Music and Dance

Music and Dances

The Cretans close relationship to music and dance can be traced back to the early history and myths of the island.

In one of the most famous myths, for example, the Kourites, the guardians of the infant Zeus, danced while they beat their shields, in order to cover up the infant's crying. Homer mentioned the shield of Achilles, which was adorned with scenes of revelry in Knossos. In Crete music played an important role in every aspect of life (religious ceremonies, entertainment, birth, marriage, death and war).

Accompanied with the sound of the “lyre”, the lute and occasionally the violin and the guitar, musicians sing "mantinades", which are mainly love songs arranged in couplets. The "rizitika", which are slow songs of narrative character, are also a popular type of Cretan music. Their main subjects are marriage, death, historical events, heroic characters etc. The development of dances and the development of music in the course of time were closely connected.

The Cretan dances have their roots in the Minoan times. Contrary to the "syrtos", which is danced in a large circle, the "sousta" is danced in couples. It is an erotic and vigorous dance, which is danced almost on the tip of the toes. Traditional dances, during which men and women wear the superb Cretan costumes, include slow and swift rhythms, always with dynamic and imposing postures.

The direct connection of Cretan dances with war dances is evident, particularly if they are danced in a circle by a group of men. Following the rhythm of the lyre, the dancers gradually improve their technique, while they perform the difficult steps of dances like 'Pentozalis, 'Syrtos' and 'Pidichtos'. The dancer who leads the circle, usually a man, is supported by the right hand of the second dancer and is thus able to perform excellent leaps, the so-called "tsalimia".