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Dance in ancient Greece: anything new?

Frederick Naerebout

In this article, I want to look back on the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the
21st century, and ask whether the past decennium has brought any renewal to the research
into ancient Greek dance, and what the promises for the future are, if any. In 2018 it will be
400 years ago that Joannes Meursius published the first modern monograph on dance in the
ancient world. At the anniversary party, in fourteen years time, can we say that those four
centuries will have ended with a whimper, or with a bang?
Why study ancient Greek dance?
But let us first ask, why we should put an effort into the study of ancient Greek dance
at all? At first sight, the subject does not seem very promising: dance is an ephemeral art,
of which little remains the moment the dance is finished: a memory, the dance floor, some
paraphernalia… For ancient Greece this certainly seems the case: it had no dance notation,
no urge to provide posterity with a precise record of its dances in either words or pictures,
and possibly no technical literature on dance movements – at least, we have found no
traces of it. So it really is a lost art. One can have legitimate doubts whether there is much
to tell about a lost art. Also, if a possible lack of information is not what bothers one, one
might be wrong-footed by modern scholarship: surely, dance must have been of little importance
in the ancient Greek world, because modern accounts of that society usually dedicate
only a few lines to the subject of dance and music, if they are mentioned at all [1].
Surely, the scholars writing all these works about ancient Greece, ancient Greek religion
and so on, would give more space to the dance if it had been highly valued by the ancients
In fact, amongst the relatively scanty remains of the ancient world there are many texts
and images directly or indirectly related to dance – enough to have kept scholars busy for
centuries on end, as we will see below, and also a perennial inspiration to theatre makers
in the western world [2]. Maybe it is not the kind of sources that many of us would have
wanted to have; but it is information on the dance. Of course, the sheer number of sources
is not necessarily a good indication of the relative societal importance of the phenomenon
documented by those sources. But in this case, I think, we have enough reports by ancient
contemporaries to be able to claim that the richness of the documentation indeed reflects
the importance of the dance. Dance, whether seen on its own, or combined with music and
poetry in the unity which the Greeks named mousikè, was an important element in ancient
Greek culture [3].
This need not surprise us. When we consider
that the ancient world was an essentially oral culture,
where performance, including nonverbal
components, was as important as any contents,
we might begin to understand exactly how indispensable
dance was within the whole of the cultural
repertory [4]. Ancient Greeks would have
had great difficulty understanding our accounts
of their world, and especially of their religion and
of their festivals, wherein the dance, the music or
the mousikè has been relegated to a footnote [5].
Thus, there is a perfectly sensible reason for
studying ancient Greek dance: if you want to
present a picture of life in the ancient Greek world
that has a claim to being somewhat representative
of ‘the real thing’, you cannot leave out dancing.
How ancient Greek dance has been studied
The purpose of this article is, as the title announces, to enquire whether there is anything
new to be told, is at the moment being told, about ancient Greek dance. It is not that
the subject has been neglected. Classical philologists, antiquarians and ancient historians
have traditionally been involved with subjects which have only recently been discovered by
other historians, or which still remain outside their scope. Of course, folklorists, ethnologists
and anthropologists have displayed rather more interest in dance than the average
historian, but their fields are relatively young and they have not always studied the subject
in any chronological depth. Thus classical studies are something of an exception in having
paid so much interest to the dance in the ancient world, especially in the Greek world, for
so long a time. The oldest modern monograph known to me dates from 1618: Joannes
Meursius’ Orchestra [6]. They never stopped since. For the almost four centuries gone by
since Meursius, I count some 300 relatively important articles and monographs – listing
everything would add many more [7]. So the subject has been anything but neglected.
Despite so much activity over so many years, there is not much real progress in evidence.
Indeed, it is the scholarly interests of Antiquity itself, the systematic-encyclopaedic
approach exemplified by the work of Athenaios, Loukianos and Pollux, and the lexicography
of Hesychios, which were carried over into the Byzantine world and in due course into
Renaissance Italy [8]. From the late 15th and early 16th centuries, dance is one of the
‘antiquities’ about which every scrap of evidence is diligently gathered. Meursius, just mentioned,
offers what is in fact a list of every reference to every named dance which he could
find – certainly an impressive achievement for us moderns who can only marvel at how
widely read in the primary sources Meursius and his fellow scholars were. But as far as
interpretation is concerned, there is nothing in Meursius, and not much more in the work
of his contemporaries, predecessors and epigones.
In the 18th century archaeological material came to the fore, and images were soon collected
with as much fervour as texts had been. One of the main issues for the 18th-century
scholar was, whether it is possible to bring long-known texts and new, but unlabelled,
images together. In the process, there arises more of an interpretative effort, but it is directed
at individual dances rather than at the dance in general. And so it went on and on.
Indeed, all of these concerns of past scholarship are still with us, down to the present day
[9]. But surely, there must have been some new departures when, 100 and more years ago,
the study of ancient societies was completely rejuvenated by an infusion of lifeblood provided
by the burgeoning social sciences? Yes, there were interesting new departures, also
in the field of dancing [10] – but the new blooms withered quite soon, because so much
energy came to be spent on some other novelty, very much based on what had gone before,
but still something not really attempted before: the recreation of the movements of the
ancient Greek dance itself, whether single movements or movement sequences. These
attempts at recreation were bound to fail, however attractive the idea might have seemed

at first sight. Recreation is impossible because we have no adequate sources, and if it were
not, it would still be useless [11]. Reconstructing an ancient dance movement would be no
experiment, as are validly undertaken in archaeology, but a mere show put on for a modern
audience: it would tell us nothing beyond ‘what it looked like’ (or, for the performer, ‘felt
like’). But we already know what ancient Greek dance was like: there is a relatively limited
repertoire of what people can do with their bodies in the dance, and when we turn to the
ethnologists, we will see that they have documented about every possibility. Ancient Greek
dance apparently had a bit of everything: fast, slow, group and solo, staid and ecstatic…
Complete choreographies and contexts would be a different thing, but these surely will
remain beyond our reach. The reconstructionist enterprise, however, came to stay – specialists
may shrug their shoulders, but the romantic appeal of ‘reviving a lost art’ appears
to be considerable. [12]
All in all, the whole study of ancient dance has turned out to be rather sterile, going
round and round in rutted tracks, a spectacle of diminishing interest to the onlookers.
Reconstructionism has nothing to show for, and not even the thing done with most fervour,
collecting and rearranging evidence, has always been done very well. In spite of the present
popularity of making source books, for the written material on the dance we still lack
a proper source book. [13] For the images, we had to make do with very inadequate compilations:
it is telling that a now almost eighty year old, and not so useful book by Fritz Weege
was reprinted in 1976 because it was one of the best sets of dance imagery available. [14]
So there the subject stood, with lots of knowledge, and little ideas. It has been only in the
past few years that some of the prematurely withered shoots of the early 20th century have
regained life and have started to blossom again. We will come back to that below, but before
looking at the flowers, let us first have a look at the roots.
