History of Greek Dance
"Cretan women once danced gracefully to music round a lovely altar, their soft feet treading smooth the delicate flowers of the meadow." Sappho or Alcaeus, c600 B.C.

Archaeological remains show us that dance was an important aspect of Greek life as far back as prehistoric times. Frescoes and sealstones from Minoan Crete, roughly the second millennium B.C., depict women engaged in ritual and social dance, and young people dancing and performing acrobatic feats with bulls - the so-called "bull-leaping". And legend has it that Theseus, having slain the Minotaur in Crete, stopped on his way back to Athens and danced a dance called Geranos - a name which survives in Greek folk-dance even today.
With the demise of the Classical Period came the end of the golden age of drama at Athens. Tragedy gave way under the Romans to spectacular shows, while comedy degenerated into pantomime and farce. Performance dance, sidelined or even excluded in the latest plays, became debased and was frowned upon by the Christian Church. Despite this, social dance managed to take hold in people's secular lives; indeed, most of the Greek folk dances which we do today have their roots in the Byzantine Period. Even religious ceremonies were not immune as music and dancing became the popular way to celebrate weddings, baptisms and saints' days.
Under Turkish occupation dances were adapted to suit the times. In Macedonia particularly, the Klepht guerrillas used the old masked carnival dances to descend from their mountain strongholds unrecognised by the authorities, in order to make contact with their families and join in the pre-Lenten festivities. New dances appeared associated with the bravery of the partisans in their struggle for freedom, or with the nobility of the villages of women and children who preferred death to foreign domination. So when western travellers began visiting Greece at the beginning of the 16th century they found dance still flourishing, and took carful notes of the dances and costumes they saw. These they reported at home, where the interest aroused stirred the beginnings of a philhellene movement aimed at the eventual liberation of the Greeks from their Turkish oppressors.
Now, Greece is one of the few European countries where dance survives as a part of everyday life. Each year professional dance troupes put on performances for festivals and saints' days, while the Dora Stratou Dance Theatre in Athens works hard at researching the traditional dances and presenting them to the public. The Orthodox Church still retains its Byzantine dance elements. And all over Greece, wherever there is music playing, ordinary people get up and dance the steps handed down from generation to generation.