Greek traditional dancing is a social activity. You are part of a group, most often a circle, which is all about unity. Being one.
That’s also one of the main reasons why beginners oftentimes look at advanced dancers with admiration, but also with a kind of discouragement – “I will never make it.“
Rings a bell?
That’s one of the most often heard phrases among dance learners.
The only thing with this reasonment is – it’s totally false!
Learning Greek dances is just like any other learning process. Remember when you first wrote down a letter, and how it was different than your writing now? The same is true for dancing. The more you practice, the more skilled you will be, but not only!
During the learning process you’ll go through 3 distinct phases:
This is the very first phase that beginning Greek dance learners experience.
This is the stage when everything is new and you’re trying to keep up not to feel overwhelmed with the lots of information and coordination of movement.
You’re counting in yourself and your eyes are taped on the teacher, trying hard to copy the steps.
You also rely heavily on your peers – advanced dancers next to you will accelerate your learning, while other beginners might confuse you even more.
And your feeling of clumsiness and lack of coordination might affect your self-confidence. Many beginners like to typically stand at the end of the circle, which is the worst possible position for you. Why? The last person is the second most important in the circle. Together with the first dancers, these two shape the form of the circle. So the last really needs to have a feel for the space they are dancing at. Also, by having noone on one side, you have no guidance whatsoever. You’d better avoid that!
Position yourself between two advanced dancers – this will accelerate your learning (and feeling of success) a huge way!
Ignore what others might say or think about you. Everyone started somewhere. (And by choosing a not competitive dance group will assure you end up among nice and generous people versus critics.)
I know that the grass is always greener on the other side, but stay focused on the basics – the steps. Forget style, forget space, forget others around you. Focus on copying the steps.
When you work hard for a while on this, you’ll soon get to the second phase of Greek dance learning, which is:
This is the stage when you can do the steps without counting.
You gain self-confidence as you notice you are able to do several dances.
You feel how you move at the same rhythm as your neighbours and that gives you a sense of joy, harmony and unity.
You are not constantly looking at your teacher’s feet and start noticing other things around you. Like the people. Or hand-hold.
You don’t let yourself influenced by beginners, even if they do a false step or hand movement.
Use this phase to gain more awareness:
- Correct your handhold
- Watch the style. Notice what makes the style of each dance and imitate it.
- Check if you’re moving on the rhythm.
- Are you matching the size of the steps?
- Where are you in the circle – and what is your role (depending on your place, you might need to do bigger or smaller steps or even do steps in a different direction than others, think Koulouriastos)?
- What is the space you are in? Are you using the right physical space, being aware of obstacles behind you or in front of you?
- You can also use this stage to notice more the music. What makes this melody so typical of that region? What are the instruments and how they influenced the dance? Or if you speak Greek, even listening to the lyrics to understand what it is about.
After total immersion in this phase, comes the next and final stage:
This is the phase where you feel totally at ease with dancing. Someone could wake you up at night and you could start a dance.
You recognize music and know what to dance on them.
You appropriated the style of the dances so you are ready for more – copying, learning or inventing figures.
You have a great sense for the space around you, you feel exactly what obstacles are around you and are able to avoid them confidently.
For this same reason, you lead dances, being able to keep the formation and making use of the whole space you have.
And you step out of anonimity and into the role of a leader and improviser, by doing figures even at the front, all by yourself.
Watch videos with local dancers and learn from them. (Best is to be on the spot, but if you can’t, watching locals dance on video is the second best option.)
Rewind the videos again and again to learn some figures. Don’t try to imitate the dancers – choose the figures you like and make them your own. Improvising is not about copying others, it’s about infusing you into the style of the dance!
And now over to you: In which phase are you right now? What are you finding difficult or easy in learning Greek dances? What tips do you have for others? Leave us a comment below…