The new dance studies
For a long time, only lip service was paid to the social sciences, and hardly even that:
every one inserted the obligatory reference to Curt Sachs’ Weltgeschichte des Tanzes of
1933 – usually to the incomplete English translation of 1937 – and that was it. But Sachs
presents us with a Kulturkreis-approach and a unilinear evolutionism that were already
rejected by anthropology when Sachs was writing. [15] While anthropologists did ever more
interesting things in the field of dance, their work remained unnoticed: there was no new
Kurt Latte who was to find inspiration in their work, and not even Latte himself. [16] When
more recent work was mentioned, it was not always clear what its insights had contributed
to the work in hand. People seem reluctant to look across the borders separating the disciplines.
If only one had sooner done so! Because at the other site of the fence, amongst the
neighbours, there arose what I have here labelled as ‘the new dance studies’ – even if they
are not so very new anymore: only relatively speaking these approaches are still quite fresh.
These new dance studies go by the name of ‘dance anthropology’, or conceived on a broad-
er basis, ‘dance studies’ or ‘dance scholarship’. This is not easily described. ‘Dance studies’
can be called a discipline, because it has acquired teaching positions, journals, scholarly
conferences, all the trappings of a discipline. It is, however, hardly one more discipline
like the existing ones: dance studies cuts across several existing disciplines, it is of a multidisciplinary,
often even truly interdisciplinary character.
Sometimes dance history gets included, but dance history has its own tradition as part
of the history of the theatre, and had already for quite some time been busy writing the history
of western theatrical dancing, usually displaying a very straightforward empiricism.
Dance studies also try to subsume the philosophy of dance and movement, but this had,
and has, its own development as a part of aesthetics or phenomenology. There is much
overlap with (ethno)musicology, folklore studies, communication studies, the study of nonverbal,
or rather non-vocal, communication, and with several different kinds of theatre
studies – several of these themselves young fields of study, multidisciplinary, and in a state
of flux. Indeed, the new dance studies are still in a state of anarchy, with many different
approaches fighting for recognition, some complementary, other incompatible. I myself
have argued in the past that it might be better to try to integrate dance into existing disciplines,
rather than struggle to invent a new discipline – but one can only conclude that a
new discipline is what most people working on dance seem to want.
Despite these multifarious approaches, the roots of the new dance studies lie in dance
anthropology [17]. We can see as much when we look at its history. It is generally recognized
that an article by Gertrude Kurath, published in 1960, not so much created dance
anthropology – in the article Kurath herself discusses what went before – , but clearly
marked the moment when research into dance came to be recognized as an independent
activity. [18] Still, it took until the late 1970s for this independent activity to truly make
itself heard, with scholars like John Blacking, Judith Lynne Hanna, Adrienne Kaeppler,
Joan Wheeler Kealiinohomoku, Roderick Lange, Anya Peterson Royce en Suzanne
Youngerman [19]. These are all people coming from anthropology or working in an anthropological
vein: anthropology is where it all started.
It is because of its origin in anthropology that it is possible to distinguish some central
concerns in this rather shapeless field of dance studies. One of these is what is usually
called, with an infelicitous word, symbolization. With symbolization is meant that dance
studies, as is the case within modern humanities at large, stress culture – in the broad
anthropological sense of that word – as message and performance. Culture is seen as carrying
meaning and at the same time as an instrument to disseminate meaning. Messages
are acted out: indeed, all the world is a stage. This communicative and performative view
of human behaviour brings us into the realm of semiotics, the study of human signalling
in whatever guise. Semiotics is not another discipline to add to the list: semiotics is a way
of looking at things which shows up some things that humanistic disciplines have in common
– without superseding those disciplines [20].
A second common characteristic, not unrelated to the first, is the focus on the human
body. In social and cultural research ‘body’, ‘embodiment’ and so, have become concepts
rivalling the time-honoured categories of ‘culture’ and ‘society’. Indeed, this has been
described as one of the main elements of post-modern theorizing [21]. In fact, it even goes
beyond that: postmodernism is on the wane, but the interest in the body is still there [22].
The semiotic use of the body, often understood as the modification of the human body by
clothing, makeup, tattoos, scarification and so on, can easily encompass bodily attitudes
and movements. Semiotics has displayed an interest in gesture for quite some time [23].
Dance – and other movement patterns – can easily be accommodated within the same theoretical
A third characteristic is an interest in formal aspects, that is to say, there is a strong
current in dance studies that makes use of some kind of movement analysis. This is not
surprising considering anthropology’s heritage of fieldwork, its observatory and participatory
methods of research. But this would mean that ancient Greek dance could not possibly
be studied by way of the new dance studies: it is no longer there to be observed, and,
as we have seen, I am convinced we have not even succeeded in reconstructing any of its
movement sequences – and if we had, this should still be studied as a modern reconstruction
in a modern context only, and not in any way as some sort of privileged resurrection
of past practice – indeed, reconstructionism and its motivations and consequences would
itself make a very interesting subject for sociological or anthropological analysis [24].
Dance studies, however, do not always focus on the formal aspects, whether these are
studied for their own sake, or in order to be related to some wider issues. Rather, a fourth
characteristic of the field, inherited from the anthropological background, is the tendency
to study dance within a much wider cultural context, without paying much attention to the
formal aspects. A generalized image of the dance is considered sufficient, without the
necessity to document, to recognize or even to be able to perform individual movements.
Dance is seen as a societal phenomenon of which the meaning and function can be studied
without studying its exact shape. In what anthropologists have named a dance-event,
the other elements that make up that event can be deemed as important as the dance itself.
I am aware of the fact that this is an issue that has been, and still is, hotly debated. If
we side with those who say that without the movements and movement sequences themselves,
there is nothing to tell, the study of ancient dance in any useful detail is an impossibility.
I, on the other hand, would argue that the study of the many things we do know
about ancient Greek dance other than its movements – about which we have enough generalized
information –, provides us with enough information to say something about it. It is
a truism that you need not know everything in order to say something. Indeed, I think we
can say enough about it to enrich our image of ancient society in a crucial way. If we would
remain silent because the movement has vanished without having been adequately docu-
mented (and when is documentation of movement actually adequate?), we would leave
unmentioned an area of ancient life that was very important to the ancients themselves. It
is the sources that they have left behind which bear that out.
An example: dance in ancient Greek ritual contexts
For the past twenty years, I have been trying to digest the initiatives coming out of dance
studies, and to suggest some new ways of looking at ancient Greek dance. In the following
pages, I will summarise what has come out of that. I should stress that I have restricted
myself to dancing at ritual occasions. I am neither speaking of individual dances that have
been attested within a ritual context, nor of dances in some non-ritual setting, if such a
thing exists [25]. True to idea of the dance-event, I am not so much interested in the dance
itself, as in the whole ritual, usually consisting of several performances of which the dance
is just one. What I want to know about the dance, is what specific contribution it makes,
and why the nonverbal and kinetic element which it represents, apparently is deemed
important or even indispensable.
Before we carry on, I will give some definitions.
