THE HISTORY OF THE ZORBA DANCE
How many of you reading this, have stumbled on this article because you recently attended a Greek themed event, recognised a tune that got everyone up and dancing and thought, what is this song? Is there more of it? Did one movie really change the perception people have of Greeks around the world?
‘The Zorba’ is a term used for a traditional Greek Dance, however its origins are not too common with the movie of the same name.
The Zorba, is traditionally called the Syrtaki, and is danced to a style of song called the Hasapiko, or a faster version known as Hasaposerviko. In Byzantine, and Ottoman ruled Greece, the Hasapis was the butcher, and if one was a member of the Butchers Guild, the dance would be performed to the tune of the Tamburas (the modern bouzouki’s grandfather). The dance was originally performed by Men, holding onto each other with aprons, napkins, and one leader of the dance holding the Butcher’s knife.
The dance during ottoman occupation became war dance amongst partisans fighting Turkish oppression, but eventually when Greece settled into ottoman occupation the dance became somewhat of a cultural novelty across the empire.
When Greece started to gain its independence in the early parts of the 19th century, the music and dance evolved into what we know as the Syrtaki, and was performed with orchestras and military bands; however it was not a major part of Greek music.
This changed in the 20th Century, when the dance gained international stardom with Cacoyiannis using it to emphasis the moral and crux of his plot to the movie Zorba the Greek.
The dance’s meaning evolved, whereas it once was limited to members of the Butcher’s Guild, it then became a war dance for Partisans and rebels, it was a cultural novelty, and then was reborn as a cultural novelty where it stands today as an activity to bring guests of festivities together, invigorate their souls with khefi, and to have a good time.