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Mary Coros

What traditional dances do Cretans know?

Coros, Mary: "What traditional dances do Cretans know?", 14th International Conference, International Organization of Folk Art - Greek Section, Dance and History, Aridea, Pella, 13-17 September 2000.

This study investigates the knowledge that Cretans and researchers hold about Cretan traditional dances. The first issue that is addressed is: to what extent is what Cretans know, about well known and lesser known traditional dances, related to birthplace, age, residence or a combination of all the aforementioned. Furthermore, how was their knowledge of the lesser-known dances formed, based on social interactions, exposure to media, or observed performances.

A similar issue that is addressed is: to what extent is what researchers know, about well known and lesser known traditional dances, related to type, district and county (nomos). Inherent in this study is a comparison of the commentary and/or explanation made in the literature and that made by the Cretans interviewed for this study about their knowledge of Cretan dances.

A four-question interview (which accompanies this abstract) was conducted individually in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, between May 21 and June 10, 2000, with 42 Cretans from varying counties (nomous). While an attempt was made to equally distribute study participants based on their county (nomo) of origin, the distribution was as follows: 40% from Iraklio, 33% from Rethimno, 26% from Hania and none from Sitia. These three counties (nomous) represent 23 villages and 11 districts of Crete.

Among the participants of the interviews, results indicated that alone, neither age nor residence appears to determine knowledge. As one might expect, birthplace, more specifically village, has an effect on Cretan traditional dance knowledge. Further, claims regarding the lesser known dances appear to have been observed, most often in the media and concerts; whereas, claims regarding the well known dances appear to have been observed most often in social settings. In addition, it appears that older Cretans more often observed the lesser-known dances in their youth.

A review of literature was undertaken to identify type of dance (Pithiktos, Sirtos) and location: village, district and county (nomo). Among the researchers in the literature, there appears to be consensus with regard to type of dance. Further, researchers predominately did not identify village or district; nevertheless, consensus was apparent with references to county (nomo). With respect to the commentary and/or explanations about dances, there were some similarities among researchers in the literature and the participants interviewed with regard to comments about the well-known dances; however, there were few similarities for the lesser-known dances, if in fact those dances were mentioned at all. From the participants interviewed, there appear to be more comments about the dances Pentozalis, Sirtos and Siganos. The literature however, contains significantly more commentary and explanation of Maleviziotikos. What was shared between the two (interview participants and literature) was the basis in mythology about some of the dances. The interview participants' commentary provided some unanticipated findings:

1) Frequent identification of relatively unfamiliar dances to be regional/melodic variations of Sirtos.

2) Interpolations of the name of the dance (i.e. Angaliastos), based on the meaning of the root word (angalia) thereby identifying the dance Angaliastos to be various and well-known dances whose dancers are connected by holding shoulders.

3) The frequency with which Kalamatianos and Ntournerakia were identified as being Cretan dances.

Mary Coros (Maria Kouromichelakis)


[Questionnaire - 1 page only]


Cretan Dance Questionnaire 2000 (Dr. Mary Coros)

Age:1=30's, 2=40's, 3=50's, 4=60's, 5=70 & over
Place of residence:
Year immigrated to Canada:
Place of birth:

1. NAME the Cretan dances.
O for naming Cretan dances Additional Comments (if any)

2. Can you NAME any OTHER Cretan dances?

3. Have you HEARD of the following dances before?
O for yes Name of dance Comments (if any)
Ortses Anogion
Mikro Mikraki
Anogianos Pithiktos

4. Have you SEEN any of those above dances?
Name of Dance Seen When? Seen Where? Danced by


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