If there is one thing that historians should
learn of the social sciences, it is to be explicit,
always, but first and foremost about the concepts
that one uses. These should be defined.
The often defended positions that concepts
should be left vague until the end (“we will carefully
study the phenomena described in the
sources, and then we will know what ritual or
dance was to the ancient Greek”), is certainly
wrong, because we are left wondering by what
criteria the researcher has selected the sources
to be read and the phenomena to be analysed; no
doubt on the basis of some implicit definition. It
is also wrong because we do not want to know
what ritual or dance was to the Greeks: maybe
we want to know that too, but can be no more
than part of the story: a story which should end
by showing us whether what we see in the
sources matches our ideas of what ritual or
dance are. By this I do not mean the fruitless
hunt for a definition that has general validity.
That rare animal does not really exist. What we
should work with are so-called etic concepts,
that are the concepts of scholarly discourse of which we beforehand state what we understand
by them. What it is that we understand by them is relatively arbitrary, though it is
wise not to depart too much from the ways in which such a concept has been used by other
scholars and in general usage (if it figures there). These concepts should subsequently be
confronted with the so-called emic concepts used by the society that we study [26].
Secondly we also have to make explicit what our theoretical framework is. This is not a call
to use theories and models: we already do, none of us can discuss reality in a meaningful
way without theory and models. But we tend to leave such things implicit: when we make
them explicit we are forced to think about them, and we put them up for scrutiny and criticism
by others.
Well, what are my definitions? I will be brief, and avoid the lengthy discussions to which
every one of these definitions could give rise (remember, these are etic definitions: relatively
arbitrary constructs valid with the universe my own scholarly work only). ‘Dance’ I define
as communal human behaviour, consisting of intentional, rhythmic, structured, usually
stereotyped bodily movement, coordinated by sound, leading the body to move about in
some specified space, which behaviour is recognized as (part of) a special category of behaviour.
Communication as the process whereby human beings intentionally and effectively
share messages and meanings. Performance as dramatising, that is all displays of a theatrical
or theatroid nature, taking place at public events [27]. Ritual I define with the words
of anthropologist Tambiah as ‘patterns and rules of combination, sequencing, recursiveness
and redundancy (…) performative blueprints’ [28]. So according to Tambiah ritual provides
the rules, one might call it the scenario, for communal performances. I would add
that the actual performances where these rules find expression are part of the ritual as
well. It is both the scenario and the performance itself.
Such definitions – you can formulate your own, as long as you formulate any – should
guide the selection of our sources and the rethinking of previous analyses. I repeat: we
should confront our etic concepts, our scholarly constructs, with the emic concepts of our
sources. That is not an attempt to read our ideas into ancient minds: what falls outside the
etic concepts is as interesting, or even more so, than what is covered by them. Now if we
look at the dance, it turns out that the Greek vocabulary and the Greek imagery is not so
different from the way modern European societies – at least those of which I know enough
of the language and of pictorial conventions to judge – use word and images to describe or
display the dance [29]. Modern language usage was the basis of my etic definition, so my
definition appears to cover ancient Greek dance very well. Whether this should be seen as
an indication of cultural affinity or continuity is a question I do not want to address here.
Indeed, dance as defined in my definition seems to be a good candidate for universal human
behaviour, a primordial feature of our bonding and communication.
Theoretically I have chosen for an approach in which communication is put centrally.
In my model, the purpose of ritual is to create an environment and provide the tools for
communication [30]. Those participating at a ritual event, whether in an active or passive
role, communicate with one another. Even where they communicate with supernatural
forces or other absentees (usually considered to be present, of course), they communicate
with one another. In the famous words of Clifford Geertz: “a story they tell themselves about
themselves” [31]. If you think ritual is essentially meaningless, there is not much use in
reading on: as we have seen above, communication for me means sharing meaning.
In ritual performances meaning is given, and meaning is communicated to others. But
we are communicating all the time, not only during ritual. What makes ritual different is
its specific performativity: ritual is a theatrical occasion, where meaning is acted out, a
heightened form of communication. A performance implies the presence of performers.
Communication also implies some presence: when you share information, there ought to be
someone to share it with. The performers can be their own audience, but commonly there
are people watching and listening too, those who are not performing, or not performing at
that particular moment. In the case of ritual, to maximise the effectiveness of the communication,
one has to maximise one’s audience. That is not to say that the biggest audience
is always the best: we find instances where one indeed attempts to draw as large a crowd
as possible, but also where one restricts one’s mobilizing efforts to some prescribed audience
[32]. But even if a ritual is open only to, say, men over 40 years of age, it still is common
to prefer a larger group of such men to a smaller group. Audiences that are purposely
kept not only select, but also very small, are the exceptions that prove the rule.
There are other reasons for wanting to draw a crowd, such as economic considerations,
or local pride. And in a polytheistic world without orthodoxy, in which many cults are competing
with one another for attention, as was ancient Greece, one can never be sure that
there will be an audience at a ritual occasion [33]. They might move on to the competitors.
So one has to make an effort. A cult that does not manage to mobilize an audience will
cease to exist. Of course, several different reasons can be active at the same time. One tries
to keep a cult healthy and dynamic, as this brings in a profit, is a source of pride, and provides
a community with an opportunity to communicate on their main concerns.
How to get a proper audience? By making sure that a ritual event is a source of entertainment:
there must be beautiful, horrible or fun things to see. Provide attractions, and as
soon as people are attracted, communication can, and will, take place. This leads me on to
a model where dance turns out to be an important ingredient of ritual, because it is so good
at doing both things that ritual seeks to do: attracting an audience and communicating to
that audience. Dance is attraction and communication medium rolled into one, it serves
both purposes and it serves them simultaneously. Why would dance be especially good at
this? In many societies, dance is omnipresent and everybody is, or has been, a dancer;
there is a knowledge that comes from participation and from continuous exposition. Such
people like to see people dance – in fact, most people do. If the society is one in which performance
is more important than the written word, there is even more reason why dance
will be able to mobilize a sizable audience. For the same reasons, dance is also an affective
medium of communication. Over and above that, ritual often is concerned with messages
that are not so easily put into words, without running the danger of becoming rather too
literal, or using a lot of vague and boring circumlocution – modern scholarship about ritual
shows as much (but has no alternatives open to it). The performance, and its kinetic element
– central to the dance – help to get such messages across in a way that gets to the
core of the matter, and to a human being’s core. It makes one feel what is being communicated
in one’s own body.
Now when we look into mobilizing an ancient Greek audience, we are searching for reallife
occasions where performances were put on, and an audience was present. We have to
be careful: it is obvious that not every text and every image can be judged to be a simple
and straightforward representation of past reality. Everything is possible, from complete
inventions to sources of a pure documentary nature. Some literary texts, but especially
inscriptional evidence, certain imagery and especially archaeological evidence such as
remains of audience facilities produce a clear picture of crowds being drawn, and the
means used to accomplish that and to ensure their return. [34] This is not the place to give
a long list of occasions at which audiences gathered. Also, there are several instances
where we find performances being advertised, by the sending out of heralds with invitations,
by the proclamation of truces, the striking of special coins, the waiving of taxes and
duties, the compensation for lost wages, the distribution of free meals, the decreeing of
days off for school children or slaves, and so on. With so many extra incentives, some audience
was bound to turn up.
