeared, but its main features — a slow start, an acceleration of the tempo from the beginning to the end of the dance — remain unchanged.


What is sirtaki?

Sirtaki is a group dance. Dancers stand in one line, less often in a circle. If there are many dancers, there may be several lines. The arms are stretched out and placed on the shoulders of the neighbors, the bodies of the dancers in the upper part are in contact. The main movements are carried out with the legs. The hands, on the other hand, play a connecting role and during the dance they should not disengage so that the line of dancers does not fall apart. Leg movements are synchronous and simultaneous.

The main movements are divided into 3 groups: side steps, half-squats and lunges, «zigzag». The last movement is most impressive when the dancers cross their legs and quickly, almost running, zigzag in a circle.

Sirtaki Features

The musical size of the dance is 4/4, but as the tempo increases, it can change to 2/4.

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