Crete traditional dances

Traditional dances of Crete

As with the roots of the musical tradition, Cretan folk dances also reflect their turbulent history. As early as 1547 a travelling French doctor reported witnessing warrior-like dances on Crete and, again, in 1599 an English traveller tells of wild dances which were performed in the villages late at night.

Cretan folk dances have many variations and some are quite localised to specific regions on this large island. However, they can all be broken down into four main categories, all of which have elements which depict the brave heroism, dynamism and rebellious character of the Cretan character. From the Iraklion region is the Kastrinos or Maleviziotis. It is the fastest and most difficult and impressive of all Cretan dances, performed only by men. Danced in an open circle, it is exceptionally fast with small steps that give the dancer a chance to show off their stamina and agility.


The Pentozalis is another very fast dance with, again, some of the most complicated steps in all Greek dancing, with some variations even more tricky. It can be interspersed with a slow Pentozali known as the Siganos. The fast Pentozali is a traditional war dance which symbolizes revolution, heroism and hope and the wearing of black kerchiefs on the head represents the sacrifices made by Cretans throughout its history.


The slower Siganos became a communal dance during the Turkish occupation signifying unity and freedom. The malevisiotis or sousta is another fast and lively dance which originated in Rethymnon but is now seen all over Crete. Danced by both sexes it is a modern version of an ancient warrior dance depicting adventure in battle. Finally, the syrtos or chaniotikos, danced by men and women, it expresses life, death, love and secret desires through small, creeping, rhythmic steps with the lead dancer having an opportunity to perform more spectacular moves. .