Next, we should say something on the attractions put on offer at the ritual occasion
itself. Here we find a range of things: relics shown in a sanctuary or paraded through the
streets, festive pompai (processions), dancing, theatre, drama, athletics, horse racing, fairs
and banquets. All kinds of performances are most in evidence in this incomplete list. Many
of these are organized as competitions, which will have added to their attractiveness. There
even were ‘beauty contests’ [35]. A marvellous testimony of a performance as mobilizing
agent is to be found in Plato: Sokrates wants to return to Athens from Peiraieus where he
has been watching the pompè of the goddess Bendis (so he came to see that, or at least took
the trouble to go and look at it), but his friends persuade him to stay on, because in the
evening something new will be put on: a lampadedromos, a torch race. Now torch races are
fairly common occurrences in a religious context, and Sokrates makes clear that he is not
going to stay on to see that. But this turned out to be no ordinary torch race, this was going
to be on horseback. Now that was something that had not been done before. Sokrates
decides to remain in Peiraieus with his friends [36]. So attractions, some attractions, really
attract. Amongst the attractions dance is common. We have already noted its effectiveness
in a general sense, and it certainly was popular in ancient Greece. The strong fight
that the Christian church set up against the dance can only be explained from the fact that
dance and ritual – pagan ritual – were seen to be closely related. That the church also had
to cope with members of their own flock who had not got the message and were celebrating
at the graves of the martyrs with dances, shows that for an inhabitant of the ancient world
dance was a matter-of-course element of any ritual occasion. It took many Christians quite
some time to grasp that one could do ritual without dancing [37].
When we consider the other side of the coin, the communication, we are not so much
looking at real-life occurrences, as at images, ideas, at what is inside people’s heads. Of
course, communicating was in fact a real-life occurrence, but – see what we have said about
the dance – we cannot reconstruct any such occurrence, except in a very general sense. So
we have to concentrate on a single aspect of the communicatory process, the messages. Of
course, an individual’s or a community’s view of the world is not less real than observable
reality: our mental life exists. But it is rather more difficult to capture, even for a contemporary,
let alone for a historian. As if to compensate for the difficulty of this procedure, we
have a wealth of sources: that is because we can in this instance rely on every source available,
every texts and image. We need not worry about its ‘unreliability’, about the contradictions,
inconsistencies and ambiguities. Those are all part and parcel of the mental life
of a community (it would be rather stupid to expect people in the past to have been thinking
along straight lines, while we know that we ourselves and our fellow men do not do anything
of the sort – for a lot of the time) [38].
When considering what messages were carried by the dance in ancient Greek ritual, one
should not expect to find anything utterly unexpected. Indeed, by way of the dance, as I
think I can reconstruct its place within ritual, there were communicated messages that can
only be described as banal. Banal enough to have been proposed by generations of scholars
as the things that ancient ritual was about. But then it are those banal – but essential
– things that human beings are most likely to communicate about: death and new life, men
and women, inside and outside, human and non-human, community and ‘the Other’. Who
are we, where do we stand in the order of things, how can we survive? Ritual helps to shape
and reshape the identity of the group, and helps to perpetuate that identity over time.
Indeed the ‘story they tell themselves about themselves’. Of course, the ancient Greek world
is not limited to the dance to express their multifarious ideas about themselves and their
answers to their big questions. They have the visual arts, they have literature (but the poetry
might be sung and might go together with the dance), they have theatrical arts (but there
dance was an element too), they have philosophy, scholarship and science. What is important
about the dance, however, is the way in which it communicates: the messages are
much the same whatever the medium, but with the dance the movement – structured by
music, and often ‘subtitled’ by song – is put in a central position. Dancing is physical and
Explicit ancient commentary on the dance as communication is found in sources from
a late date, from a period when pantomimic performances in a theatrical setting were much
en vogue. Loukianos in his Peri orcheseos, although he mentions all kinds of dancing, especially
dancing in a ritual context, in fact discusses pantomime [39]. When he and others
like him speak of dancing as a kind of mute conversation, where the audience can see by
the dancer’s movements and attitudes what story, usually a story taken from the mythological
repertory, is acted out, we are taken into the world of pantomime with its standardized
gestures, and its admiration for the artistry of the individual performer appearing in a
particular role, as a particular character. For earlier periods, we have no report on what,
for instance, the anonymous weapon dancers at the Panathenaic festival in Athens were
supposed to be communicating, or on what one individual spectator thought it meant.
People do not write down the obvious, and they certainly do not do so when the very reason
why these messages are put into dance is their increased effectiveness compared to
mere words. So we have to make do with circumstantial evidence.
An example: Aristofanes introduces into one of his plays an old man who scorns the
timid performance of the weapon dance by Athenian youngsters, who literally do not truly
expose themselves to the public view [40]. As old men tend to do, this old man also contrasts
this unsatisfactory performance with the good old days, when some real vigorous
dancing without any timidity was to be seen, the good old days when the young men of
Athens were still strong and brave. Whether Aristofanes agrees, or whether there really
were changes in the way the weapon dance was danced, is of no importance. It certainly is
a comical observation: old men who reminisce about the good old days are of all time, and
the present bad days will be the good old days to come. It is topical too: Athens was in the
midst of its most serious war ever, and it did not go well. Good for laughs, and food for
thought too. But what this passage in Aristophanes certainly shows, is what Aristofanes,
and most probably many of his contemporaries with him, thought that this weapon dance
was all about: about the prowess of the Athenian state and its army, about brave fighters
under the aegis of their goddess Athena, at whose festival they performed, about Athenian
power versus its enemies, and so on. It tells all that, without the need to spell it out.
Comparable and other approaches, past, present and future
Of course, it is not for me to say whether with the above approach I am on the right
track. But I do feel strengthened by the fact that I am not a voice crying in the wilderness.
In the 1990s the study of ancient Greek revived over a wide field. Before I published in
English on the Greek dance (in 1995 and 1997), Steven Lonsdale’s Dance and ritual play
in Greek religion had come out [41]. This was a book that I found rather disappointing: it
could have, and should have, replaced L.B. Lawler’s classic The dance in ancient Greece as
the standard text (in fact, it tends to do so – an injustice to Lawler), but there is too much
wrong with it [42]. The author displays an awareness of some recent anthropological work
on the dance (and he does not mention Curt Sachs!). Only, nothing much is done with the
anthropological insights. Whoever has seen Lonsdale’s earlier book Animals and the origins
of dance, London 1981, will not be surprised. But even stranger is the way in which Plato’s
views on the dance are seen by Lonsdale as ‘anticipating an anthropological paradigm’ and
turned into the structuring principle of his book. And still, Lonsdale’s work is different from
much that went before. It may be wrongheaded, but it had picked up what was in the air.
