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by Archaeology Newsroom

Dance in Ancient Greece: An Attempt to Understand

In our modern world we tend to forget how important the direct, face-to-face communication was in Antiquity. In ancient Greece mousike, that is the combination of poetry, music and dance, was a popular and effective way of oral communication with a large nonverbal component. This mousike was considered indispensable to religion: it was the best way to attract an audience and communicate with it. In a religious dance the participants would spent their energy to please the divinities with their performance. Indeed many gods were thought to be dancers themselves. And, of course, inside and outside religion – if anything can be said to be ‘outside’ religion in Antiquity- people simply were enjoying themselves with singing and dancing.

Mousike was essential to Greek culture, therefore it is well documented and we can draw information on music and dance from various sources. As a result, we know a lot about mousike, while at the same time and quite paradoxically our knowledge about dance is poor. We have only a faint idea about the motion and movements of the ancient Greek dance, and its reconstruction is impossible. Nevertheless, there are texts and representations that tell us about dance so much as to enable us to understand it and to give it the proper, prominent position it held in the ancient Greek culture, together with the other constituents of mousike, without which our picture of the ancient world would inevitably remain incomplete.