It’s Sunday morning on the Mykonos waterfront. An easy breeze rolls in from the sea. A sun-kissed stranger returns your smile. And as the windmills of Little Venice begin to peep over the rooftops, something spectacular bursts into life…
Out of nowhere, a sea of locals washes over the waterfront. Around 70 people – young and old, tall and small – assemble from all directions. Now they’re getting into formation. Off to the side, someone pulls a speaker from their bag, hits play on their phone, and within moments the entire ensemble is moving as one. Rhythm, unity, joy, spreading into the hearts of everyone in the area. At first you stand and watch in awe. Now you can’t help but join in.
Trends meet traditions
This year, to welcome the 2021 tourism season and the return of cruising, Mykonos residents danced in the streets. There on the waterfront that Sunday morning, they had come together to take on the viral Jerusalema Dance Challenge. On social media, this challenge had been spreading joy, keeping people connected, and creating community amid global lockdowns. That made it the ideal dance trend for the passionate people of Mykonos.
Coming together for a flash mob, a surprise public performance, has become an annual event on the island in recent years. Jerusalema is only the most recent expression of the Mykonos community spirit. Usually meeting on Greek Orthodox Palm Sunday, up to 150 locals take the streets, get in formation, and get their groove on. At first it was traditional Greek dances, like the syrtaki, that were learned and performed, so borrowing Jerusalema is a wonderful way to invite the whole world in on the fun. After all, nobody loves to dance like the Greeks love to dance!
Ancient Greeks loved to strike a pose
They danced at weddings, baptisms, holy festivals. They danced for health, connection, revelry. They even followed dance trends set by the gods. Pan was the official dancemaker god, but the moves of Dionysus and his merry, goat-legged satyrs were just as popular at parties.
Greek dance can trace its origins back around 4,000 years to the Minoans in Crete. Dancers have been found painted on palace walls, etched into gold rings, sculpted as figurines, immortalised on pottery… they were everywhere. Some were even portrayed as gods among men.
Why all the fuss? It’s about much more than health and happiness. Ancient Greeks were leaders in holistic thinking. They believed in the balance of body, mind and spirit, where the wellbeing of one influences the wellbeing of the others. They believed the same for individual and community – one cannot thrive without the other. Through dance, the bonds of community are kept strong, and our sense of belonging propels us into the world with confidence and purpose.
“When we need to, we can do beautiful things together,” said Elena Andreou, the organiser of the Mykonos flash mob. And the Ancient Greeks would probably agree. So… shall we?
It’s your turn to dance like a Greek
You don’t have to be raised in an olive grove to shimmy like a Greek – we also love to teach! Just come to Greece and we’re bound to pull you into the action. In fact, guests of Celestyal Cruises have the option to learn a few moves onboard as part of their all-inclusive entertainment. Here are a few favourites that always go down a treat…
Picture Greek dancing and you’ll probably picture the syrtaki. Created for the movie ‘Zorba the Greek’ in the 1960s, this world-famous form blends two traditional dances into something new, unique and exciting. Dancing in a line or circle, with your hands on your neighbours’ shoulders, you’re truly in it together.
Considered the national dance of Greece, we all get involved in the fun at summer parties and village feasts. Usually slower than a syrtaki, the kalamatianos involves holding hands in a circle and repeating simple, cheerful steps. Improvisation can also play a part… if you’re brave enough!
Flirting with your movements, chasing and luring, building to an exciting climax. It can only be the ballos. Designed for couples, the seductive steps tell a romantic story, making this one of the most entertaining dances to watch. Learn it for yourself and become a true Greek at heart.
For a taster lesson you can try at home, here’s a video created by a Greek school teacher. Enjoy!