Very comparable to my approach as outlined above, though focused on pantomimic
dancing only, is Manna Vesterinen’s article on ‘Communicative aspects of ancient Greek
dance’ [43]. There we find Hanna, Royce, Blacking, Snyder and other sources of inspiration
from the social sciences – but Curt Sachs puts in an appearance as well!). We will have to
wait and see what her dissertation, soon to be finished, has to offer and whether she has
continued in this line. At about the same time, there was published the long-awaited
English translation of Claude Calame’s trailblazing book about girls’ choruses in a ritual
context, by far the best book on ancient Greek dance to appear in the 1970s. He was the
first to bring semiotics into the field of vision of the ordinary student of ancient history. His
Choeurs de jeunes filles was ahead of its time, and it was proper that the translation
brought it some extra attention at a time when others were picking up where Calame had
stopped (he himself has moved on to other fields – but has not lost interest in the dance,
as we will see below) [44]. A recent addition to this line of enquiry is Anton Bierl’s massive
study of the chorus in Old Comedy [45]. There are not many references to dance studies
(but Hanna is in his bibliography, and the excellent study by Jane Cowan on social dancing
in modern Greece [46]), but the number of works on performativity, theatre and ritual
is impressive. The best feature of Bierl’s work is the complete integration of the dance into
this account of the Greek theatrical chorus in general, and in comedy in particular. The
same is true of Albert Henrichs’ slender volume containing the print version of his Lectio
Teubneriana, held in Leipzig in 1995 [47]. It is interesting to see that Henrichs and Bierl
and Paola Ceccarelli, to be mentioned below, took part in the same Harvard workshop on
the chorus – led by Henrichs [48]. Praise to Henrichs; but Bierl’s work is the most adventurous
and incisive contribution. Interesting too, to see that Calame has been involved with
Bierl’s work – as he was with that of Ceccarelli. Here we are on to something: the trend I
think to have spotted apparently is more than a construct of my historiography.
Now that Ceccarelli has been mentioned, we can move on to her work, and there we
enter a different sphere. Ceccarelli produced a monograph on an ancient dance, something
rarely attempted before. Her book deals with the purrichè, the pyrrhic dance: that is the
only named dance from all of Antiquity that we have enough information on to fill a volume
with [49]. And then one really has to tell ‘all you know about the pyrrhic’ – what is exactly
what Ceccarelli does. In fact, she does a very good job, and has produced an authoritative
account, but her work leaves an old-fashioned impression, with lots of detail and but little
synthesis. This impression is not helped by the fact that a page on modern dance studies
has been ‘tacked on’ without any of the quoted titles having had a perceptible impact on
the rest of the book. Also, the choice of titles seems rather haphazard (Sachs puts in an
appearance once again! How to get rid of the man?). This large-scale collecting and
(re)examining of sources we also find, not surprisingly, in archaeological publications. But
in the better examples, as it is in Ceccarelli on the pyrrhic, this is not a mere continuation
of the work that went before: there is an interpretative twist, and the results of up-to-date
classical scholarship in a variety of fields enrich the results. I am thinking of Guy Michael
Hedreen on silens in Attic vase-painting, and Tyler Jo Smith on komasts in archaic art [50].
I myself undertook the collection and analysis of a series of images, statuettes of so-called
mantle-dancers [51]. Apart from the methodological concerns expressed in the subtitle, I
have also tried to put a plausible interpretation on these rather elusive images. In this con-
text I should also mention the exhibition catalogue Geschenke der Musen. Musik und Tanz
im antiken Griechenland [52]. A beautifully produced collection of images, with proper catalogue
entries, but the accompanying essays are something of a disappointment.
I come to my last category of interesting new contributions to the study of ancient dancing,
and it will be a category especially created to accommodate a single title by Peter
Wilson, The Athenian institution of the Khoregia. The chorus, the city and the stage [53].
This large volume is a study of the leitourgia of the choregia, i.e. the mechanism by which
prominent members of the Athenian community were appointed to fund a choros, and of
choreia itself, ‘the practice of dancing and singing as a social collective to the words and
music of a poet’, ‘absolutely fundamental to [the] Athenian vision of the ideal paedagogy in
the ideal city’, and to Athenian reality: indeed the culture of classical Athens can be called
a ‘choral culture’. Wilson has produced a great study providing insight into important
aspects of Athenian life – important to the Athenians themselves – and thus into Athens at
large, and by way of Athens into Greek culture. And it is all about people performing in the
dance. So here the dance gets its due, in the way that I, at the beginning of this article,
pleaded for, and will plead for below –, not by lifting it out of context and putting it on a
pedestal, but by fully integrating it into the story.
From here, we might expect to make further progress, such as the ever better integration
of the results of general dance studies into the study of ancient Greek dance, the production
of ever better corpora of sources on the ancient Greek dance, superseding the inadequate
or partial collections now available, or creating completely new ones (epigraphy is a
field that in this particular context has hardly been touched upon, and with papyrology it
is not much better). But as a matter of fact, if we do a good job, the modern study of ancient
Greek dance should celebrate its 400th anniversary – if we give Meursius the credit of
standing at the beginning of a new phase of research into the dance – by ending that fourcentury
long phase, and setting out on a new one. If between now and then a proper corpus
of material has been put together, we could put an end to collecting and arranging and
rearranging. Of course, there will always be additions and revisions – but most energy
should be spent in interpretative efforts. Also, we should strive for a situation where there
is no need for a lot of explicit discussion about the ongoings in the field of dance scholarship
at large, because its results and its current issues are taken into account as a matter
of course. Between now and 2018 it should be self-evident that one who studies dance does
not stop short at classical scholarship, but asks what news there is in the study of dance
in general.
So, from 2018 we could enter a new phase, where the study of ancient Greek dance –
except for some hard-core, technical stuff – ceases to exist as a clearly distinguishable specialisation,
killed off by its success. By then its results should be impressive enough to warrant
that those studying the dancing of the ancient world enter into the debate on dance
outside their own field (something hardly ever seen up to now), and seek to integrate
accounts of ancient dancing into accounts of dancing in general. Déja vu!? The general histories
of dancing written in the past all contained chapters on the ancient world: very
decent chapters for their own time, down to the last century. Somewhere in the first half of
the 20th century the specialists withdrew into their own corner, and, if there still was
attention being paid to Antiquity at all, the amateurs took over: the results were fairly disastrous.
The social scientists of the 19th and early 20th centuries as a matter of course
referred to arguments and examples taken from the ancient world. At a certain stage this
too almost completely ceased. Ancient Greek dance should again be a subject of interest to
non-specialist scholars; but then, of course, the specialist should undermine his own specialism
by looking over the fence and learning to speak the language of the others, which
they will expect of him when he expects them to listen to his.
Also, the study of ancient Greek dance should negate itself, by seeing its results fully
integrated into the study of ancient Greek life and religion. Its results by 2018 should be
so convincing that nobody will be able to deny the necessity of taking dance into consideration
when discussing several different aspects of ancient society. Wilson’s book on the
choregia shows what way to go, but we will only have arrived at our destination when a
book such as Price’s Religions of the ancient Greeks [54] cannot be written without mentioning
the dance wherever an ancient observer would have deemed that necessary, and in
some chapters that would be every page, or every other page at least.
Above we have seen that there has been some banding together of scholars with an
interest in the Greek dance. That synergy certainly produced some interesting results. For
the longer term, they should try to get to the point where enough of the loose ends, left dangling
despite almost 400 years of effort – too disconnected and repetitive – , have been tied
together to enable those scholars to band together with those not specialized in ancient
dance, and work in wider fields in which they can integrate the results that have been
The renewal of the research into ancient Greek dance, wherever its inspiration came
from, has led to a weakening of the purely antiquarian approach (‘butterfly collecting’), and
to a blossoming of the analysis of the role that dance played within ancient ritual and within
ancient society at large. Thus, dance has been potentially reintroduced as a central element
in the story of the ancient world. An antiquarian account can be neglected as a super
specialist’s playground, without any consequences beyond its self-imposed borders. Dance
was all the easier overlooked or marginalized by scholars who themselves grew up in societies
that did not usually dance their collective rituals. The new work being done makes it
much harder for people to neglect the dance. But the self-evidency of the importance of the
dance should become overwhelming.
As overwhelming as it was for someone living in the ancient Greek world. There, dance
was no pleasant extra, but an integral part of the way in which people communicated, especially
at their most important ritual occasions. When the chorus in ancient tragedy sings:
ti dei me choreuein, “what should I still dance”, that has to be interpreted as: “what is the
use of taking part in ritual any longer?” [55]. ‘To dance’ can be synonymous with ‘to take
part in ritual’. Even if this does not change our view of what ancient ritual was about, it
makes us aware of how ritual worked. For an important part, it worked by making use of
nonverbal, performative elements. Even although we have not a single movement left, the
image we shape ourselves of our past can be much improved by the realization that there
once existed a world in which man as music maker and dancer stood rather more central
than we can easily imagine nowadays.
To come back to where we started from: if the history of the subject in the 20th century,
when after Latte’s innovative kick-off nothing much really progressive happened until
late in the century, does not repeat itself in this century, then the spate of recent publications,
pushing at the boundaries, and crossing them, may be an indication that the fourth
century after Meursius’ pioneering effort will end on a high note.
[1] To give only a single example: in S. Price, Religions of the ancient Greeks, Cambridge 1999, there is no
dance in the index, and almost no dance in the text. Indeed, it is remarkable how often the author manages
to speak about ‘celebrate’ or ‘worship’ without any indication of how exactly that was being done. The uninitiated
reader may be excused for thinking that dancing played no big part in ancient Greek religion, or that
we do not know anything about it either way.
[2] The love affair between western theatrical dancing and ancient Greece has been traced in part I of my
Attractive performances. Ancient Greek dance, three preliminary studies, Amsterdam 1996 (an updated version
appeared in Italian as La danza greca antica. Cinque secoli di indagine, Lecce 2001), and is summarized
in ‘A failed attempt – but a great success. The history of ballet as a series of attempts to return to the dancing
of the Greeks and Romans’, forthcoming in the Proceedings of the conference ‘All about ballet’, London
2003 European Association of Dance Historians.
[3] In anthropological literature this is called MTD: ‘music, text, dance’, which is thought to be the most common
form of performance, see W.O. Beema, ‘The anthropology of theater and spectacle’, Annual Review of
Anthropology 22 (1993) 369-393. For the Greek world, it has been stressed recently that not every bit of poetry
was necessarily accompanied by dance in performance – but of course this does not preclude dances from
usually having been accompanied by song.
[4] Cf. R. Thomas, Literacy and orality in ancient Greece, Cambridge 1992. More on this, and on the possible
reasons for the frequent blindness in this respect, in my forthcoming article on ancient Greek dance in
Archaiologia kai technes 2004. For a background to our modern thinking on the dance, see also A. Arcangeli,
Davide o Salomé. Il dibattito europeo sulla danza nella prima età moderna, Treviso/Rome 2000.
[5] For music, this is stressed by Pierre Brulé and Christophe Vendriès, in their foreword to Chanter les dieux.
Musique et religion dans l’Antiquité grecque et romaine, Rennes 2001.
[6] Joannes Meursius, Orchestra, sive de saltationibus veterum, liber singularis, Leiden 1618; repeated (with
a Latin translation) in: J. Gronovius (ed), Thesaurus graecarum antiquitatum, vol 8 (Leiden 1699)
1234?1300, and in: Meursius, Opera Omnia, edited by J. Lamius, Florence 1741-1763. See now the new edition,
reprinting the text by Lamius, with an introduction and commentary, by A. Raftis and F.G. Naerebout,
Athens 2003. For a full description of the historiography, see part I of Attractive performances (cf. note 2
[7] For a full description of the historiography, see part I of Attractive performances (cf. note 2 above). There
you also can find a very full bibliography. Additions are made on the Internet at
[8] Athenaios (2nd/3rd c. AD), Deipnosofistai, esp. the 1st and 14th books (see now: P. Ceccarelli, ‘Dance and
deserts. An analysis of book fourteen’, in: D. Braund & J. Wilkins (edd), Athenaeus and his world. Reading
Greek culture in the Roman Empire (Exeter 2000) 272-291); Loukianos (2nd c.), Peri orcheseos, passim;
Pollux (2nd c.), Onomastikon, esp. book 4, 95ff.; Hesychios (5th c.), Lexicon. This line of work was taken up
by L.C. Ricchieri (Caelius Rhodiginus), in his Lectionum antiquarum libri XVI, Basle 1517, and next by
Joseph Scaliger, in his influential Poetices, Lyon 1561.
[9] For instance F. Brommer, ‘Antike Tänze’, Archäologischer Anzeiger 1989, 483-494. Also, the entries for
individual dances in a brand-new lexicon as Der Neue Pauly, Stuttgart 1996-, hark back to past times.
[10] Culminating in K. Latte, De saltationibus graecorum capita quinque, Giessen 1913, which refers to
anthropological/ ethnographical literature, to Frazer’s Golden Bough, and to the work of members of the
Cambridge School such as Gilbert Murray and Jane Harrison (for a background, see for instance W.M. Calder
III (ed), The Cambridge ritualists reconsidered, Atlanta 1991, or R. Schlesier, Kulte, Mythen und Gelehrte.
Anthropologie der Antike seit 1800, Frankfurt a/M 1994).
[11] All the arguments in my Attractive performances (see note 2 above), 112f, 208ff, esp. 234-240, 258-268;
see also, on the related issue of authenticity: ‘“Nice dance! But is it authentic?” What actually is this authenticity
that everybody is going on about?’ in: A. Raftis (ed), Proceedings of the 16th international dance conference,
Corfu 2002 (Athens 2002) 125-138.
[12] It started with M. Emmanuel, Essai sur l’orchestique grecque, Paris 1895, repeated as La danse grecque
antique d’après les monuments figurés, Paris 1896 (also translated into English). In the 20th c. this line of
research was carried on by L. Séchan, La danse grecque antique, Paris 1930, and especially by G.
Prudhommeau, La danse grecque antique, Paris 1965. A present epigone of this French school of reconstructionism
is M.-H. Delavaud-Roux, Recherches sur la danse dans l’antiquité grecque (viie-ive s. av. J.C.), Thèse
de Doctorat, Université d’Aix-Marseille I, 3 vols, 1993, and several publications since.
[13] Exemplary is A. Barker (ed), Greek musical writings, 2 vols, Cambridge 1984-1989. There is quite some
dance there, but a source book – in the vein of Barker’s collection – dedicated to the dance would still be welcome.
[14] F. Weege, Der Tanz in der Antike, Halle 1926, reprint Hildesheim 1976. Happily, some good collections
of specific categories of imagery became available since, see the bibliography mentioned in note 7 above (J.-
C. Poursat, ‘Les représentations de danse armée dans la céramique attique’, Bulletin de correspondance hellénique
92 (1968) 550-615, is still one of the best examples). Now there is E. Andronikou, C. Lanara, Z.
Papadopoulou & A.G. Voutira (edd), Geschenke der Musen. Musik und Tanz im antiken Griechenland /
Mouson Dora. Mousiki ke chorevtiki apoichi apo tin archea Ellada, Athens 2003, with a selective, but excellent
set of full-colour images: a milestone.
[15] S. Youngerman, ‘Curt Sachs and his heritage: a critical review of World History of the Dance with a survey
of recent studies that perpetuate his ideas’, CORD News 6.2 (1974) 6-19. See the devastating critique of
many existing general histories of the dance with their simplistic evolutionary approach in J. Chapman, ‘The
aesthetic interpretation of dance history,’ Dance Chronicle 3 (1980) 254?274. Cf. S.L. Funkenstein, ‘Toward
a more balanced view of dance history’, Dance Chronicle 25 (2002) 163-166. One would like more meta-histories,
but the historiography of the study of dance is quite underdeveloped, see the comments by A.P. Royce,
The anthropology of dance (Bloomington 1977) 89ff.
[16] E.E. Evans?Pritchard, ‘The dance’, Africa 1 (1928) 446?462 (reprinted in idem, The position of women in
primitive society and other essays in social anthropology (London 1965) 165?180) I have elsewhere lauded as
the start of modern dance anthropology. Other pioneers – not always up to Evans-Pritchard’s standard – were
Beryl De Zoete, Gerardus van der Leeuw, Jean Belo, Franziska Boas, Geoffrey Bateson, Margaret Mead and
Theo van Baaren. Latte, who did write some small articles on the ancient Greek dance and added an appendix
to the second revised edition of his 1913 book (Berlin 1976), apparently never read up on his anthropology:
none of the anthropological references are updated.
[17] Anthropology is used here in the way in which it is used in large parts of Europe: excluding physical
anthropology, including ethnography.
[18] G.P. Kurath, ‘Panorama of dance ethnology’, Current Anthropology 1 (1960) 233?254.
[19] Overviews of relevant publications are provided by A.L. Kaeppler, ‘Dance in anthropological perspective’,
Annual Review of Anthropology 7 (1978) 31?49, J.L. Hanna, ‘Movements toward understanding humans through
the anthropological study of dance’, Current Anthropology 20 (1979) 313?339, J.L. Hanna, ‘Dance’, in: T.A.
Sebeok (ed), Encyclopedic dictionary of semiotics, vol 1 (Berlin 1986) 170-172, A. Seeger, ‘Music and dance’, in:
T. Ingold (ed), Companion encyclopedia of anthropology (London 1994) 686-705, S.A. Reed, ‘The politics and
poetics of dance’, Annual Review of Anthropology 27 (1998) 503-532, and A.L. Kaeppler, ‘Dance ethnology and
the anthropology of dance’, Dance Research Journal 32 (2000) 116-124. See also D. Williams, Anthropology and
the dance. Ten lectures, Urbana 2003 (2nd ed). For me, J.L. Hanna, To dance is human. A theory of nonverbal
communication, Austin 1979, remains one of the most important fruits of dance anthropology.
[20] See the introduction to M. Krampen et al. (edd), Die Welt als Zeichen. Klassiker der modernen Semiotik
(Berlin 1981) 9: ‘Semiotische Forschung ist primär interdisziplinäre Grundlagenforschung’. Cf. D. Chandler,
Semiotics: the basics, London 2002. A good impression of the wide range of semiotics is provided by Sebeok’s
Encyclopedic dictionary of semiotics (see note 19 above).
[21] T. Turner, ‘The social body and embodied subject: bodiliness, subjectivity and sociality among the
Kayapo’, Cultural Anthropology 10 (1995) 143-170. The overview by Reed (note 19 above) focuses on the concerns
of the 1990s: gender, identity, and social body.
[22] See my ‘Not enough. Looking back on the EADH conference on the teaching and learning of dance history,’
Choreologica. Journal of the European Association of Dance Historians, forthcoming.
[23] References in D. McNeill, Hand and mind. What gestures reveal about thought, Chicago 1992. Add a very
useful collection of articles: M. Moerman & M. Nomura (edd), Culture embodied, Osaka 1990.
[24] Cf. the titles mentioned in note 11 above.
[25] On issues of sacred and profane, see my ‘Territoriality in ancient Greek religion: a survey’, forthcoming
in: J. Blok & A. Lardinois (edd), Sacred and profane, Leiden 2004.
[26] My knowledge of definition theory largely derives from J.A.M. Snoek, Initiations. A methodological
approach to the application of classification and definition theory in the study of rituals, Pijnacker 1987. It
is necessary to go on repeating his injunctions: there still is much useless debate about concepts, instead of
useful debate about contents and analysis. About emic/etic see M. Harris, ‘History and significance of the
emic/etic distinction’, Annual Review of Anthropology 5 (1976) 329-350, and T.N. Headland, K.L. Pike & M.
Harris (edd), Emics and ethics. The insider/outsider debate, Newbury Park 1990.
[27] The concept ‘public events’ I have borrowed of D. Handelman, Models and mirrors. Towards an anthropology
of public events, Cambridge 1990.
[28] S.J. Tambiah, ‘A performative approach to ritual’, Proceedings of the British Academy 65 (1979) 113?169.
See also idem, Culture, thought and social action: an anthropological perspective (Cambridge, Mass. 1985)
1ff, and the reprint, with some revisions, of ‘A performative approach’, ibidem, pp. 123-166.
[29] It should be pointed out, however, that in Greek two distinct roots are used to express what can be translated
as ‘dance’, chor- and orch- (on the etymology, see Attractive performances (note 2 above), 178-179.
[30] Versus those who argue that ritualizing leads to decreasing communicative potential, such as M. Bloch,
‘Symbols, song, dance and features of articulation; is religion an extreme form of traditional authority?’,
Archives Européennes de Sociologie 15 (1974) 55?81. Messages need not contain new information in order to
be communicated. People tell their favourite stories a thousand times, and every time it can be quite different
– I do not mean variations in the story itself – and serving some purpose.
[31] C. Geertz, ‘Deep play: notes on the Balinese cockfight’, in: idem, The interpretation of cultures. Selected
essays (New York 1973) 412-453; quote: 448.
[32] In the past, I have not paid enough attention to restrictions of this kind: I try to make up for that in my
forthcoming article on territoriality, which means: letting specific people in, keeping specific people out (see
note 25 above).
[33] The idea of necessary mobilization is taken from supply side economics, rational choice theory in particular.
On rational choice theory, see R.V. Gould (ed), The rational choice controversy in historical sociology,
Chicago 2001. For rational choice theory applied to the history of religion, see the work of Rodney Stark et
al. (references in Attractive performances, 316f.). See now: S. Bruce, Choice and religion: a critique of rational
choice theory, Oxford 1999. The only historian to systematically have paid attention to ‘drawing crowds’
(the title of one of his paragraphs) is R. MacMullen in his Paganism in the Roman Empire, New Haven 1981.
[34] A few random examples: G. Kuhn, ‘Untersuchungen zur Funktion der Säulenhalle in archaischer und
klassischer Zeit’, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts 100 (1985) 169-317, on the stoa as
‘stand’ for an audience; A. Mallwitz, ‘Cult and competition locations at Olympia’, in: W.J. Raschke (ed), The
Archaeology of the Olympics. The Olympics and other festivals in Antiquity (Madison 1988) 79-109, on the
increasing number of wells at Olympia as an indication of increasing attendance at the Olympic Games.
[35] On competitions in general, see the bibliographies in the journal Nikephoros (which also cover dance).
Competitions and competitive dancing in a religious context are the subject of my ‘Spending energy in ancient
Greek religion’, forthcoming in the proceedings of the international conference on the ancient Mediterranean
world, Tokyo 2004. For the beauty contests, see N.B. Crowther, ‘Male “beauty” contests in Greece: the euandria
and euexia’, L’Antiquité Classique 54 (1985) 285-291, and for female ones, M. Treu (ed), Sappho (Munich
1976) 120, with references to beauty contests (with dancing) at the sanctuary of Hera on Lesbos. For the
aspect of beauty and eroticism in dance, see especially C. Calame, Les choeurs de jeunes filles en Grèce
archaïque, Rome 1977, and on athletics, T.F. Scanlon, Eros and Greek athletics, Oxford 2002.
[36] Plato, Politeia 327a-328a.
[37] C. Andresen, ‘Altchristliche Kritik am Tanz. Ein Ausschnitt aus dem Kampf der alten Kirche gegen heidnische
Sitte’, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 72 (1961) 217?262. See also MacMullen, Paganism (note 33
above), and idem, Christianizing the Roman Empire, New Haven 1984.
[38] H.S. Versnel, Ter unus. Isis, Dionysos, Hermes: three studies in henotheism = Inconsistencies in Greek
and Roman religion, vol. 1 (Leiden 1990) 1-35.
[39] M. Vesterinen, ‘Reading Lucian’s Peri orcheseos: attitudes and approaches to pantomime’, in: Leena
Pietilä-Castrèn & Marjaana Vesterinen (edd), Grapta Poikila I = Papers and monographs of the Finnish
Institute at Athens 8 (Helsinki 2003) 35-51.
[40] Aristophanes, Nefelai/Nubes 988-898.
[41] S.H. Lonsdale, Baltimore 1993; my own work referred to is ‘Texts and images as sources for the study
of the dance in ancient Greece’, Pharos. Journal of the Netherlands Institute at Athens 3 (1995) 23-40, and
Attractive performances (see note 2 above).
[42] See my review in Mnemosyne 49 (1996) 366-369; cf., very critical, D. Sansone, Bryn Mawr Classical
Review 5.3 (1994) 230-233.
[43] Arctos 31 (1997) 175-187.
[44] C. Calame, Les choeurs de jeunes filles en Grèce archaïque, 2 vols, Rome 1977, the first volume only
translated as Choruses of young women in ancient Greece. Their morphology, religious role, and social functions,
London 1997.
[45] Der Chor in der alten Komödie. Ritual und Peformativität (unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von
Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriasuzen und der Phalloslieder fr. 851 PMG), München/Leipzig 2001.
[46] J.K. Cowan, Dance and the body politic in Northern Greece, Princeton 1990; cf. my review in Bulletin van
de Vereniging voor Dansonderzoek 1 (1992) 41-45, in Dutch, Greek translation in Paradosi 16 (July-August
1994) 12-15.
[47] A. Henrichs, “Warum soll ich denn tanzen?”. Dionysisches im Chor der griechischen Tragödie,
Stuttgart/Leipzig 1996.
[48] See also H. Golder & S. Scully (edd), The chorus in Greek tragedy and culture I-II = special issues of Arion
3rd series 3.1 (1994-1995) and 4.1 (1996).
[49] P. Ceccarelli, La pirrica nell’antichità greco-romana. Studi sulla danza armata, Pisa/Rome 1998.
[50] G.M. Hedreen, Silens in Attic black-figure vase painting. Myth and performance, Ann Arbor 1992; T.J.
Smith, ‘Dances, drinks and dedications: the archaic komos in Laconia’, in: W.G. Cavanagh & S.E.C. Walker
(edd), Sparta in Laconia. Proceedings of the 19th British Museum Classical Colloquium (London 1998) 75-81,
‘Dancing spaces and dining places: archaic komasts at the symposion’, in: G.R. Tsetskhladze, A.J.N.W. Prag
& A.M. Snodgrass (edd), Periplous. Papers on archaeology presented to Sir John Boardman (London 2000)
309-319, and, much richer in interpretative contents, ‘Transvestism or travesty? Dance, dress and gender in
Greek vase-painting’, in: Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones (ed), Women’s dress in the ancient Greek world
(London/Swansea 2002) 33-53.
[51] ‘The Baker dancer and other Hellenistic statuettes of dancers. Illustrating the use of imagery in the study of
ancient Greek dance’, Imago musicae. International yearbook of musical iconography 18/19 (2001/2002) 59-83.
[52] See note 14 above.
[53] Cambridge 2000. I could also have mentioned here some relevant articles, such as A.L. Boegehold, ‘Group
and single competition at the Panathenaia’, in: J. Neils (ed), Worshipping Athena. Panathenaia and the
Parthenon (Madison 1996) 95-105, or S. Constantinidou, ‘Dionysiac elements in Spartan cult dances’,
Phoenix 52 (1998) 15-30, but these are completely overshadowed by Wilson’s achievement.
[54] See note 1 above.
[55] Sophokles, Oidipous Tyrannos 896. For this interpretation, see, amongst others, O. Taplin, ‘Fifth-century
tragedy and comedy: a synkrisis’, Journal of Hellenic Studies 106 (1986) 163-174. Cf. A. Henrichs, “Warum
soll ich denn tanzen?” Dionysisches imChor der griechischen Tragödie, Stuttgart/Leipzig 1996.
Frederick Naerebout
Leiden University, October 2003